October 21, 1921 – First Natural Gas Well in New Mexico

petroleum history october

New Mexico’s first commercial natural gas service began after a 1921 discovery near Aztec. Oil discoveries followed in the southeast.

New Mexico’s natural gas industry was launched with the newly formed Aztec Oil Syndicate’s State No. 1 well about 15 miles northeast of Farmington in San Juan County.

The well produced 10 million cubic feet of natural gas daily. The crew used a trimmed tree trunk with a two-inch pipe and shut-off valve to control the well until a wellhead was shipped in from Colorado.

By Christmas, a pipeline reached two miles into the town of Aztec where citizens enjoyed New Mexico’s first commercial natural gas service.

In 1922, natural gas could be purchased in Aztec at a flat rate of $2 a month (for a gas heater) and $2.25 (for a gas stove). Learn more about the state’s petroleum history in New First Mexico Oil Wells.

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October 23, 1908 – Salt Creek Well launches Wyoming Boom

petroeum history october

The “Big Dutch” No. 1 well, above, launched a Wyoming drilling boom in 1908. Photo courtesy U.S. Geological Survey.

Wyoming’s first oil boom began when the Dutch-owned Petroleum Maatschappij Salt Creek completed the “Big Dutch” well – a gusher about 40 miles north of Casper. The Salt Creek area’s oil potential had been known since the 1880s, but a central salt dome received little attention until Italian geologist Cesare Porro recommended drilling in the dome’s area in 1906.

An English corporation, the Oil Wells Drilling Syndicate, drilled the discovery well, which produced 600 barrels of oil a day from 1,050 feet deep. By 1930, about one-fifth of all oil produced in the United States came from the Salt Creek oilfield. Water-flooding began in the 1960s and carbon dioxide injection in 2004. Learn more in First Wyoming Oil Wells.

October 23, 1948 – “Smart Pig” advances Pipeline Inspection

petroleum history october

“Smart pig” photo courtesy Pacific L.A. Marine Terminal.

Northern Natural Gas Company recorded the first use of an X-ray machine for internal testing of petroleum pipeline welds. The company examined a 20-inch diameter pipe north of its Clifton, Kansas, compressor station. The device – today known as a “smart pig” – traveled up to 1,800 feet inside the pipe, imaging each weld.

As early as 1926, U.S. Navy researchers had investigated the use of gamma-ray radiation to detect flaws in welded steel. In 1944, Cormack Boucher patented a “radiographic apparatus” suitable for large pipelines. Modern inspection tools employ magnetic particle, ultrasonic, eddy current, and other methods to verify pipeline and weld integrity.

October 23, 1970 – LNG powers World Land Speed Record

AOGHS interviewed Dick Keller in 2013 and produced a video viewed more than 38,175 times on YouTube.

Liquefied natural gas (LNG) powered the Blue Flame to a new world land speed record of 630.388 miles per hour – a world record that would stand for 27 years.

A rocket motor combining LNG and hydrogen peroxide fueled the 38-foot, 4,950-pound Blue Flame, which set the record at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. The unique motor could produce up to 22,000 pounds of thrust, about 58,000 horsepower.

Sponsored by the American Gas Association (AGA) and the Institute of Gas Technology, the Blue Flame design came from the imaginations of three Milwaukee men with a passion for speed: Dick Keller, Ray Dausman, and Pete Farnsworth.

After building their record-setting X-1 rocket dragster in 1967 – and getting the attention of AGA executives – the engineers began design and construction of the far more ambitious Blue Flame natural gas rocket car. Interviewed in 2003 for an American Oil & Gas Historical Society video, Keller explained that with the growing environmental movement of the late 1960s, the AGA “suits” saw the value of educating consumers about LNG. “The Blue Flame was really ‘green’ – it was fueled by clean-burning natural gas and hydrogen peroxide,” Keller explained. “It was the greenest world land speed record set in the 20th century.”

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October 26, 1970 – Joe Roughneck Statue

petroleum history october 20

“Joe Roughneck” in Boonsville, Texas. Photo, courtesy Mike Price.

Governor Preston Smith of Texas dedicated a “Joe Roughneck” statue in Boonsville on the 20th anniversary of a giant natural gas field discovery there. In 1950, the Lone Star Gas Company Vaught No. 1 well discovered the Boonsville field, which produced 2.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas over the next 20 years. By 2001 the field reached production of 3.1 trillion cubic feet of gas from 3,500 wells.

“Joe Roughneck” began as a character in Lone Star Steel Company advertising in the 1950s. A bronze bust has been awarded every year since 1955 at the annual Chief Roughneck Award ceremony of the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA).

In addition to the Boonsville monument, Joe’s rugged mug today sits atop three different Texas oilfield monuments:  Joinerville (1957), Conroe (1957) and Kilgore (1986). Learn more in Meet Joe Roughneck.

October 27, 1763 – Birth of the “Father of American Geology”

petroleum history october 27

“Map of the United States of America, Designed to Illustrate the Geological Memoir of Wm. Maclure, Esqr.” This 1818 version is more detailed than the first geological map he published in 1809. Image courtesy the Historic Maps Collection, Princeton Library.

William Maclure, who would become a renowned American geologist and “stratigrapher,” was born in Ayr, Scotland. He created the earliest geological maps of North America in 1809.

After settling in the United States in 1797, Maclure explored the eastern part of North America to prepare the first geological map of the United States. His travels from Maine to Georgia in 1808 resulted in the first geological map of the new United States, published in the Transactions of the American Philosophical Society.

“Here, in broad strokes, he identifies six different geological classes,” a Princeton historian reported later. “Note that the chain of the Appalachian Mountains is correctly labeled as containing the most primitive, or oldest, rock.”

When Benjamin Silliman, a Yale chemist, organized the American Geological Society in 1819, Maclure was elected its first president. Most geologists consider Maclure (1763-1840) the “Father of American Geology.” In the 1850s, Silliman’s son, also a Yale chemist, analyzed samples of  Pennsylvania “rock oil” for refining into kerosene. His report led to drilling America’s first oil well in 1859.

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October 27, 1923 – Lion Oil Refining Company founded in Arkansas

petroleum history October

Founded in 1923 in El Dorado, Arkansas, Lion Oil will operate about 2,000 service stations in the south in the 1950s. Photo courtesy Lion Oil.

Lion Oil Company was founded as a refining Company in El Dorado, Arkansas, by Texan Thomas Harry Barton. He earlier had organized the El Dorado Natural Gas Company and acquired a 2,000-barrel-a-day refinery in 1922.

Production from the nearby Smackover oilfield helped the Lion Oil Refining Company’s refining capacity grow to 10,000 barrels a day. By 1925, the company acquired oil wells producing 1.4 million barrels of oil. A merger with Monsanto Chemical in 1955 brought the gradual disappearance of the once familiar “Beauregard Lion” logo.

Lion Oil today markets petroleum products, including gasoline, low-sulfur diesel, solvents, propane and asphalt. Learn more Arkansas history in Arkansas Oil and Gas Boom Towns.
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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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