This Week in Petroleum History, September 26 to October 2

September 26, 1876 – First California Oil Well – 

After three failed attempts, Charles Mentry’s California Star Oil Works Company discovered the Pico Canyon oilfield north of Los Angeles with California’s first commercial oil well. Drilled using cable-tools in an area known for natural oil seeps, the Pico No. 4 well produced 25 barrels of oil per day from a depth of 370 feet.

Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society outdoor exhibit of California’s first refinery

Preserved by the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society, California’s first refinery is described as the oldest in the world. Photo courtesy Konrad Summers.

Pico Canyon oilfield production would lead to construction of California’s first oil pipeline and the state’s first commercially successful oil refinery for making kerosene lamp fuel and lubricants. Riveted stills set on brick foundations had a refining capacity of 150 barrels of oil a day.

California Star Oil Works was acquired by Pacific Coast Oil Company in 1879, and the Pico Canyon oilfield discoverer became part of the Standard Oil Company of California (Socal) in 1906. Socal acquired Gulf Oil, the nation’s fifth-largest petroleum company at the time, in 1984 and adopted the brand name Chevron.

Learn more in First California Oil Wells. (more…)

This Week in Petroleum History, September 19 to September 25

September 21, 1901 – First Louisiana Oil Well –

Nine months after the headline-making January 1901 “Lucas Gusher” in Texas, another giant oilfield was revealed 90 miles east in Louisiana. W. Scott Heywood — already successful thanks to wells drilled at Spindletop Hill — completed a well that produced 7,000 barrels of oil a day well on the farm of Jules Clement.

Drilled six miles northeast of Jennings, the Clement No. 1 found oil at a depth of 1,700 feet. “The well flowed sand and oil for seven hours and covered Clement’s rice field with a lake of oil and sand, ruining several acres of rice,” noted the Jennings Daily News.

Dedication of Scott Heywood first Louisiana oil well historical marker from1951.

Mrs. Scott Heywood unveiled a marker as part of the Louisiana Golden Oil Jubilee in 1951. Times Picayune (New Orleans) image courtesy Calcasieu Parish Public Library.

The discovery led to the state’s first commercial oil production by opening the prolific Jennings field, which Haywood further developed by building pipelines and storage tanks. As the oilfield reached peak production of more than nine million barrels of oil in 1906, new oil discoveries arrived in northern Louisiana.

Learn more in First Louisiana Oil Wells.

September 22, 1955 – End of Signal Oil’s “The Whistler” Radio Program

Sponsored since 1942 by the largest independent oil company on the West Coast, the last episode of the radio mystery show “The Whistler” aired after 692 episodes. The Signal Oil Company had been established in 1921 by Samuel Mosher as Signal Gasoline Company during California’s Signal Hill oil boom.

A 1931 partnership with Standard Oil of California (Socal) led to sponsoring radio programs, according to the Media Heritage’s “Whatever happened to Signal Oil?” The popular Whistler mystery drama began with, “That Whistle is your signal for the Signal Oil program.”

September 23, 1918 – Giant Wood River Refinery goes Online

Roxana Petroleum Company’s Wood River (Illinois) facility began refining crude oil. It processed more than two million barrels of oil from Oklahoma oilfields in its first year of operation. (more…)

This Week in Petroleum History, September 5 to September 11

September 5, 1885 – Birth of the “Filling Station” Gas Pump – 

Modern gasoline pump design began with inventor Sylvanus F. (Freelove) Bowser, who sold his first pump to a grocery store owner of a Fort Wayne, Indiana. Designed to safely dispense kerosene as well as “burning fluid, and the light combustible products of petroleum,” Bowser’s pump included an container holding 42 gallons. The pump used marble valves, a wooden plunger, and a simple, upright faucet. (more…)

This Week in Petroleum History, August 29 to September 4

August 30, 1919 – Natural Gas Boom (and Bust) in Pennsylvania – 

The “Snake Hollow Gusher” of McKeesport, Pennsylvania, revealed a natural gas field that attracted hundreds of petroleum companies. Drilled near the Monongahela River southeast of Pittsburgh, the discovery well produced more than 60 million cubic feet of natural gas a day. The drilling frenzy it inspired resulted in $35 million invested in a nine-square-mile area.

“McKeesport, Snake Hollow, Gas Belt” circa 1920 photo courtesy Library of Congress.

“McKeesport, Snake Hollow, Gas Belt” from a circa 1920 panoramic image by Hagerty & Griffey. Photo courtesy Library of Congress.

“Many residents signed leases for drilling on their land,” the local newspaper reported. “They bought and sold gas company stock on street corners and in barbershops transformed into brokerage houses.”

The excitement ended in early 1921 when gas production declined in 180 wells and more than 440 exploratory wells were dry holes. The natural gas field was later described as “the scene of the Pittsburgh district’s biggest boom and loudest crash.”

Learn more in McKeesport Gas Company.

August 30, 2002 – Conoco and Phillips Petroleum become ConocoPhillips

Almost 100 years after Frank and L.E. Phillips completed their first oil well and 128 years after Continental Oil delivered its first can of kerosene in a horse-drawn wagon, Phillips Petroleum Company and Conoco Inc. combined to form ConocoPhillips. (more…)

This Week in Petroleum History, August 22 to August 28

August 24, 1892 –  Oil Company founded by Future “Prophet of Spindletop” – 

Patillo Higgins, who would become known as the “Prophet of Spindletop,” founded the Gladys City Oil, Gas & Manufacturing Company and leased 2,700 acres near Beaumont, Texas. Higgins believed oil-bearing sands could be found four miles south of town. Most earth science experts said he was wrong. (more…)

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