September 21, 1901 – First Louisiana Oil Well –
Just nine months after the January 1901 “Lucas Gusher” in Texas, another historic oilfield was revealed 90 miles east in Louisiana. W. Scott Heywood — already successful thanks to wells drilled at Spindletop Hill — completed a well that produced 7,000 barrels of oil a day well on the Jules Clements farm.
Drilled six miles northeast of Jennings, the Jules Clements No. 1 found oil at a depth of 1,700 feet. “The well flowed sand and oil for seven hours and covered Clement’s rice field with a lake of oil and sand, ruining several acres of rice,” noted the Jennings Daily News.
The discovery led to the state’s first commercial oil production by opening the prolific Jennings field, which Haywood further developed by building pipelines and storage tanks. As the field reached peak production of more than nine million barrels in 1906, new oilfield discoveries arrived in northern Louisiana.
Learn more in First Louisiana Oil Wells.
September 23, 1918 – Giant Wood River Refinery goes Online
Roxana Petroleum Company’s new Wood River (Illinois) facility began refining crude oil. It processed more than two million barrels of oil from Oklahoma oilfields in its first year of operation.
Roxana Petroleum Company was the 1912 creation of the Royal Dutch/Shell Group, which founded the American Gasoline Company in Seattle to distribute gas on the West Coast. Roxana Petroleum was established in Oklahoma to produce the state’s high quality oil to be refined at the Wood River plant. The 2,200-acre facility northeast of St. Louis today is the largest refinery owned by Phillips 66.
Visit the Wood River Refinery History Museum.
September 23, 1933 – Standard Oil of California Geologists visit Saudi Arabia
Invited by Saudi Arabian King Abdel Aziz, geologists from Standard Oil Company of California arrived at the Port of Jubail in the Persian Gulf. Searching the desert for petroleum and “kindred bituminous matter,” they discovered a giant oilfield. The Saudi Arabia and Standard Oil partnership would become the Arabian American Oil Company (Aramco), later joined by Texaco and other major U.S. companies.
September 23, 1947 – New Patent for “Hortonspheres”
The Chicago Bridge & Iron Company (CB&I) received a patent for improvements to a spherical storage vessel invented by the company’s founder in the 1920s. Designed to store natural gas, butane, propane and other volatile petroleum products, the efficient sphere was among the most important storage innovations to come to the U.S. oil and natural gas industry.
First erected in 1923, CB&I named the “Hortonspheres” after engineer Horace E. Horton, who had started the company in 1889 to build bridges across the Mississippi River. The company built its first elevated water tank in Fort Dodge, Iowa, in 1892.
“The elevated steel plate tank was the first built with a full hemispherical bottom, one of the company’s first technical innovations,” noted a CB&I historian. The company built, “the world’s first field-erected spherical pressure vessel” in 1923 at Port Arthur, Texas.
Learn more in Horace Horton’s Spheres.
September 24, 1951 – Perforating Wells with Bazooka Technology
Call it a downhole bazooka. When World War II veteran Henry Mohaupt applied to patent his “Shaped Charge Assembly and Gun,” he brought anti-tank technology to the petroleum industry. During the war, Mohaupt had been in charge of a secret U.S. Army program to develop an anti-tank weapon. His idea of using a conically hollowed out explosive charge to focus detonation energy led to the rocket grenade used in bazookas.
After the war, the potential of these downhole rocket grenades to facilitate flow from oil-bearing strata was recognized by the Well Explosives Company of Fort Worth, Texas. The company employed Mohaupt to develop new technologies for safely perforating cement casing and pipe.
Learn more in Downhole Bazooka.
September 25, 1922 – First New Mexico Oil Well
Midwest Refining Company launched the New Mexico petroleum industry by completing the state’s first commercial oil well on the Navajo Indian Reservation. Drilled near Shiprock, the Hogback No. 1 well produced 375 barrels of oil per day. Following the discovery, Midwest successfully completed 11 more wells to establish the Hogback oilfield as a major producer of the San Juan Basin. Two years later, a pipeline was built to Farmington and the field’s oil shipped by rail to Salt Lake City, Utah, for refining.
Production from the prolific Hogback oilfield encouraged further exploration in New Mexico, which led to discoveries in 1928 that brought prosperity to Lea County and the town of Hobbs.
Learn more about this exploration and production history in First New Mexico Oil Wells.
September 26, 1876 – First California Oil Well
After three unsuccessful attempts, Charles Mentry’s California Star Oil Works Company discovered the Pico Canyon oilfield north of Los Angeles with California’s first commercial oil well. Drilled using cable-tools in an area known for natural oil seeps, the Pico No. 4 well produced 25 barrels of oil per day from a depth of 370 feet.
Pico Canyon oilfield production would lead to construction of California’s first oil pipeline and is first commercially successful oil refinery for making kerosene lamp fuel and lubricants. Riveted stills set on brick foundations had a refining capacity of 150 barrels of oil a day.
Chevron, once the Standard Oil Company of California, began thanks to the California Star Oil Works Company and the 1876 Pico No. 4 well.
September 26, 1933 – King Ranch Lease sets Record
Despite the reservations of Humble Oil and Refining Company’s president, geologist Wallace Pratt convinced the company to lease the million-acre King Ranch in Texas for almost $128,000 per year (plus a one-eighth royalty on any discovered oil). The September 1933 petroleum lease deal was the largest oil lease contract ever negotiated in the United States. Humble Oil and Refining, a Houston company founded in 1917, had drilled the King Ranch’s early “dusters.”
Subsequent leases from nearby ranches gave Humble Oil & Refining nearly two million acres of mineral rights between Corpus Christi and the Rio Grande River. By 1947, Humble would be operating 390 producing oil wells on the King Ranch lease. ExxonMobil has regularly extended the lease agreement in effect since 1933.
Learn more in Oil Reigns at King Ranch.
September 26, 1943 – First Florida Oil Well
Near a watering stop on the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad in southwestern Florida, the Humble Oil Company completed the state’s first commercial oil well, the Sunniland No. 1. The company had spent $1 million drilling to a depth of about 11,600 feet to complete the discovery well, located 12 miles south of Immokalee, near Big Cypress Preserve and the city of Naples.
Florida’s petroleum had eluded discovery for decades. Almost 80 dry holes had been drilled by 1939. and Florida legislators, eager for their state to benefit from oil tax revenues, offered a $50,000 bounty for the first oil discovery. The Sunniland oilfield brought more drilling, and by 1954 the field was producing 500,000 barrels of oil per year from 11 wells.
Texas-based Humble Oil accepted the $50,000 prize offered by the state legislature, added $10,000 – and donated the $60,000 equally between the University of Florida and the Florida State College for Women. Humble later became ExxonMobil.
Recommended Reading: Louisiana’s Oil Heritage, Images of America (2012); Oil in West Texas and New Mexico (1982); Black Gold in California: The Story of California Petroleum Industry (2016); Kings of Texas: The 150-Year Saga of an American Ranching Empire (2003); The Bazooka (2012); Oil in the Deep South: A History of the Oil Business in Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida, 1859-1945 (1993). 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 preserves U.S. petroleum history. Join today as an annual AOGHS supporting member. Help maintain this energy education website and expand historical research. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Copyright © 2021 Bruce A. Wells. All rights reserved.