This Week in Petroleum History, February 27 to March 5
February 28, 1935 – DuPont Chemist Wallace Carothers invents Nylon
A former Harvard professor working in a DuPont research laboratory discovered the world’s first synthetic fiber – nylon – a petroleum product. After experimenting with artificial materials for more than six years, professor Wallace Carothers created a long molecule chain, a stretching plastic. The inventor had earlier discovered neoprene (commonly used in wet-suits), advancing understanding of polymers.
Just 32 years old, Carothers produced the fibers when he formed a polymer chain using a process to join individual molecules. Each molecule consisted of 100 or more repeating units of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms, strung in a chain. DuPont company patented nylon in 1935, but it was not revealed until 1938. The first commercial use was for toothbrush bristles, which went on sale the same year. After World War II, nylon hosiery for women would make the Delaware chemical company a fortune. Learn more in Nylon, a Petroleum Polymer.
March 1, 1921 – Halliburton patents Cementing Technology
Erle P. Halliburton patented his new oilfield technology – a “Method and Means for Cementing Oil Wells.” He had moved to the Healdton oilfield in Oklahoma after working in the booming Burkburnett oilfields of Texas. He established the New Method Oil Well Cementing Company in Duncan, Oklahoma, 1919.
“It is well known to those skilled in the art of oil well drilling that one of the greatest obstacles to successful development of oil bearing sands has been the encountering of liquid mud water and the like during and after the process of drilling the wells,” Halliburton noted in his 1921 patent.
The new well cementing process isolated the various down-hole zones, guarded against collapse of the casing and permitted control of the well throughout its producing life. It also protected the environment.
The Halliburton patent noted that typical oil well production, hampered by water intrusion that required time and expense for pumping out, “has caused the abandonment of many wells which would have developed a profitable output.”
March 2, 1922 – Osage Nation Oil Lease sells for $1 Million
Under the broad crown of a giant elm next to the Osage Council House in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, Skelly Oil and Phillips Petroleum Company jointly bid more than one million dollars for just a 160-acre tract of land.
The 1922 auction is Oklahoma’s first million dollar mineral lease. Beneath the shade of the Million Dollar Elm, leading independent producers such as Frank Phillips, Harry Sinclair, Bill Skelly, Jean Paul Getty and E.W. Marland were frequent bidders to lease this promising territory on the Osage Indian Reservation.
The Osage awarded a medal to their Million Dollar Auctioneer. Learn more Oklahoma petroleum history by visiting the Marland Estate and the Conoco Museum in Ponca City and the Phillips Petroleum Company Museum in Bartlesville among many other Oklahoma oil and gas museums.
March 2, 1944 – WWII Pipeline delivers Gasoline
The first gasoline transported by the “Little Big Inch” pipeline arrived at Linden Station, New Jersey, from refineries near Houston and Beaumont, Texas. A second pipeline, the “Big Inch,” soon delivered oil.
They were part of the “War Emergency Pipelines” project to send petroleum products to East Coast refineries without the threat of U-boats.
The “Little Big Inch” line carried four products: gasoline, heating oil, diesel oil and kerosene, each separated by solid rubber balls slightly smaller than the inside diameter of the 20-inch pipe. Learn more in Big Inch Pipelines of WWII.
March 3, 1879 – United States Geological Survey established
The United States Geological Survey (USGS) was established when President Rutherford B. Hayes signed legislation that included a brief section creating a new agency in the Department of the Interior.
The 1879 legislation resulted from a report by the National Academy of Sciences, which had been asked by Congress to provide a plan for surveying the territories of the United States.
The new agency’s mission included “classification of the public lands, and examination of the geological structure, mineral resources, and products of the national domain,” notes a USGS history.
Today based in Reston, Virginia, with a budget of more than $1 billion, USGS employs about 10,000 scientists, technicians and staff. It also has the largest earth sciences library in the world.
March 3, 1886 – Natural Gas brings light to Paola, Kansas
Paola became the first town in Kansas to use natural gas commercially for illumination.
To promote the town’s natural gas discovery – and attract businesses from nearby Kansas City – four gas-fueled arches were erected in the town square. Pipes were laid for other illuminated displays. “Paola was lighted with Gas,” explains the Miami County Historical Museum. “The pipeline was completed from the Westfall farm to the square and a grand illumination was held.”
By the end of 1887, several Kansas flour mills were fueled by natural gas. But with little understanding of conservation, Paola’s gas wells ran dry. Fortunately, more boom times arrive with oil discoveries. Learn more in Kansas Well reveals Mid-Continent.
March 4, 1918 – West Virginia Well is World’s Deepest
Hope Natural Gas Company completed an oil well 7,386 feet deep on the Martha Goff farm in Harrison County, West Virginia.
The well northeast of Clarksburg was the world’s deepest at the time, notes the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association in A Century of Service, a 2015 book about the association’s founding and the state’s petroleum history.
The previous record had been 7,345 feet deep for a well in Germany. The title for world’s deepest well will move again in 1919 – to Marion County, West Virginia. Learn more West Virginia history in Confederates attack Oilfield and visit the Oil and Gas Museum in Parkersburg.
March 4, 1933 – Oklahoma City Oilfield under Martial Law
Oklahoma Governor William H. “Alfalfa Bill” Murray declared martial law to enforce his proration regulations limiting production in the Oklahoma City oilfield, discovered in December 1928 and one of the largest producing fields in the state.
Two years earlier, Murray had called a meeting of fellow governors from Texas, Kansas and New Mexico to create an Oil States Advisory Committee, “to study the present distressed condition of the petroleum industry.”
Elected in 1930, he was called “Alfalfa Bill” because of speeches urging farmers to plant alfalfa to restore nitrogen to the soil. The controversial politician was also known as the “Sage of Tishomingo.”
By the end of his administration, Murray called out the National Guard 47 times and declared martial law more than 30 times. His was succeeded as Oklahoma governor by oilman E.W. Marland in 1935.
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 help 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 available sponsorships. © 2017 Bruce Wells.