June 18, 1889 – Rockefeller builds Giant Refinery, creates Standard Oil Company of Indiana

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The Standard Oil refinery in Whiting, Indiana, today owned by BP, remains the largest refinery in the United States.

Standard Oil Company of New Jersey incorporated a new subsidiary, Standard Oil Company of Indiana, and began processing oil at a new refinery at Whiting, Indiana, southeast of Chicago.

The refinery, which became the largest in the United States by the mid-1890s, added pipelines connecting it to Kansas and Oklahoma oilfields in 1910. When the Supreme Court in 1911 mandated the break up of John D. Rockefeller’s companies, Standard Oil of Indiana emerged as an independent company, opening Amoco branded service stations in the late 1950s. Amoco merged with British Petroleum (BP) in 1998 – the largest foreign takeover of U.S. company up to that time. Learn more in Standard Oil Whiting Refinery.

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June 18, 1946 – Truman establishes National Petroleum Council

At the request of President Harry S. Truman, the National Petroleum Council (NPC), was established by the Department of the Interior to make recommendations relating to energy issues. Transferred to the newly established Department of Energy in 1977, the council became a privately funded advisory committee with 200 members appointed by the Secretary of Energy. The NPC website notes that “the NPC does not concern itself with trade practices, nor does it engage in any of the usual trade association activities.” 

June 18, 1948 – Service Company celebrates 100,000th Perforation

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Fifteen years after its first perforation job, Lane-Wells Company returned to the same well near Motebello, California, and performed its 100,000th perforation. The return to Union Oil Company’s La Merced No. 17 well included a special ceremony; Walter Wells, chairman of Lane-Wells, was present for both events.

In 1930, Wells and another enterprising oilfield tool salesman, Bill Lane, envisioned a downhole gun that could shoot steel bullets through casing. They created a multiple-shot perforator that fired bullets individually by electrical detonation of the powder charges. After many tests, success came at the La Merced No. 17 well.

By late 1935 Lane-Wells had established a small fleet of trucks to become a leading provider of well-perforation services. The company, which merged with Dresser Industries in 1956, later became part of Baker-Atlas and continues today as a division of Baker Hughes, a GE Company. Learn more in Lane-Wells 100,000th Perforation.

June 20, 1977 –  Oil begins Flowing in Trans-Alaska Pipeline

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Construction began in 1975.

After three years of construction, the Trans-Alaska Pipeline began carrying oil 800 miles from Prudhoe Bay to the Port of Valdez at Prince William Sound. The oil arrived 38 days later, culminating the world’s largest privately funded construction project at the time.

The 48-inch-diameter pipeline cost $8 billion, including terminal and pump stations. Its annual flow accounted for about 20 percent of U.S. oil production. Tax revenues earned Alaska $50 billion by 2002. Above-ground sections of the pipeline (420 miles) were built in a zigzag configuration to allow for expansion or contraction of the pipe because of temperature changes. In some permafrost areas the supports included special two-inch “heat pipes.”

Prudhoe Bay field was discovered in 1968 by Atlantic Richfield and Exxon about 250 miles north of the Arctic Circle. Learn more in Trans-Alaska Pipeline History.

June 21, 1893 – Submersible Pump Inventor born

Armais Arutunoff invented of the electric submersible pump.

Armais Arutunoff, inventor of the electric submersible pump for oil wells, was born to Armenian parents in Tiflis, Russia. He invented the first electrical centrifugal submersible pump in 1916. But after emigrating to America in 1923, Arutunoff could not find financial support for his down-hole oil production technology.

Thanks to help from his friend Frank Phillips, president of Phillips Petroleum, in 1928 Arutunoff moved to Bartlesville, Oklahoma, and established a manufacturing company. His REDA Pump Company manufactured pump and motor devices (and employed hundreds during the Great Depression).

A 1936 Tulsa World article described his invention as “an electric motor with the proportions of a slim fencepost which stands on its head at the bottom of a well and kicks oil to the surface with its feet.”

The name REDA, which stands for Russian Electrical Dynamo of Arutunoff, was the cable address of the company he originally formed in Germany. REDA submersible pumping systems today are part of Schlumberger. Learn more about Arutunoff in Inventing the Submersible Pump.

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June 21, 1932 – Oklahoma “Hot Oil” Controversy

Located on 18 acres, the Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma City includes the Devon Energy Park.

Thirty National Guardsmen marched into the Oklahoma City oilfield when Governor William H. “Alfalfa Bill” Murray took control of oil production after creating a proration board he controlled.

In March 1933, Murray would again declare martial law to enforce his regulations limiting the field’s production – and prevent the sale or transport of oil produced in excess of the quota, often referred to as “hot oil.”

The controversy ended in April 1933 when the Oklahoma Legislature passed House Bill 481, giving the Oklahoma Corporate Commission authority to enforce its rules – and taking away much of Gov. Murray’s power to regulate the industry.

June 23, 1921 – Signal Hill Discovery brings California Oil Boom

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Following the 1921 oil discovery, Signal Hill had so many derricks people called it Porcupine Hill.

A discovery at Signal Hill, California – one of the world’s most famous oil strikes – launched another southern California drilling boom.

When the Alamitos No. 1 well erupted with a geyser of oil, the discovery revealed of one of California’s most prolific oilfields. The natural gas pressure was so great that a gusher rose 114 feet. The well produced about 600 barrels of oil a day when it was completed two days later.

Soon known as “Porcupine Hill,” the town’s oilfield 20 miles south of Los Angeles was producing almost 260,000 barrels of oil every day by 1923. Combined with the historic 1892 Los Angeles Oilfield discovery and the 1920 oilfield at Huntington Beach, southern California produced one-fourth of the world’s oil.

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Today, Signal Hill’s Discovery Well Park hosts a community center with historic photos and descriptions. A monument dedicated in 1952 serves “as a tribute to the petroleum pioneers for their success here.” Learn more in Signal Hill Oil Boom.

June 23, 1947 – Continental Shelf

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the state of California could not claim rights to the continental shelf beyond three nautical miles. California and other coastal states litigation had resulted from President Harry Truman’s 1945 Continental Shelf Proclamation, which placed control with the federal government.

The Supreme Court ruling affirmed federal jurisdiction “with respect to the natural resources of the subsoil and seabed of the continental shelf.” Similar rulings affecting Louisiana and Texas would be made in 1950.

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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 and Volunteer Contributing Editor Kris Wells call in on the last Wednesday of each month. Support our energy education mission with a contribution today. Contact bawells@aoghs.org for membership information. © 2019 Bruce A. Wells.

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