This Week in Petroleum History, September 10 to September 16
September 10, 1879 – Merger of Two California Companies will lead to Chevron
Chevron began in 1879 when the Pacific Coast Oil Company acquired the California Star Oil Works, which a few months before had made the first major oil discovery in California.
As the future major oil company grew over the century, its retail outlets added dozens of service station logos – including Standard Oil Company of California’s chevron, the Texaco red star, the orange disc of Gulf Oil, and the Unocal “76” logo.
“We trace our beginnings to an 1876 oil discovery at Pico Canyon, north of Los Angeles, which led to the formation of the Pacific Coast Oil Company,” notes Chevron, which acquired Gulf Oil in 1984 and merged with Texaco in 2001. Learn more West Coast oil history in First California Oil Well.
September 10, 1969 – Second Test of Nuclear Fracking of Natural Gas Well
A 40-kiloton nuclear device was detonated underground about eight miles southeast of present-day Parachute, Garfield County, Colorado. Project Rulison was the second of three natural gas reservoir stimulation tests that were part of Operation Plowshare, a government program to study the uses of nuclear explosions for peaceful purposes. The first, Project Gasbuggy, was a December 1967 detonation of 29 kilotons in a New Mexico natural gas well. The third detonation took place in Rio Blanco County, Colorado, in 1973. All of the tests produced unusable radioactive natural gas.
September 11, 1866 – Distilling Kerosene in Vacuum leads to Mobil Oil
Matthew Ewing, a carpenter, patented a new method for distilling kerosene in a vacuum to produce lubricants. His post-Civil War invention would lead to Mobil Oil. Three weeks after his patent, Ewing and partner Hiram Everest founded Vacuum Oil Company in Rochester, New York. Their first product was “Ewing’s Patent Vacuum Oil,” a leather conditioner. After Ewing left the partnership, Everest found success with an improved Vacuum Harness Oil. He distributed the lubricant in square containers previously used for canned oysters.
In 1880, Everest sold 75 percent of Vacuum Oil to John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company. More than half a century later, the vacuum-produced lubricants company evolved into Socony Mobil and then into Mobil Oil before becoming ExxonMobil in a 1999 merger. Also see Mobil’s High-Flying Trademark.
September 12, 1866 – First Texas Oil Well
The Texas petroleum industry was born a few miles east of Nacogdoches when Lyne Taliaferro Barret and his Melrose Petroleum Oil Company completed the Lone Star State’s first commercial oil well.
The Confederate Army veteran’s No. 1 Isaac C. Skillern well – drilled in an area known as Oil Springs – found the newly prized resource at a depth of 106 feet. Barret’s well yielded a modest ten barrels per day; limited access to markets soon led to his company’s failure. The field laid dormant for nearly two decades – until other exploration companies found oil nearby.
The Nacogdoches field was the oldest producing field in Texas for many decades. Some of the field’s wells produced well into the 1950s. Learn more in First Lone Star Discovery – and visit Nacogdoches, “the oldest town in Texas.”
September 13, 1957 – First Hawaiian Refinery
Standard Oil of California announced it would build the Territory of Hawaii’s first oil refinery, eight miles west of Pearl Harbor on the island of Oahu. According to a 1959 Popular Mechanics article, Standard Oil originally planned to import oil “by means of an unusual undersea submarine cable.”
September 13, 1975 – President Ford dedicates Petroleum Museum
President Gerald R. Ford addressed 400 guests at the 1975 dedication ceremony of the Permian Basin Petroleum Museum, Library and Hall of Fame in Midland, Texas.
After touring the new museum, the president was presented with a bronze sculpture by artist Lester Fox called “Dressing the Bit.” The presentation was made by Chairman Emil Rassman.
The museum, established by 500 community leaders under the leadership of George Abell, today includes extensive geological, technical and cultural exhibits – and a rare collection of historic Chaparral racing cars.
September 14, 1871 – President Grant visits Oil City
During a tour of the booming oil region of northwestern Pennsylvania, President Ulysses S. Grant visited Titusville, Petroleum Center, and Oil City to learn more about the new petroleum industry, which began in August 1859 with first U.S. commercial oil discovery. Grant ordered Pennsylvania Avenue paved with asphalt in 1875.
September 14, 1929 – West Texas Well will set Record
A West Texas well struck oil at a depth of 1,070 feet and produced an astounding 204,672 barrels of oil a day- the most productive well ever drilled up until that time. The Yates 30-A well initially produced 8,528 barrels of oil per hour. The Pecos County well was just a few hundred yards from the 1926 discovery well of the Yates field, the Ira G. Yates 1-A.
First discovered in 1920, the Permian Basin’s huge size had been revealed in 1923 by the Santa Rita No. 1 well. The Yates 30-A well, operated by Transcontinental Oil and the Mid-Kansas Oil and Gas Company (then a subsidiary of Ohio Oil, now Marathon) helped bring great prosperity to Midland, Odessa, and new oil towns like Iraan (see Alley Oop’s Oil Roots). In 1985 the Yates field produced its billionth barrel of oil.
September 14, 1960 – OPEC founded in Baghdad
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) was created at the Baghdad Conference by Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela.
The five founding members were later joined by nine others. Headquarters was in Geneva, Switzerland, prior to moving to Vienna, Austria, in September 1965.
OPEC’s objective “is to coordinate and unify petroleum policies among Member Countries, in order to secure fair and stable prices for petroleum producers; an efficient, economic and regular supply of petroleum to consuming nations; and a fair return on capital to those investing in the industry.”
September 15, 1886 – Gas Boom arrives in Indiana
After Ohio natural gas discoveries excited speculation in Indiana, investors established the Eaton Mining & Gas Co. in February 1886. The company’s first well found gas at a depth of 920 feet on September 15. With a two-inch pipe extended 18 feet above the derrick, the ignited gas produced a flame reportedly visible in Muncie 10 miles away. The well had tapped a 5,120-square-mile oil and natural gas field.
The Trenton field – the largest gas field known in the world at the time – spread over 17 Indiana counties and launched the Indiana Natural Gas Boom. Within three years, more than 200 companies were exploring, drilling, and selling natural gas. Industrialist Andrew Carnegie later proclaimed gas replaced 10,000 tons of coal a day for making steel.
Recommended Reading: Rochester Through Time, America Through Time (2015); Nacogdoches, Images of America (2009); Midland, Images of America (2010); Yates: A family, A Company, and Some Cornfield Geology (2000); Desert Kingdoms to Global Powers: The Rise of the Arab Gulf Hardcover (2016); Natural Gas for the Hoosier State (1995).
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