This Week in Petroleum History, October 9 to October 15
October 9, 1999 – Converted Offshore Platform launches Rockets
Sea Launch, a Boeing-led consortium of companies from the United States, Russia, Ukraine, and Norway, began commercial launches in 1999 using Ocean Odyssey, a modified semi-submersible drilling platform. It launched a Russian rocket carrying a DIRECTV satellite. By 2014 the Ocean Odyssey made 36 similar launches. The former petroleum platform’s last launch was in May 2014, a month after the civil war began in eastern Ukraine. Learn more in Offshore Rocket Launcher.
October 13, 1917 – U.S. Oil & Gas Association founded
The United States Oil & Gas Association (USOGA) was founded as the Mid-Continent Oil & Gas Association in Tulsa, Oklahoma, six months after the United States entered World War I.
A group of leading independent producers, including Frank Phillips, E.W. Marland, Bill Skelly, and Robert Kerr, established the association to increase U.S. petroleum supplies for the Allied forces. In 1919 the association formed the Oklahoma-Kansas Division (now the Oklahoma Oil & Gas Association).
Today a lobbying organization based in Washington, D.C., USOGA advocates industry views in energy policy debates.
October 13, 1954 – First Arizona Oil Well
Arizona became the 30th oil producing state when Shell Oil Company completed its East Boundary Butte No. 2 well one mile south of the Utah border on Apache County’s Navajo Indian Reservation.
The October 1954 discovery well’s initial flow was small, just 2,200 cubic feet of natural gas and 11 barrels of oil per day from the Paradox Basin. Other nearby wells proved more productive. They came after more than five decades of expensive dry holes.
As early as 1899 a rancher had reported finding oil seeps in central Arizona. By 1902, a part-time prospector from Pennsylvania, Joseph Heslet, unsuccessfully drilled in search of an oilfield. His last attempt in 1916 showed traces of oil.
Apache County remains the only petroleum producing county in Arizona. Of the 1,129 wells drilled in the state since 1954, almost 90 percent have been dry holes (2014 data). “Arizona has only minor crude oil production from about two dozen wells,” notes the Energy Information Administration (EIA).
October 14, 1929 – Oilfield Discovery East of Dallas
The discovery of oil in Van, Texas, by the Pure Oil Company created an oil boom town 60 miles east of Dallas. Residents still celebrate the find.
The Van oilfield’s first well produced from about 2,700 feet deep in the Woodbine sandstone. By December 1929, three more successful oil wells were drilled as construction started on a camp for oilfield workers.
Among the “Cook Camp” buildings was a sheet metal warehouse that today is the Van Area Oil and Historical Museum.
Pure Oil Company’s Jarman No. 1 discovery well initially produced 3,500 barrels of oil a day. By April 1930, the Van oilfield was producing 20,000 barrels of oil a day.
Two 10-inch pipelines connected the field to refineries, one to the Pure refinery at Beaumont and the second, operated by Humble Oil, to a Standard Oil pipeline and Baton Rouge refinery, according to the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA) Handbook of Texas Online. Oil companies also operating in the Van field adopted advanced production techniques.
“The field is significant because it was the first completely unitized field in Texas and the Mid-Continent,” TSHA notes.
Van residents have annually celebrated their petroleum heritage every fall for 87 years. The 88th Oil Celebration will begin with an October 14, 2017, parade, one week after the 38th annual Van Oil Queen Pageant.
October 15, 1997 – Kerosene fuels World Speed Record
The current world land speed record was set at 763.035 miles per hour by the Thrust SSC (supersonic car) using two jet engines burning JP-4, a kerosene-naptha jet propellant. A British team achieved the record at the Black Rock Desert track in Nevada. Highly refined kerosene JP-4 was first used in jet aircraft in 1951. Also see the Blue Flame Natural Gas Rocket Car.
October 16, 1865 – First Petroleum Pipeline
In Venango County, Pennsylvania, Samuel Van Syckel’s Oil Transportation Association in 1865 put into service a two-inch iron line linking the Fraser well to the Miller Farm Oil Creek Railroad Station, about five miles away. Pipelines – and the technology to manufacture and lay them – will revolutionize petroleum transportation in the early oil patch.
With 15-foot welded joints and three, 10-horsepower Reed and Cogswell steam pumps, Van Syckel’s pipeline transported 80 barrels of oil in one hour – the equivalent of 300 teamster wagons hauling for 10 hours.
At the same time, the Pennsylvania Tubing Company was laying a seven-mile, six-inch pipeline from Pithole Creek to another well. With their livelihoods threatened, teamsters frequently attempted to sabotage the pipeline until armed guards intervened.
“The day that the Van Syckel pipeline began to run oil a revolution began in the business. After the Drake well it is the most important event in the history of the Oil Regions,” notes Ida Tarbell in her History of the Standard Oil Company. Also see Trans-Alaska Pipeline History.
Recommended Reading (October 9): The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money & Power (2008); Arizona Rocks & Minerals: A Field Guide to the Grand Canyon State (2010); History of the Pure Oil Company: 1914 to 1941 (1941); The History of the Standard Oil Company: All Volumes (2015).
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.