Volume 11, Number 1, 2010
Oil 150 Time-Line Poster
Fund-Raising Underway For Restoration Of Drake Monument,
Annual Meeting — Symposium & Field Trip — Marietta, Ohio — June 23-25, 2011
A Tribute To Gerald M. Fiedman,
Abstracts — 2010 International Symposium, Lafayette, Louisiana
Petroleum History Institute 2010 Awards
History Of Petroleum Bibliography 2008-2010
Oil-Industry History Index Volumes 1–10 (2000 – 2009)
Volume 11, 2010 Abstracts
ABSTRACT: The Petroleum History Institute held its annual symposium and field trip in southwestern Louisiana April 29 through May 1st, 2010, in conjunction with the Lafayette Geological Society. Lafayette is near the historic Jennings Oil Field where the discovery strike was made on September 21st, 1901, just nine months after the discovery at Spindletop near Beaumont, Texas. We are indebted to the co-chairs of the meeting, Jeff Spencer (PHI) and King Munson (LGS), for organizing such a great meeting. Participants, as is the custom at such meetings, were treated to a wide variety of talks and poster presentations ranging from the history of Louisiana\’s Vinton Field and natural gas production history, to the unintended consequences of the Drake Well, to the impact of the gas boom in Indiana, and the story of Cerro Azul #4, perhaps the greatest oil well in history. The field trip took the group to the famous Jennings Field and other historic sites in western Louisiana, and then over to east Texas to Spindletop and the Gladys City Boomtown Museum. William L. Fisher, the Leonidas T. Barrow Chair and Professor in the Department of Geological Sciences of the Jackson School of Geosciences at the University of Texas at Austin and former President of AAPG, and Dudley J. Hughes, an oil company owner and author, were each presented with the Edwin L. Drake Legendary Oilman Award for 2010, and the Samuel T. Pees Keeper of the Flame Award for 2010 went to Kathy Flaherty, Editor of the Oilfield Journal and noted oil historian, and posthumously to Tom Fulton, a noted Houston oil historian. The next PHI symposium and field trip meeting will be held in Marietta, Ohio, June 23-25, 2011.
ABSTRACT: As early as the 1870s, locals had recognized the oil potential of a topographic mound located four miles south of the town of Vinton, Louisiana. Oil and gas seeps occurred east of the mound and water from shallow wells in the area had a sour taste. The first well was drilled on the mound soon after the January, 1901 Spindletop, Texas oil gusher, which was located less than forty miles to the southwest. This first Vinton well encountered some oil shows and a few subsequent wells established some very minor oil production. The major discovery well was drilled in 1910, setting off rapid development of the oil field. By early 1911, the field was producing 50,000 barrels of oil a day from just eleven wells. In 1911, the field produced 2.45 million barrels of oil.
With an oil boom raging, John Geddings “Ged” Gray, a local rancher with a significant lease position in the oil field, generously allowed the oil field workers to build homes on his land. At the height of the oil boom (1918-20) the town of Ged had a population of over 3000 with several businesses, a post office, and a school. By the mid-1940s, most of the houses in Ged had been dismantled and moved to Vinton and today little remains of the boomtown.
Drilling in the field, and later seismic and gravity surveys, delineated an underlying salt dome with the top of caprock at 384 feet and salt at 700 feet. It is one of the shallowest occurrences of salt of the southwest Louisiana salt domes. Vinton was also one of the first salt domes where oil production was established on a dome\’s flank, as well as below a caprock and salt overhang. Approximately 1200 wells have been drilled in field, producing over 143 million barrels of oil and 54 billion cubic feet of gas.
ABSTRACT: During the years 1909-1911, three exploratory wells were drilled on the lands of the Lester Mill Company, northwest of Camden in Ouachita County, Arkansas, encountering multiple shows of oil and gas in Upper Cretaceous sandstones. The Oil & Gas Journal covered the progress of the first 2 wells, and a local newspaper announced a discovery after a recovery of 25 barrels of oil from the third well. These wells were abandoned due to wellbore mechanical issues and declining market conditions, and another decade would pass before Arkansas would join the ranks of oil-producing states with discoveries at El Dorado and elsewhere. Regulatory and commercial records regarding these wells are very sparse, but the authenticity of the oil and gas shows is supported by preserved first-hand accounts from individuals who were employed in the drilling program. The publicly reported locations for these wells are substantially in error, but the correct locations were identified and surveyed in the late 1970s. No modern wells have been drilled close enough to clearly establish whether the original operator might have walked away from a commercial discovery. Several lines of evidence suggest that the Lester Mill Company wells were drilled in an area of structural disturbance, and that they might have been located within structural traps not tested by subsequent wells. Multiple tests of CO2-enriched gas, coupled with the identification of a mafic outcrop within the nearby Ouachita River floodplain, suggest that local structural deformation might have resulted from igneous activity.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: This paper would not have been possible without the contributions from Dr. R. H. Nunnally, a Camden resident who provided his collection of well histories and first-hand accounts, guided a surveying crew to identify the correct locations for the Lester wells, and provided samples and information for the igneous outcrop at Camden.
ABSTRACT: Picture postcards have been a means of communication for many years, and they became a popular collectible item as well. Almost any subject, location, event, even people and animals were grist for the postcard mill. The oil industry was no exception, especially in the early part of the twentieth century when it was represented by views of derricks, refineries, oil fields, and especially gushers, blow outs, and oil fires, appearing in black and white, sepia, and early forms of color printing. In the first years of the 1900s, Spindletop in Texas and the Jennings field in Louisiana were popular subjects for picture postcards of that era. Of those, perhaps the most famous were the pictures of Frank Trost (1868-1944) who took the famous photograph of the initial gusher at Spindletop on January 10, 1901. Illustrated here are several examples of picture postcards of both Spindletop and the Jennings field.
Earthen Pits in U. S. Petroleum Fields: A History of Nomenclature and Related Usage
Mary L. Barrett Professor Emeriti of Geology, Centenary College of Louisiana
639 Stephenson St., Shreveport, LA 71104
ABSTRACT: Earthen pits have been used to confine, process, and dispose of petroleum-field-related liquids and solids since the early U.S. field discoveries of the 1860s and onward. Pits are still commonly used today but their terms and usages are defined by regulations. This evolving usage over the past 150 years resulted in many varied terms to describe the pits, some broad and some very specific. Most pit nomenclature and usage may be organized by the main fluid types being managed—drilling fluids, oil, or produced water. No two petroleum fields are exactly alike in the types and styles of pit usage throughout the fields\’ history, as it depended on many variables including fluid production, fluid chemistry, the geographic setting of the field, state regulations, acceptable practices of a specific timeframe, and nearby surface and groundwater attributes and usage. By the 1980s, several states put forth extensive regulatory pit definitions and usages which not only reflected older terms still commonly used but newer terms. This served to clarify when and what types of fluids and solids were to be placed in pits and to minimize environmental issues. The use or knowledge of only modern pit terms may be confusing and even incorrect when applied to understanding the historical production practices of a petroleum field and interpreting documents containing pit terms.
ABSTRACT: The story of Edwin Drake and the first drilled oil well is very well known, especially after the 150th anniversary celebrations held in 2009 that reached new audiences. Equally well known are the business and technological consequences that followed the success of that well, with oil booms occurring first along Oil Creek in western Pennsylvania, then across the United States, and eventually around the world. But as with all events, unintended consequences occur, and the success of The Drake Well was no exception. Although there are many such unintended consequences, four tend to stand out from the rest. The change from whale oil to petroleum derivatives as illuminants enabled these mammals to survive into the present day. Prior to Drake\’s success, little thought was given to subsurface geology, but as oil became a sought after commodity, a knowledge of the subsurface improved chances for drilling a successful well. A third is that oil proved to be one of the greatest sources the world has ever known of raw material for the chemical industry and our modern day plastic manufacturers. Fourth, and perhaps the most overlooked, is how private wealth created within the oil industry changed the world of philanthropy. The very well funded foundations created from the oil profits enlarged philanthropy from one-on-one type of locally organized charitable activity helping individuals, to one which focuses on large concerns which affect the entire world. None of these were, or could have been, in the thoughts of Edwin Drake and “Uncle Billy” Smith as they saw the dark, smelly liquid that rose in that well on August 27th, 1859.
ABSTRACT: August 27, 2009 marked the 150th anniversary of the first intentionally drilled oil well in the United States. The well was drilled by Edwin Drake in the Oil Creek Valley of Venango County in northwestern Pennsylvania, located approximately 80 miles north-northeast of Pittsburgh. Oil drilling leases bordering along Oil Creek were quickly secured up and down the valley following Drake\’s success.
One such company which leased early in the oil boom was the Columbia Oil Company, formed by a group of Pittsburgh investors. The property they leased became known as the Columbia Farm, on which several high-yielding oil wells were drilled. A young Andrew Carnegie was one of the company\’s early investors; his profits after the sale of his stock allowed him to eventually quit his job with the Pennsylvania Railroad, thereby affording him the opportunity to then found his steel-making ventures. The company town which sprang up on the land hosted a library, its own baseball team, a cornet band, and company housing. Several building foundations and a small cemetery are all that is left of this settlement. Believing that the oil would soon run out, Carnegie\’s associate and co-investor, William Coleman, conceived of an idea to construct a brick-lined impoundment capable of storing 100,000 barrels of oil, so that they might take advantage of a price spike resulting from short supply and high demand. The oil didn\’t run out, the impoundment concept failed, but the remains of the suspected brick pond are still present in the form of a present-day pond and wetland. The Columbia Oil Company founders were later sued by the elderly farmer from whom they had purchased the land, after he claimed that they burned his sales contract and defrauded him in their purchase price.
The history of the petroleum-drilling operations on the Columbia Farm ranges from the early-1860s to the present. Brundred Oil Company eventually bought the property and employed compressed air injection as a secondary recovery technique. The company also produced casinghead gasoline on the land. In the early 1950s, Quaker State Oil and Refining Corporation bought the property and in the mid-1970s it unsuccessfully experimented on site with an enhanced oil recovery project. In the 1970s, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania acquired the surface rights to the Columbia Farm for incorporation into Oil Creek State Park. The petroleum drilling legacy of the area is on-going. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is still locating and plugging many old oil wells within the Oil Creek Valley, while at the same time, drilling is actively taking place within not only the boundaries of the original Columbia Farm, but also the Allegheny National Forest, located a short distance east of Drake\’s original well. [Note: A modified version of this paper is in Oilfield Journal, v. 9, 2009/2010.]
ABSTRACT: From August 2008 through December 2009, the Oil Region Alliance of Business, Industry & Tourism administered Oil 150, a nationwide celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Drake Well oil strike near Titusville, Pennsylvania and the concurrent birth of the U.S. petroleum industry. Through events, exhibits, media and marketing initiatives, and educational programming, Oil 150 increased the national awareness of this important anniversary and encouraged communities across the country to celebrate their own unique oil histories. This report highlights Oil 150\’s documentary, educational, and preservation initiatives, demonstrating how these projects will foster an appreciation of U.S. oil history and its roots in Pennsylvania\’s Oil Region National Heritage Area for years to come.
Oil Creek Valley, Pennsylvania Then & Now
John Harper Bureau of Topographic & Geological Survey
500 Waterfront Drive, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15222-4745
ABSTRACT: On August 27, 1859, Edwin Drake and his driller William Smith were successful in finding oil in a well they had been drilling for several months, and that success started a revolution that was to change the world. There had been other wells, some dug, some drilled, but for a variety of reasons, none of them had the impact of this well located on the edge of Oil Creek in northwestern Pennsylvania. Literally within days of their success, people were leasing land up and down Oil Creek Valley and derricks were springing up like mushrooms after a rain storm. One of the consequences of this rapid expansion was a change in the landscape, and not necessarily a change for the better. Trees disappeared only to re-appear as part of a drilling derrick, or were used as fuel for the steam boilers. Oil was spilled on the ground and into the streams and rivers. During the spring thaw and rains, the streets became a mixture of mud and oil. As contemporary photographs clearly illustrate, it was a mess. But an amazing thing happened on the way to the future; nature healed herself so well that today few remnants of the old days can be seen in the local landscape. Where once there were oil slicks, now there are fish, and the trees have regained the hillsides. Here is a small glimpse of these changes. [These photographs were originally used in a 2009 calendar produced by the Pittsburgh Geological Society – www.pittsburghgeologicalsociety.org. Historical Photography from the collection of The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission – Drake Well Museum Archive (DW); Recent Photography by John A. Harper.]
ABSTRACT: Imagine yourself as an impressionable youth in Pennsylvania during the earliest years of the petroleum industry. Would you have listened intently while strangers and neighbors mingled at the general store, sharing the tales of gushers, dusters and boomtowns? Would you have combed the newspapers looking for news of the latest big oil finds, or where the new wells were going down? Would you have sought employment with the providers of goods or services that supported the new industry? Excitement! Adventure! Wealth! How could a young man resist?
James McClurg Guffey (1839-1930) and John H. Galey (1840-1918), young men when Drake\’s well struck oil, became pioneers in the early oil and natural gas industries. They took independent paths – Guffey began his oilfield career in the early 1870s as an agent for Gibbs & Sterett, a manufacturer of oilfield equipment in Clarion County, PA, and Galey started in the 1860s with operations in Venango County, PA – but eventually the men worked together to blaze trails marked by great successes. Historical accounts of many of the noteworthy oil fields include mention of Guffey or Galey, (sometimes both!) often with partners. If there were wells drilling in advance or ahead of development it was frequently a Guffey and/or Galey enterprise. Neither shied away from risks, and both recognized the value to be gained from drilling test wells in new areas.
Geography did not limit Guffey\’s or Galey\’s exploits, nor did they limit themselves to oil and gas. A series of maps will guide us as we take a few steps along the route Guffey and Galey took on their exciting journey between western Pennsylvania and Spindletop.
ABSTRACT: The technique of fracturing rock in oil and gas wells is almost as old as the modern oil industry itself. The technique was born through the ingenuity of Colonel E. A. L. Roberts and his torpedo, first demonstrated in January 1865. This torpedo tradition has been carried down to the present day in a modified form with the elaborate techniques of using high pressure water to fracture reservoir rocks. And along the way there have been many inventive and colorful individuals involved in the business, and one such person was Orson Lenard (Bill) Hopkins, or Hoppy as he was also known, who worked in the oil fields of Pennsylvania in the 1930s and up into the 1970s.
*Modified from an article that appeared in The Valley Voice (Warren County, Pennsylvania), Friday, October 30, 2009.
ABSTRACT: This paper pieces together scattered and hard-to-find information about the life and oil discoveries of George Bernard Reynolds (1853-1925), a forgotten figure in the oil industry but one whose discoveries of oil in Persia (1908) and in Venezuela (1922) opened two important regions for the international petroleum ventures. He was born on 5 April 1853 in Sussex, England to George Stewart Reynolds (a Vice-Admiral in the Royal Navy) and Eliza Susannah Walker. In 1873, he attended the Royal Indian Engineering College at Coopers Hill, Windsor, which then trained engineers for the Indian civil service. He served in British India\’s Public Works Department (posted to State Railways which were then fueled by coal) from 1875 through 1897, when he was retired as Executive Engineer and a Certified Mine Manager. In 1895, Reynolds married Lavinia Jane Baker in England, and after retirement, he went on to work on Dutch oil wells in East Indies (Indonesia). Reynolds appears in history in 1901 when he was hired by William Knox D\’Arcy to lead his oil exploration in Persia (Iran). R.W. Ferrier, author of The History of the British Petroleum Company (1982, vol. 1, p. 54) describes Reynolds as self-reliant, adaptable, a passable linguist, a competent horseman, physically tough, mentally alert, a loner, contemptuous of office wallahas, but generous to those who shared with him the discomforts of the scorching sun, the freezing nights and the barren landscape. Reynolds literally lived and worked in the Zagros basins of western Iran from 1901 through 1911. After drilling several wells in three different areas, his efforts paid off. On 23 January 1908, a gusher of over 15 m at the Masjid Sulaiman oil field marks the first oil discovery well in the entire Middle East, and led to the formation of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (APOC, later British Petroleum). In 1911, the new APOC management fired him politely but unfairly, and Reynolds left the company to work for the Royal Dutch-Shell in Venezuela. Dutch-Shell was then competing with the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey (later Exxon) in Venezuela. Leading a team of geologists and engineers, Reynolds discovered his second gusher. On 14 December 1922, the Barroso No. 2 well at the La Rosa field, near Lake Maracaibo, erupted. This put Venezuela on the world\’s petroleum map and changed the country forever. The Masjid Sulaiman oil was light crude (API 39º) from the limestone reservoir of Asmari Formation; while the La Rosa oil was heavy (API 17-24º) produced from the siliciclastic rocks of La Rosa Formation. However, both reservoirs were Oligocene- Miocene sediments deposited in a foreland basin atop a Cretaceous carbonate platform. Reynolds and geology linked these two far-apart oil discoveries. Reynolds died on 23 February 1925 in the Hotel de Inglaterra in Seville, Spain, possibly on his way to or from Venezuela.
George Bernard Reynolds must rank with Drake and Lucas as one of the great pioneers of oil. (Anthony Sampson, The Seven Sisters (1975, p. 53)
ABSTRACT: The provinces of Parma and Piacenza were the starting point of the modern Italian oil industry: here from the second half of the nineteenth until the early twentieth century all the activities related with petroleum evolved from a business which was little more than a craft in a well organized industry, featuring, indelibly, the local economy. The wealth of the underground resources attracted the interest of foreigners and Italian businessmen who located their businesses here, contributing to the birth of the main Italian oil district. Thanks to the growing importance of this new born industry, Parma and Piacenza were the sounding board of Italian know-how. The aim of geologists, engineers and Italian businessmen was to free themselves of technological and economic dependence on foreign countries. Although this did not happen, Italy did, by the 1860s, manage to guarantee a discreet autonomy. With this paper I mean to outline the slow, but not linear, development of the first decades of oil industry in this area. The realization of this research was made possible also thanks to the discovery of original and unpublished documents in Parma.