November 14, 1947 – First Oil Well drilled Out of Sight of Land –
The modern offshore oil and natural gas industry began in the Gulf of Mexico with the first oil well successfully completed out of sight of land. Brown & Root Company built the experimental freestanding platform 10 miles offshore for Kerr-McGee and partners Phillips Petroleum and Stanolind. The platform, Kermac 16, was designed to withstand winds as high as 125 miles per hour.
After investing $450,000, Kerr-McGee completed the well in about 20 feet of water off Louisiana’s gradually sloping Gulf coast. The Kermac No. 16 well initially produced 40 barrels of oil per hour.
Kerr-McGee had purchased World War II surplus utility freighters and materials to provide supplies, equipment, and crew quarters for the drilling site at Ship Shoal Block 32. Sixteen 24-inch pilings were sunk 104 feet into the ocean floor to secure 2,700-square-foot wooden deck.
The Kermac No. 16 platform withstood several 1947 hurricanes and intense tropical storms. Learn more offshore technology in Offshore Drilling History.
November 14, 1947 – WW II “Big Inch” and “Little Big Inch” Pipelines Sold
Texas Eastern Transmission Corporation, a company established 11 months earlier to acquire the World War II surplus 24-inch “Big Inch” and 20-inch “Little Big Inch” pipelines, won ownership of them with a bid of $143,127,000. It was America’s largest sale of of war surplus material to the private sector.
By the 1950s, Texas Eastern Transmission had converted both oil products pipelines to natural gas, which was needed for the Appalachian region. By the 2000s, transmission would become bi-directional for carrying natural gas from the Marcellus and Utica shale to mid-west markets.
The Big Inch Pipelines of WW II were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1998.
November 15, 1906 – Justice Department seeks Breakup of Standard Oil
U.S. Attorney General Charles Bonaparte filed suit to compel dissolution of Standard Oil of New Jersey. Despite an 1892 court decision ordering the Standard Oil Trust to be dissolved, John D. Rockefeller had reorganized it and continued to operate from New York. The Justice Department won the latest suit and Standard Oil appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which affirmed the lower court’s decision on May 15, 1911, and mandated dissolution of Standard Oil into 34 separate companies.
November 15, 1952 – Williston Basin produces Millionth Barrel of Oil
The Williston Basin produced its millionth barrel of oil, which came from five fields in three counties in North Dakota. By the end of 1952, monthly production would reach 356,000 barrels of oil. “Oil was first found in the Williston Basin along the Cedar Creek Anticline in southeastern Montana, in the 1920s,” noted the North Dakota Geological Survey in 1988.
The North Dakota basin did not become a major producing region until Amerada Petroleum began searching there in 1946 — and found an oilfield beneath Clarence Iverson’s wheat field northeast of Williston five years later (see First North Dakota Oil Well).
November 18, 1847 — Manufactured Gas illuminates U.S. Capitol
Lamps fueled by “coal gas” began replacing kerosene and whale oil lamps in the U.S. Capitol. Manufactured gas distilled in a plant beneath the Capitol flowed through newly installed pipes into light fixtures throughout the building, including chandeliers in both house chambers.
James Crutchett, who had invented a manufactured gas lighting system, in March 1847 convinced Congress to appropriate $17,500 to fund his lighting plan — and an 80-foot mast with a gas lantern atop the dome.
Onlookers witnessed “one of the most splendid and beautiful spectacles we ever beheld,” according to David Rotenstein in History Sidebar. “Crutchett and his workers built a gas plant in the Capitol’s northwest quadrant and placed lighting fixtures throughout the Capitol.”
The dome’s gas lantern would be removed within a year, but a citywide municipal manufactured gas system would follow, similar to those established in Philadelphia and Baltimore (see Illuminating Gaslight).
November 19, 1861 – America exports Oil for First Time
America exported petroleum for the first time when the merchant brig Elizabeth Watts departed the Port of Philadelphia for Great Britain. The Union vessel arrived in London 45 days later carrying a cargo of 901 barrels of Pennsylvania oil and 428 barrels of refined kerosene.
The shippers were the successful Philadelphia import-export firm of Peter Wright & Sons, which since its founding in 1818 had prospered transporting glass, porcelain and queensware china. The company hired the Elizabeth Watts to ship the petroleum to three British companies.
On January 9, 1862, the brig sailed down the Thames River to arrive at London, where it took 12 days to unload the 1,329 barrels of oil and kerosene. Learn more in America exports Oil.
November 19, 1927 – Phillips Petroleum introduces “Phillips 66” Gasoline
After a decade as an exploration and production company, Phillips Petroleum entered the business of refining and retail gasoline distribution. The Bartlesville, Oklahoma, company introduced a new line of gasoline — “Phillips 66” — at its first service station, which opened in Wichita, Kansas.
The gasoline was named “Phillips 66” because it had propelled company officials down U.S. Highway 66 at 66 mph on the way to a meeting at their Bartlesville headquarters. The popular roadway soon became the backbone of Phillips Petroleum marketing plans for the new product, which boasted “controlled volatility,” the result of a higher-gravity mix of naphtha and gasoline.
Acquisition of service stations added 50 new retail outlets each month to the company. By 1930, Phillips 66 gasoline was sold at 6,750 outlets in 12 states. Because the composition made Phillips 66 gas easier to start in cold weather, advertisements enticed motorists to try the “New Winter Gasoline.”
Learn more by visiting the Phillips Petroleum Company Museum, which opened in 2007 in Bartlesville.
Recommended Reading: Offshore Pioneers: Brown & Root and the History of Offshore Oil and Gas (1997); Oil and Gas Pipeline Fundamentals (1993); The Bakken Goes Boom: Oil and the Changing Geographies of Western North Dakota (2016); Oil Man: The Story of Frank Phillips and the Birth of Phillips Petroleum (2016). Your Amazon purchase benefits the American Oil & Gas Historical Society. As an Amazon Associate, AOGHS earns a commission from qualifying purchases.
The American Oil & Gas Historical Society (AOGHS) preserves U.S. petroleum history. Become an AOGHS annual supporting member and help maintain this energy education website and expand historical research. For more information, contact email@example.com. Copyright © 2023 Bruce A. Wells. All rights reserved.