This Week in Petroleum History, January 23 to January 29
January 23, 1895 – Standard Oil closes Oil Exchanges
The Standard Oil Company purchasing agency in Oil City, Pennsylvania, notified independent oil producers it would only buy their oil at a price “as high as the markets of the world will justify” – and not “the price bid on the oil exchange for certificate oil.”
Oil City’s exchange had become the third largest financial exchange of any kind in America, behind New York and San Francisco. But with the Standard Oil Company buying 90 percent of production and setting its own price for certificates, all other oil exchanges soon closed. Learn more in End of Oil Exchanges.
January 23, 1991 – Gulf War Oil Spill
The world’s largest oil spill began in the Persian Gulf when Saddam Hussein’s retreating Iraqi forces opened pipeline valves at oil terminals in Kuwait.
An estimated 11 million barrels of oil soon covered an area reaching as far as 101 miles by 42 miles. The oil spill, which remains the largest in history, was five inches thick in some areas.
Iraqi soldiers sabotaged Kuwait’s main supertanker loading pier, dumping millions of gallons of oil into the Persian Gulf. By February, about 600 Kuwaiti wells had been set ablaze. It would take months to put out the fires. The last burning well was extinguished in early April 1991.
January 24, 1895 – Pure Oil Company founded by Independent Producers
Pure Oil Company was formed by Pennsylvania independent producers, refiners and pipeline operators. It soon became a major Chicago-based petroleum company.
Originally headquartered in Pittsburgh, the company was formed to counter Standard Oil Company’s market dominance. It was just the second vertically integrated oil company after Standard Oil.
Beginning in March 1896, Pure Oil marketed illuminating oil by tank wagon in Philadelphia and New York – successfully competing with Standard Oil’s monopoly. The Ohio Cities Gas Company of Columbus acquired Pure Oil and in 1920 adopted the former Pennsylvania company’s name.
January 25, 1930 – North Texas Independents form Association
After meeting a week earlier at the Wichita Club in Wichita Falls to protest “the recent drastic price cut in crude oil, inaugurated by some of the major purchasing companies,” a group of 50 independent producers organized the North Texas Oil and Gas Association. The association’s agenda included fighting oilfield theft, supporting a tariff on imported oil, and common-carrier status of oil pipelines.
Decades later, when oil price volatility (falling below $12 a barrel in late 1998) forced many independents out of business, the association merged with the West Central Texas Oil and Gas Association to form the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers.
January 26, 1931 – Third Well confirms East Texas Oilfield
As the Great Depression worsened and East Texas farmers struggled to survive, a wildcat well many miles from two earlier discoveries helped reveal the largest oilfield in the lower-48 states.
On January 26, 1931, Fort Worth, Texas, independent oilman W.A. “Monty” Moncrief and two partners completed the Lathrop No. 1 well. It produced 7,680 barrels of oil a day from 3,587 feet deep.
The well was 25 miles north of Rusk County’s already famous October 1930 Daisy Bradford No. 3 well drilled by Columbus Marion “Dad” Joiner. It was 15 miles north of the Lou Della Crim No. 1 well completed near Kilgore three days after Christmas.
January 28, 1969 – California Oil Spill
After drilling 3,500 below the Pacific Ocean floor, a Union Oil Company drilling platform six miles off Santa Barbara suffered a blowout. The accident spilled up to 100,000 barrels of oil into the ocean with some reaching southern California’s beaches, including Summerland – where the U.S. offshore petroleum history began in 1896 with wells drilled from piers.
“Riggers began to retrieve the pipe in order to replace a drill bit when the mud used to maintain pressure became dangerously low. A natural gas blowout occurred,” explains a report by the University of California, Santa Barbara. The well, which was controlled after 12 days, turned public opinion against offshore exploration and helped lead to establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency in December 1970.
Scientists note that natural California oil seeps leak up to 25 tons of oil every day – and have done so for thousands of years. Offshore wells have reduced natural seepage by relieving pressure. The Santa Barbara Channel remains one of the largest seeps in the world; scientists note daily seepage in the channel has been “significantly reduced by oil production.”
January 28, 1991 – Giant Rig becomes Tourist Attraction.
Among the biggest drilling rigs in the world in the 1960s, the Parker Drilling Rig No. 114 was erected in a vacant lot in downtown Elk City, Oklahoma. The chamber of commerce hoped the rig, visible from Interstate 40 and Route 66, would draw tourists off the interstate and into town, notes NewsOK.
Originally designed to drill experimental wells for nuclear bomb tests, Parker Drilling modified the rig to drill conventional but record-breaking wells, some reaching four miles deep into the Anadarko Basin.
Since 1991 the 17-story structure has welcomed Elk City visitors next to the former Anadarko Museum of Natural History at 107 East 3rd (Old Route 66).
January 29, 1886 – First Gas Car
German mechanical engineer Karl Benz applied for a patent for his Benz Patent Motorwagen – a three-wheeler with a one-cylinder, four-stroke gasoline engine. His “Fahrzeug mit Gasmotorenbetrieb” (vehicle with gas engine operation) patent was the world’s first patent for a practical internal combustion engine powered car.
Although there had already been “auto-mobiles” powered by steam or electricity, Benz used the internal combustion engine as the drive system for a “self-mover,” notes a Mercedes Benz historian. “On January 29, 1886, he presented his stroke of genius at the Imperial Patent Office – the car was born. Learn more in First Car, First Road Trip.
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