“Poor Man’s” Healdton Oilfield
A shallow Oklahoma field produced industry service company giant.
After World War I, a young oilfield worker in Oklahoma’s booming Healdton oilfield began experimenting with a new method for cementing oil wells. Years later he would lead a worldwide oilfield services companies.
The story began in 1919 when Erle Palmer Halliburton (1892-1957) arrived in Ardmore, Oklahoma, to take part in the frenzied drilling of the Healdton oilfield. He came to the small town 20 miles east of Healdton after experiencing another nearby headline-making boom town in Burkburnett, just across the Red River border in Texas.
The Healdton field had been revealed by the Wirt Franklin No. 1 well in August 1913 about northwest of Ardmore. The well, drilled by another future leader of the petroleum industry, revealed an easily reached oil-producing formation. The Healdton field would be known as the “poor man’s field,” thanks to its shallow depth and consequent low cost of drilling. The area attracted independent producers with limited financial backing – leaving 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,” notes historian Kenny Arthur Franks.
“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 explains.
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 petroleum exploration and production 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 the next year 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.
In 1938, Halliburton Oil Well Cementing Company moved offshore with a barge-mounted unit cementing a well off the Louisiana coast.
In 1949, Halliburton and Stanolind Oil Company completed a well near Duncan, Oklahoma – the first commercial application of hydraulic fracturing (also see Shooters – A “Fracking” History).
“Halliburton was ever the tinkerer. He owned nearly 50 patents,” notes 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.”
Pike adds that Halliburton’s only real service company competitor for decades was Carl Baker of Baker Oil Tools. Learn more in Halliburton cements Wells.
Another Oklahoma oilfield service company, the Reda Pump Company was founded by Armais Arutunoff, a close friend of Frank Phllips. By 1938, an estimated two percent of all the oil produced in the United States with artifical lift, was lifted by an Arutunoff pump. Learn more in Inventing the Electric Submersible Pump.
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