This Week in Petroleum History, August 14 – 20
August 15, 1945 – WW II Gas Rationing ends
World War II gasoline rationing officially ended in the United States. Since the beginning of gas rationing in December 1942, priority stickers and coupon books had been issued by the Office of Price Administration to conserve oil for the war effort. Most civilian automobiles carried “A” stickers limiting them to four gallons of gas a week.
A national speed limit of 35 mph was also imposed to further constrain consumption. In addition to gasoline and fuel oil, wartime rationing included tires, food, clothing, shoes, and coffee.
August 16, 1861 – Oldest Producing Well
What would become the world’s oldest continuously producing oil well was completed in 1861 near Rouseville, Pennsylvania. The McClintock No. 1 well, reaching 620 feet deep into the Venango Third Sand, initially produced 50 barrels of oil a day. The well was drilled 14 miles from Titusville, where America’s first commercial oil discovery was made two years earlier.
“This is the oldest well in the world that is still producing oil at its original depth,” notes the Oil Region Alliance for Business, Industry and Tourism, which promotes the well and other historic sites in northwestern Pennsylvania.
Donated by Quaker State in 1995, the historic well is pumped monthly to produce up to 10 barrels of oil, according to the Alliance. A nearby marker identifies the McClintock Well No. 1, but “thousands of people pass it each year and don’t even know it’s there.” Souvenir bottles of its oil are available at the Drake Well Museum.
August 16, 1927 – High-Octane Gas powers Air Race to Hawaii
High-octane aviation fuel developed by Phillips Petroleum Company powered a monoplane on a deadly air race over the Pacific Ocean. With a crowd of 50,000 cheering them on in 1927, eight aircraft took off from a muddy Oakland, California, airfield.
Dole Pineapple Company offered a $25,000 first prize for an airplane race from Oakland to Honolulu. Just three months earlier, Charles Lindbergh had made the first solo trans-Atlantic flight. Aviation fuel developed by Phillips Petroleum fueled the “Woolaroc” monoplane for the Dole race.
A new Phillips fuel – Nu-Aviation Gasoline – was used for the 2,439-mile flight over the Pacific. The single-engine monoplane was christened Woolaroc, the name of Frank Phillips’ Bartlesville ranch and nature preserve. At Oakland’s airport, two of the fuel-heavy planes crashed on takeoff. Five aircraft eventually headed out over the Pacific. Only two made it to Hawaii. Learn more in Flight of the Woolaroc.
August 17, 1785 – Oil found floating on Pennsylvania Creek
Two years after the end of the Revolutionary War, oil was reported floating on a creek in northwestern Pennsylvania. “Oil Creek has taken its name from an oil or bituminous matter being found floating on its surface,” noted a report by U.S. Army Gen. William Irvine.
“Many cures are attributed to this oil by the natives, and lately by some of the whites, particularly rheumatic pains and old ulcers,” Gen. Irvine wrote in August 1785.
The general confirmed an earlier Army survey reporting Oil Creek, “empties itself into the Allegheny River, issuing from a spring, on the top of which floats an oil, similar to what is called Barbados tar (see Asphalt Paves the Way), and from which may be collected by one man several gallons in a day.”
Once lined with wooden cable-tool derricks and crowded with barges, Oil Creek State Park today attracts trout fishermen to 7,000 acres ideal for hiking, biking, and backpacking.
August 18, 2007 – Museum exhibits Meteor Crater Oil Discovery
Ames, Oklahoma, celebrated the opening of the Astrobleme Museum, which describes a meteor’s impact – and how it led to a major oil discovery by independent producer Harold Hamm (450 million years later).
Located about 20 miles southwest of Enid, the Ames meteor crater was buried by about 9,000 feet of sediment, making it barely visible on the surface. Most geologists believed impact craters unlikely locations for petroleum.
Although wells have been drilled nearby, no one had attempted to reach deep into the hidden, eight-mile-wide Ames crater in Major County.
In 1991 Hamm’s Continental Resources drilled far deeper than usual for the area – about 10,000 feet – and found oil. He uncovered what became one of the most prolific of the six oil-producing craters in the United States, producing 17.4 million barrels of oil and 79.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas.
“The Ames Astrobleme is one of the most remarkable and studied geological features in the world because of its economic significance,” noted fellow Enid independent producer Lew Ward of Ward Petroleum.
The potential of drilling in impact craters soon got the attention of oil companies worldwide. Hamm funded construction of the unusual museum in Ames. Learn more in Ames Astrobleme Museum.
August 19, 1957 – Washington Oil Discovery
The first and only commercial oil well in the state of Washington was drilled by the Sunshine Mining Company. The Medina No. 1 well flowed 223 barrels a day from a depth of 4,135 feet near Ocean City in Grays Harbor County.
Although a well drilled six years earlier produced 35 barrels of oil a day, it was deemed noncommercial and abandoned. The Medina No. 1 well produced 12,500 barrels before being capped in 1961.
“About 600 gas and oil wells have been drilled in Washington, but large-scale commercial production has never occurred,” explained a 2010 report from the Washington commissioner of public lands.
The state’s most recent production – from the Ocean City field – ceased in 1962, “and no oil or gas have been produced since that time,” the commissioner added, noting that some companies are exploring for coalbed methane.
Recommended Reading, August 14: Western Pennsylvania’s Oil Heritage (2008); Winners’ Viewpoints: The Great 1927 Trans-Pacific Dole Race (2009); Glory Gamblers (1961); The Frackers: The Outrageous Inside Story of the New Billionaire Wildcatters (2014).
Listen online to Remember When Wednesdays on the weekday morning radio show Exploring Energy from 9:05 a.m to 10 a.m. (Eastern Time). Executive Director Bruce Wells calls in on the last Wednesday of each month. AOGHS welcomes sponsors to maintain this website and preserve U.S. petroleum heritage. Please support our energy education mission with a tax-deductible donation today. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for information on levels and types of sponsorships. © 2017 Bruce A. Wells.