Shallow Oklahoma oilfield discovered in 1913 helped launch many petroleum careers.
It began in 1919 when a 27-year-old inventor began using his new method for cementing oil wells. His company would become among the largest oilfield service companies in the world.
Erle Palmer Halliburton (1892-1957) arrived in Ardmore, Oklahoma, during the frenzied drilling boom of the Healdton oilfield, after working in another headline-making boom town in Burkburnett, Texas.
Halliburton’s New Method Oil Well Cementing Company would receive many patents on its way to becoming Halliburton Corporation, which in 2018 employed 80,000 worldwide, specializing in “locating hydrocarbons and managing geological data, to drilling and formation evaluation, well construction and completion, and optimizing production through the life of the field.”
Oklahoma’s Healdton field had been revealed by the Wirt Franklin No. 1 well in August 1913, about 20 miles northwest of Ardmore. The well revealed the Healdton field, which soon became known as the “poor man’s field,” because of its shallow depth and consequent low cost of drilling. The area quickly attracted independent producers with limited financial backing — edging out many major oil companies.
“Within a 22-mile swath across Carter County, one of the nation’s greatest oil discoveries was made – the Greater Healdton-Hewitt Field,” noted historian Kenny Arthur Franks in his 1989 book, Ragtown: A History of the Greater Healdton-Hewitt Oil Field.
“Encompassing some of the richest oil-producing land in America, Healdton and Hewitt, discovered in 1913 and 1919 respectively, produced an astounding 320,753,000 barrels of crude by the close of the first half of the 20th century,” he explained.
In addition to launching Halliburton’s petroleum career, it also helped independent producer Wirt Franklin became the first president of the then Tulsa-based Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) in 1929. Among those who established themselves at Healdton were Lloyd Noble, Robert Hefner and former Governor Charles Haskell. The Healdton Oil Museum preserves their exploration heritage.
Thanks to the Healdton drilling boom and its many shallow wells, Halliburton established the New Method Oil Well Cementing Company in Duncan. He was soon experimenting with technologies to improve oil well production. Water intrusion hampered many wells, requiring time and expense for pumping out. Water, he noted in a 1920 patent application, “has caused the abandonment of many wells which would have developed a profitable output.”
Awarded a U.S. patent in 1921 for his “Method and Means for Cementing Oil Wells,” the 28-year-old inventor was just beginning. The cementing innovation – at first resisted by some oilfield skeptics – isolated the various down-hole zones, guarded against collapse of the casing and permitted control of the well throughout its producing life.
Halliburton’s well cementing process revolutionized how oil and natural gas wells were completed. He went on to patent much of today’s cementing technology – including the jet mixer, the remixer and the float collar, guide shoe and plug system, bulk cementing, multiple-stage cementing, advanced pump technology and offshore cementing technology.
Pike added that Halliburton’s only real service company competitor for decades was Carl Baker of Baker Oil Tools.
Meanwhile, another Oklahoma oilfield service company, the Reda Pump Company, had been founded by Armais Arutunoff, thanks to help from his close friend Frank Phllips and Phillips Petroleum of Bartlesville, Oklahoma. Arutunoff has invented a practical electric submersible pump). Use of Arutunoff artificial lift pumps would dominate oilfields by 1938.
Halliburton Oil Well Cementing Company in 1938 expanded into offshore work with a barge-mounted unit cementing a well off the Louisiana coast. A major petroleum industry milestone came in 1949, when Halliburton and Stanolind Oil Company completed a well near Duncan, Oklahoma – the first commercial application of hydraulic fracturing (see Shooters – A “Fracking” History).
“Halliburton was ever the tinkerer. He owned nearly 50 patents,” noted William Pike, former editor-in-chief of E&P magazine. “Most are oilfield, and specifically cementing related, but the number includes patents for an airplane control, an opposed piston pump, a respirator, an airplane tire and a metallic suitcase.”
Learn more about Halliburton’s oilfield inventiveness in Halliburton cements Wells.
Recommended Reading: Erle P. Halliburton: Genius with Cement (1959). Your Amazon purchase benefits the American Oil & Gas Historical Society. As an Amazon Associate, AOGHS earns a commission from qualifying purchases.
The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Become an AOGHS supporting member and help maintain this energy education website and expand historical research. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. © 2021 Bruce A. Wells.
Citation Information – Article Title: “Halliburton and the Healdton Oilfield.” Authors: B.A. Wells and K.L. Wells. Website Name: American Oil & Gas Historical Society. URL: https://aoghs.org/petroleum-pioneers/halliburton-and-healdton-oilfield. Last Updated: May 3, 2021. Original Published Date: July 14, 2015.