Oil-Industry History
Volume 13, Number 1, 2012

Editorial and Meeting Report – Houston, Texas, March 8-10, 2012, William R. Brice, Editor

Errata: Volume 12, No. 1, 2011

Personal Recollections and a Small Town Newspaper’s Coverage of a Local Oil Boom: The Raccoon Bend Oil Field, Austin County, Texas, Jeff A. Spencer

The History and Petroleum Systems of the Humble Field Harris County, Texas, Julie C. Jarvie-Jones, Daniel M. Jarvie, Albert Maende, and Don Rocher

George Henry Bissell…Oil’s Patriarch, Neil McElwee

Cherry Grove Oil Field, Warren County, Pennsylvania, Raymond P. Sorenson

Petroleum History Institute Annual Symposium, May 16-18, 2013 – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the Birthplace of U.S. Refining

The 1906 Caney Gas Well Fire, Kansas: Addendum, Jeff A. Spencer

The McDonald Oil Field, Pennsylvania – A New Historical Marker, William R. Brice

John Joyce Carter (1842-1917): Civil War Hero & Petroleum Mogul, S. George Pemberton

The Oil Industry’s Unknown Founding Father: Dr. John Ellis and Valvoline, Ihor J. Bemko

The Drake Well Museum – New Exhibits and Symposium, William R. Brice

Historical Documentary Films On Petroleum Industry, Rasoul Sorkhabi

Oilfield Movies: Theater Posters, Lobby Cards and Other Promotional Material – Selections From Pre-1975, Jeff A. Spencer

When Government Empowers Industry -The Petroleum Administration For Defense: 1950-1954, Ellen R. Wald

The American Challenge in the UK Oil Refining Industry : Predation Or Rescue?, Neil H. Ritson and David Chamberlin

The Rothschild Brother’s Contribution To Baku’s Oil Industry, Mir-Babayev Mir-Yusif

A Brief Analysis of Mexican Petroleum Up To 20Th Century: Environment, Economy, Politics and Technology, Francesco Gerali

Abstracts – 2012 International Symposium, Houston, Texas

Petroleum History Institute 2012 Awards

Memorial – John George Charles Martin Fuller (1926-2012)

Book Reviews

Volume 13, 2012 Abstracts

Editorial and Meeting Report – Houston, Texas, March 8-10, 2012
William R. Brice, Editor, Oil-Industry History

ABSTRACT: The Petroleum History Institute held its 11th annual meeting in Houston, Texas, March 8-10, 2012, in association with the Geophysical Society of Houston and the Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies. For the second time the group has been to the Gulf Coast, as we met at Lafayette, Louisiana, in 2010. And for the third time is as many years, PHI is deeply indebted to Jeff Spencer who was the meeting chairman and organizer. We also want to thank our overall meeting sponsor Hess Corporation and Mr. Mark Romanchock who arranged for our Symposium to be held at the HESS Tower in Houston. The BBQ lunch, complements of HESS, was a great welcome to Texas. Additional sponsors included Baird Petrophysical, Roxanna Oil Company, SEI, Steve and Kristen McDaniel, Ryder Scott, Weatherford Laboratories, Don Broussard-Fugro (Lafayette, LA), Stone Energy, Houston Geological Society, PetroLog International, Inc., and the New Orleans Geological Society. Our meeting could not have happened without the generous support of these individuals and companies – our thanks to them all. At the Friday Symposium the group enjoyed both oral and poster presentations on a wide range of topics, from early days in the Mexican oil fields and earthen storage tanks in the southwest, to the tar sands of Alberta and the Humble Field in Texas. Professor Tyler Priest, of the University of Houston, delivered our Keynote address, Reviving the Dead Sea: The Thirty-Year Effort to Tap Oil in the Deepwater Gulf of Mexico. Our Saturday fieldtrip included stops at the Houston Museum of Natural History’s Wiess Energy Hall and the Ocean Star Rig Museum in Galveston, where the land-locked among us were able to go on board a deep-water drilling platform. At the Awards banquet, PHI honored two truly legendary figures of the world oil industry with the 2012 Colonel Edwin L. Drake Legendary Oilman Award to William E. (Bill) Gipson and William Herbert Hunt. Mr. Gipson was the former Executive Vice President & Director of all Pennzoil Offshore Gas Operators (POGO) and Executive Vice President & Director of all Pennzoil Domestic and International Oil and Gas Subsidiary Companies. Mr. Hunt is of the legendary Hunt Oil Company and is currently an Advisor to Management at Petro-Hunt. The Samuel T. Pees Keeper of the Flame Award for 2012 was presented to two colleagues: Dr. Mary L. Barrett, Professor Emeritus, Centenary College of Louisiana (Shreveport), for her many contributions to the petroleum history of the Gulf Coastal Plain, especially for her work with the history of earthen storage; and Dr. Charles A. Sternbach, President of First Place Energy and Star Creek Energy, for originating and organizing the enduring program Legends panels at the Houston Geological Society and the Discovery Thinking forums at AAPG annual meetings. The PHI Distinguished Service Award for 2012 was presented to Ms. Maureen Leech, current PHI Treasurer and Layout and Production Manager for Oil-Industry History, and Mrs. Marilyn A. W. Black, current PHI Secretary and Chair of the PHI Oil and Gas Swap Meet and Road Show planned for Oil City, Pennsylvania in 2013. The next PHI meeting is planned for Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, May 16-18, 2013, just prior to the AAPG. For 2014, PHI plans to return north of the boarder to meet with the Petroleum History Society in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

 

Personal Recollections and a Small Town Newspaper’s Coverage of a Local Oil Boom: The Raccoon Bend Oil Field, Austin County, Texas
Jeff A. Spencer
675 Piney Creek Road, Bellville, TX 77418

ABSTRACT: Excitement and hope grew with each new attempt to establish oil production in Austin County, Texas in the late 1920s. The local newspaper, the Bellville Times, covered the events leading up to the discovery and followed the development of the prolific (over 100 million barrels of oil) Raccoon Bend oil field. The weekly newspaper reported the early leasing and drilling activity preceding the discovery of gas in 1926 and then the February 3, 1928 headline read, Humble Brings in 500 Barrel Well.

The Bellville Times continued to cover the local oil boom that provided jobs for the area and gas for homes and businesses. The newspaper provided details of the drilling and completion of early wells, rivaling industry oil well scouting reports. The newspaper also documented the construction of Humble Oil Company’s Raccoon Bend oilfield camp and its thirty-year life.

Former and current Austin County residents who lived in, or visited, the Humble Raccoon Bend oil camp as children provided personal accounts of life in the camp. Family scrapbooks, photographs, and written accounts add to the documentation of the oil boom and its impact on the local communities. Although the field has seen its heyday, wells are still producing in Raccoon Bend oil field and drilling continues with some very successful deeper oil reservoirs established in the last four years.

 

The History and Petroleum Systems of the Humble Field Harris County, Texas
Julie C. Jarvie-Jones, Worldwide Geochemistry, LLC, 218 Higgins Street, Humble, TX 77338
Daniel M. Jarvie, Worldwide Geochemistry, LLC, 218 Higgins Street, Humble, TX 77338
Albert Maende, Wildcat Technologies, LLC, 218 Higgins Street, Humble, TX 77338
Don Rocher, Geomark Research, 9748 Whithorn Drive, Houston, TX 77095

ABSTRACT: The Humble Field located near the town of Humble, Texas, has been the most successful Gulf Coast salt dome in terms of oil production. It produced the largest amount of oil in Texas in 1905 at over 18 million barrels of oil, exceeding the oil production output from even Spindletop field at its peak.

The field had its first commercial oil discovery in January 1905. Most of the earlier unsuccessful wells were gas blowouts and most of the oil producers were gushers, i.e., uncontrolled flow of oil. The first successful well was a gas well by Higgins Oil & Fuel Company in 1904. However, the first high volume oil well was the Beatty #2 Fee well completed in 1905 that flowed 8,500 barrels of oil per day. Wells came on strongly particularly in cavernous porosity zones of the caprock, but these wells also declined precipitiously sometimes within a few weeks at 10,000 barrels of oil per day (BOPD).

Many famous names came through and out of the Humble Field – individuals such as Howard Hughes, Sr, Ross S. Sterling, Hugh Roy Cullen, and companies such as Humble Oil Company, now under the name ExxonMobil. Howard Hughes, Sr. has been credited with the development of the rotary drill bit and co-founder of Sharp-Hughes Tool Company. His well known son, Howard Hughes, Jr., was likely born in Humble or nearby Houston. Ross S. Sterling, one of the co-founders of the Humble Oil Company, later became governor of Texas.

In 1913 drilling began on the flanks of the salt dome and success was achieved with the Producers Oil 11- Carroll well that flowed about 10,000 barrels per day. Another oil boom occurred in 1929, when the aforementioned, Hugh R. Cullen successfully drilled to 5,347 feet into the Yegua Formation. Approximately 2,274 wells have been drilled in the Humble Field. Total production at the end of 2011 stood at over 173 million barrels of oil.

 

George Henry Bissell…Oil’s Patriarch
Neil McElwee
711 West First Street, Oil City, PA 16301

ABSTRACT: No one man founded the world’s oil business. The enterprise was started by the efforts of many, some working alone in relative obscurity, some working with others. Together, these men formed the first fabric of a successful commercial petroleum industry. It should and will always be remembered the Drake Well began pumping oil in the Venango Oil Field in Northwestern Pennsylvania in August, 1859. That event shortly, clearly, and directly led to a sea change in the illuminating oil refining industry where crude petroleum replaced coal oil as the basic charge in the refinery stills. The unbroken chain of events that lead ultimately to the success of the Drake Well was begun by George Bissell of New York City. Reflecting upon the first decade after the Drake Well, Andrew Cone and Walter Johns, competent nineteenth century observers, stated boldly in their well-read chronicle of oil, Petrolia, published in 1870, …the honor of originating the present Petroleum development, of Venango County, to which…the world owes its present source of light, clearly belongs to Mr. George H. Bissell, formerly of the firm of Eveleth & Bissell, now a resident of New York City (P. 48-49). This is his story.

 

Cherry Grove Oil Field, Warren County, Pennsylvania
Raymond P. Sorenson
1912 S. Cheyenne Avenue, Tulsa, OK 74119

ABSTRACT: In the spring of 1882, an exploratory well on lot 646 in the forested wilderness of Cherry Grove Township, Warren County, Pennsylvania, was dubbed the Mystery Well due to operator efforts to maintain secrecy while leasing activity progressed. Rumors of another major discovery at a time when oil markets were already oversupplied by Bradford, the first giant oil field in the United States, caused widespread market speculation regarding the potential impact of this well on oil prices. Numerous operators and marketers sent personnel to watch the well on 646, leading to the development of oil scouting as a recognized profession.

On May 17, 1882, the lot 646 Mystery Well was drilled into the pay sand to yield a flow rate of approximately 1000 BOPD. By the end of June, 6 wells were producing 7000 BOPD, 63 development wells were drilling and another 99 rigs were being built. Two months later, in late August, field production had peaked at 40,000 BOPD from 215 producing wells, and the oil price had collapsed to the lowest price of the decade at less than $0.50/barrel. At least 48 of these wells had flow tests >1000 BOPD, more wells than had previously achieved that distinction for the rest of the United States combined. The newly created oil patch settlements of Garfield and Farnsworth grew explosively, and may have briefly reached a population of 10,000.

Rapid depletion of reservoir pressure coupled with mechanical issues related to sand production and paraffin precipitation led to an equally spectacular collapse of well performance. Wells generally ceased to flow during September, 1882, and field production dropped to 7930 BOPD by the end of that month. By the time the field was a year old in May, 1883, 426 wells had been drilled in a reservoir covering approximately 2000 acres and field production had dropped to 2400 BOPD. Production continued to decline rapidly, to less than 1000 BOPD by the second anniversary and less than 350 BOPD by the third. As the downturn became obvious, much of the oilfield equipment and building material was salvaged in 1883 for use in field developments elsewhere. Overall, operators are thought to have lost money on Cherry Grove, possibly the highest quality oil reservoir ever found in Pennsylvania, because of a combination of excessive investment and the collapse in product prices.

 

The McDonald Oil Field, Pennsylvania – A New Historical Marker
William R. Brice
116 Luna Lane, Johnstown, Pennsylvania 15904

ABSTRACT: On August 16th, 2012, the importance of the McDonald Oil Field of southwestern Pennsylvania was recognized with the unveiling of an historical marker at the School Bell Plaza on West Lincoln Avenue in McDonald. Oil began flowing from the field in 1890 and within one year production had reached between 84,000 and 96,000 barrels of oil per day. The producing area was initially about 13,000 acres centered in McDonald Borough covering parts of Allegheny and Washington counties. Production continued into the 20th century, and two wells, the Mevey #1 and the Mathews #1, both drilled before 1910, became two of the highest production wells in the Appalachian Basin. Following remarks by Tim Thomassy, Master of Ceremonies and Coordinator for the Historic Marker Project, and Andrew E. Masich, Chairman, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Kathy Flaherty, a Pittsburgh-based oil historian and petroleum geologist, gave the keynote address at the unveiling ceremony.

 

John Joyce Carter (1842-1917): Civil War Hero & Petroleum Mogul
S. George Pemberton
Department of Earth & Atmospheric Sciences, University of Alberta
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada T6G 2E3

ABSTRACT: John Joyce Carter came to America at the age of 5 and became a highly decorated Civil War hero and a successful railroad and oil businessman. He was born in Westport, Ireland, on June 16, 1842. Soon after his birth his parents died and he immigrated with his sister to Nunda, New York. When the Civil War broke out, John was the first person to appear on the enlistment roll of volunteers in Nunda and Livingston County, New York. The Battle of Antietam (or Sharpsburg) was fought on September 17, 1862 and climaxed the first of Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s two attempts to carry the war into the North. About 40,000 Southerners were pitted against the 87,000- man Federal Army of the Potomac under General George B. McClellan. And when the fighting ended, the course of the American Civil War had been greatly altered. More men were killed or wounded at Antietam, than on any other single day of the Civil War. Federal losses were 12,410, Confederate losses 10,700. Carter served with the 33rd Regiment, New York State Volunteers, Infantry, as a private soldier and was promoted through the ranks to Captain during his enlistment. Captain Carter’s service lasted four years and three months. As 2nd Lieutenant, Company B, John J. Carter was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his initiative and bravery at the Battle of Antietam on 17 September 1862. After the war, John returned to Nunda, New York, but soon relocated to Titusville, Pennsylvania, and opened a clothing store. In 1877 he invested in an oil-drilling venture, which was very successful. In 1893, he founded the Carter Oil Company and served as president of that company until his resignation in 1915. Carter Oil was a highly technical company and hired one of the first geologists, Will Aspinwall, in the oil industry. In December of 1916, John Carter developed pneumonia and on January 3, 1917 he died at the age of 74. The Carter Oil Company Research Laboratory was opened in Tulsa, Oklahoma; now an affiliate of Standard Oil of New Jersey (Esso) was one of the industries best and was the initial employer of Peter Vail, Robert Mitchum and John Sangree. The lab eventually merged with Humble Oil to form the Exxon Production Research Laboratory and Vail, Mitchum and Sangree were instrumental in the development of Seismic Stratigraphy and Sequence Stratigraphy.

 

The Oil Industry’s Unknown Founding Father: Dr. John Ellis and Valvoline
Ihor J. Bemko
Department of History, Anthropology and World Languages, Edinboro University of Pennsylvania
146 Hendricks Hall, 235 Scotland Road, Edinboro, PA 16444

ABSTRACT: At the very first official auto race in the United States, in 1895, Valvoline motor oil was lubricating the engine of the winning car. Today, it is a brand with significant name recognition among thousands of ardent NASCAR fans and one that provides its owner, Ashland, Inc., with annual sales of as much as $1.5 billion. Unlike the Rockefeller oil empire, whose Standard Oil brand name vanished in antitrust proceedings and marketing schemes but whose owner left his name on numerous landmarks and enterprises, the Valvoline name has survived intact since being trademarked in the 1860s. The man who developed and trademarked Valvoline was Dr. John Ellis (1815-1896). As a historical figure, he has, until now, remained in the shadows despite his famous brand name’s considerable renown.

 

The Drake Well Museum – New Exhibits and Symposium
William R. Brice
116 Luna Lane, Johnstown, Pennsylvania 15904-3068

ABSTRACT: On August 26, 2012, the newly remodeled Drake Well Museum opened its doors to the public for the first time since the Museum building closed about two years earlier. However, the staff kept the outside exhibits open to the public while construction was underway. To keep some exhibits on display during the renovations, the Museum staff and volunteers created the MEET-U project, a traveling exhibit space. The building was gutted and remodeled and all of the exhibit area, offices, library, and archive spaces were rebuilt from the bare walls and floor. Working with Susan Beates and the Museum staff, the new exhibits were designed by Hilferty Museum Planning/Exhibit Design of Athens, Ohio, in collaboration with Magic Lantern (AV features & Orientation) of Pittsburgh. The final construction, which began in May of 2012, was done by Studio Displays, Pineville, North Carolina. In addition to the new exhibits, the Museum installed a new geothermal heating/air conditioning system designed by H. F. Lenz, Johnstown, Pennsylvania, and the system was built and installed by The Scobell Company, Inc. of Erie, Pennsylvania.

In recognition of the opening of the remodeled building and new exhibits at the Drake Well Museum, on Monday August 27th the Pittsburgh Section, American Chemical Society; the Pittsburgh Chapter, American Institute of Chemical Engineers; and the Petroleum History Institute sponsored the day-long Energy Symposium, Past, Present, and Future, with time out to explore the new exhibits. As part of the Symposium and the celebration, the American Chemical Society re-dedicated a plaque designating the Drake Well Site as a National Historic Chemical Landmark. The plaque had originally been presented to the Drake Well Museum and Park at the 150th anniversary celebrations in August 2009, but with the imminent reconstruction of the Museum, the final mounting was postponed until August 2012.

 

Historical Documentary Films On Petroleum Industry
Rasoul Sorkhabi
University of Utah, Energy & Geoscience Institute, Salt Lake City, UT 84108

ABSTRACT: This paper chronicles 22 documentary films on petroleum industry produced prior to the 1970s. The first films, The Story of Petroleum and The Story of Gasoline produced respectively in 1923 and 1928 by the U.S. Bureau of Mines, were silent films. The first color film, The Inside Story of Modern Gasoline, was produced in 1948 for Standard Oil Company of Indiana. All of these historical documentary films favored the development and uses of the petroleum industry, and may be dubbed as “oil promotional” materials. A list of 36 documentary films on petroleum industry produced during the 1990s-2010s shows that many of them were “environmentalist” materials portraying the adverse impacts of the oil industry on the environment, international peace or local peoples of oil-producing regions. This study shows that up-to-date educational films on the history, uses and inner-workings of the oil and gas industry are scarce and badly needed.

 

Oilfield Movies: Theater Posters, Lobby Cards and Other Promotional Material – Selections From Pre-1975
Jeff A. Spencer
675 Piney Creek Road, Bellville, TX 77418

ABSTRACT: The 1956 movie Giant may be the best-known Hollywood depiction of the early North American oilfields, but many A and B movies share the search for oil as at least a portion of their storyline. As Forbes staff writer, Christopher Helman, wrote (2010), Oil makes good drama and There’s not many industries that can turn a roughneck into a millionaire overnight. Promotional material for the movies included posters of various sizes, glossy black and white or color photographs (press stills), lobby cards, and postcards. Scenes of oilfield fires, oil well gushers, and brawling oilfield workers were accompanied by headlines describing adventure, the relentless search for riches, often with a little romance thrown in.

 

When Government Empowers Industry -The Petroleum Administration For Defense: 1950-1954
Ellen R. Wald
232 LeConte, Department of History, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602

ABSTRACT: This article examines the Petroleum Administration for Defense (PAD), an agency created by the Truman administration to coordinate the United States’ oil resources during the early Cold War. It argues that this agency successfully coordinated the resolution of dislocations in the world oil market by allowing industry executives to occupy the center of the agency. In the early 1950s, the formative years of the United States’ foreign oil policies, the government adopted the role of facilitator rather than planning and directing strategy. President Truman’s decision to staff the agency with men directly from the oil industry set the tenor of business-government relations in oil operations and enabled petroleum executives to set the government’s oil policies based on their own industry’s needs. It established a relationship between the oil industry and the government that worked smoothly to keep the United States and allied markets fueled during a major oil crisis.

 

The American Challenge in the UK Oil Refining Industry: Predation Or Rescue?
Neil H. Ritson
Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Commerce, Lincoln University, P O Box 84. Lincoln 7647, Christchurch, New Zealand
David Chamberlin
Springfield, Kirkoswald, Penrith, CA10 1EX, Cumbria, England, UK

Abstract: The American Challenge thesis asserts that US multinational corporations (MNCs) act as predators in a globalizing world to shut out indigenous firms by undercutting prices due to their inherent productivity and efficiency regimes. This process looks apparent in the UK refining (downstream) oil industry as nine US-owned refineries were constructed in a period from the late 1940s to the mid-1970s: these represent some 75% of the total number of UK refineries, and the subsequent retailing activities could be said to have restricted competition from the indigenous companies, mainly BP and Shell.

This paper analyzes this claim of an American Challenge by investigating the sequencing of so-called foreign direct investment – FDI – and discovers UK government assistance in the process, and eventually we claim that the incoming US investment and expertise averted a crisis of market failure. This FDI was in fact a kind of rescue, rather than predatory behavior. In making this claim we first analyze the growth of the sporadic and often random development of the indigenous UK industry. While overlap is inevitable in an historical; series, we attempt to divide the development into four major phases: Phase I – The Early Years 1840-1940; Phase II – Post War New Refinery Construction 1940- 1975; Phase III – Closures, Expansions and upgrades 1975-1990; and finally Phase IV – Retrenchment 1990-present. The UK as a developed economy has specific features following from political questions: the requirement to assure supplies, the development of local refining, and the lack of capital, which heralded foreign direct investment. The extant literature on this industry is scant and so this research also provides an essential guide to oil industry changes at the level of an individual country.

 

The Rothschild Brother’s Contribution To Baku’s Oil Industry
Mir-Babayev Mir-Yusif
Azerbaijan Technical University (Baku), Fizuli str., house 53, apart. 49, Baku, Azerbaijan, AZ1014

ABSTRACT: The purpose of this study is to examine the activity of the Rothschild brothers in Azerbaijan and their role in the development of Azerbaijan oil industry from 1885 until the October revolution of 1917 in the Russian Empire. The article is based on documentary data found in the Azerbaijan National Archives. It was largely through the work of the Rothschild brothers – Alfonse and Edmond (and earlier the Nobel brothers), that in 1899-1901 Baku led in the world in terms of total oil production, supplying 11.5 million tons of oil per year, while the United States supplied only 9.1 million tons.
* This is a modified excerpt from: Concise History of Azerbaijani Oil, 3rd Edition (Baku 2010) by Mir-Babyev Mir-Yusif.

 

A Brief Analysis of Mexican Petroleum Up To 20Th Century: Environment, Economy, Politics and Technology
Francesco Gerali
Institute of Geography, National Autonomous University of Mexico.
Circuito Exterior S/N, Ciudad Universitaria. 04510 México D.F.

ABSTRACT: The oil production in Europe and North America during the first half of the nineteenth century was run by a proto industrial system that was inhibited by a lack of mechanization and limited outcomes and was ultimately penalized by the lack of a target market. During the 1860’s the petroleum sector introduced new practices and production techniques; the result of a cumulative process of experience and innovations that started to develop since the first decade of the century. From this path arose a new complex system in which oil research, drilling, refining and logistics took on new value and meaning. Pennsylvania was the cradle of the conjunction between processes and physical artifacts: the satisfactory outcomes of this model have gradually influenced, as a domino effect, for all countries in which there were active oil operations. Mexico was one of those countries. What represented the oil industry for Mexico? Which influence caused the Pennsylvanian Revolution in Mexico? The goal of this article is to answer these questions by discussing selected episodes that marked the Mexican oil industry during the 19th century. This analysis intends to highlight, also, the connections and the interdependencies between the Mexican case and the oil industry of other countries.

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