This Week in Petroleum History, September 27 to October 3

September 27, 1915 – Deadly Explosion in Ardmore, Oklahoma – 

At 2:20 p.m., a railroad car carrying casinghead gasoline exploded in Ardmore, Oklahoma, killing 43 people and injuring many others. The car, which had arrived the day before, was waiting to be taken to a nearby refinery. Casinghead gasoline (also called natural gasoline) at the time was integral to the state’s petroleum development, with 40 processing plants in operation.

Destroyed by 1915 casing gas explosion, image of downtown Ardmore, Oklahoma.

A casing gas explosion destroyed most of downtown Ardmore, Oklahoma, in 1915. Photo courtesy Oklahoma Historical Society.

According to the Oklahoma Historical Society, the disaster began when rising afternoon temperatures activated a valve to release the car’s gas pressure. “The Ardmore Refining Company then sent a representative, who removed the dome from the top of the car, filling the air with gas and vapors.”


This Week in Petroleum History, September 20 to September 26

September 21, 1901 – First Louisiana Oil Well –

Just nine months after the January 1901 “Lucas Gusher” in Texas, another historic 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 Jules Clements farm.

Drilled six miles northeast of Jennings, the Jules Clements 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 field reached peak production of more than nine million barrels in 1906, new oilfield discoveries arrived in northern Louisiana. Learn more in First Louisiana Oil Well.

September 23, 1918 – Giant Wood River Refinery goes Online

Roxana Petroleum Company’s new 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 13 to September 19

September 13, 1975 – President dedicates Petroleum Museum – 

President Gerald R. Ford addressed 400 guests attending the opening ceremony for the Permian Basin Petroleum Museum, Library and Hall of Fame in Midland, Texas. After touring the museum, he was presented with a 15-inch bronze sculpture, “Dressing the Bit,” depicting two cable-tool rig workers with their tools.

Pump jacks on exhibit at the Petroleum Museum in Midland, Texas

President Gerald Ford spoke at the Petroleum Museum’s 1975 opening in Midland, Texas. Photo courtesy Petroleum Museum.

The museum, which completed an $18 million renovation in 2016, maintains more than 60,000-square-feet of space for geological, technical, and cultural exhibits. It houses the world’s largest collection of Chaparral racing cars and offers an extensive research library and archive. Outdoor exhibits include drilling rigs, pumping units, and other oilfield machinery. 

A 15-inch bronze sculpture by Lincoln H. Fox titled, "Dressing the Bit," depicts two workers with early percussion-drilling tools.

“Dressing the Bit,” by Lincoln H. Fox. Photo courtesy Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

With resumed in‐person programs for Family Science Nights this fall, a visit to the Petroleum Museum, “is an amazing journey through over 230 million years of history.” 

September 14, 1871 – President Grant visits Pennsylvania Oil Region

During a tour of northwestern Pennsylvania, President Ulysses S. Grant visited Titusville, Petroleum Center, and Oil City to learn more about the nation’s growing petroleum industry. Consumer demand for kerosene for lamps had led to drilling the first commercial U.S. oil well at Titusville in 1859. The 18th U.S. president would help improve Washington City’s streets, directing in 1876 that Pennsylvania Avenue be paved with Trinidad asphalt (see Asphalt Paves the Way).

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September 14, 1929 – West Texas Well sets Record

A West Texas well struck oil at a depth of 1,070 feet and produced an astounding 204,672 barrels of oil a day — the nation’s most productive single well up until that time. The Yates 30-A initially produced 8,528 barrels of oil per hour, according to the Handbook of Texas Online.

The Pecos County well was drilled just a few hundred yards from the 1926 discovery well of the giant Yates field, the Ira G. Yates 1-A. (more…)

This Week in Petroleum History, September 6 to September 12

September 7, 1917 – Oilfield Legacy of Texas Governor Hogg –

After drilling 20 dry holes, the Tyndall-Wyoming Oil Company completed the No. 1 Hogg well  50 miles south of Houston. Four months later, a second well produced about 600 barrels a day. The discoveries ended a succession of dry holes dating back to 1901 — when former Texas Governor James “Big Jim” Hogg paid $30,000 for the lease (he also helped launch the Texas Company, predecessor to Texaco).

Although Gov. Hogg died 11 years before the Tyndall-Wyoming Oil Company wells found oil in the giant West Columbia oilfield, fortunately for his family, he stipulated in his will that the mineral rights should not be sold for at least 15 years after his death. Learn more in Governor Hogg’s Texas Oil Wells.

This Week in Petroleum History, August 30 to September 5

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

The “Snake Hollow Gusher” of McKeesport, Pennsylvania, revealed a giant natural gas field and quickly 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. It inspired a drilling frenzy that witnessed $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.” But excitement in the natural gas field ended in just seven months.

At the beginning of 1921, natural gas production had declined in 180 wells; more than 440 exploratory wells were dry holes. Of the millions invested during the boom, only about $3 million came out. The 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 an energy industry giant. The two historic companies created ConocoPhillips. (more…)

This Week in Petroleum History, August 23 to August 29

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

Patillo Higgins, who would become known as the “Prophet of Spindletop,” founded the Gladys City Oil, Gas & Manufacturing Company. With three partners, he 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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