Oil-Industry History
Volume 4, Number 1, 2003

Symposium – Shreveport, LA – March 26-29, 2003

Editorial: A New Editor and a New Organization, William R Brice

Passing the Torch, Larry D Woodfork

Early History of the Caddo-Pine Island Field, C. Lane Sartor

Jennings Oil Field: The Start of Louisiana’s Oil Industry, Jeff A. Spencer And Byron Miller

Oil Development in South Arkansas, 1921-2001, John G. Ragsdale

The Well at Wichita, Lawrence H. Skelton

Unintended Consequences of Oil Company Research Laboratories, James M. Parks

California Indians, Artisans of Oil, Susan Fox Hodgson

Submarines, Blimps, Trains, and Ships: Transportation Proposal for Prudhoe Bay Crude Oil, 1968-77, Ross A. Coen

The Oil Photography of the Farm Security Administration (FSA), 1937-1943, Mary L. Barrett

Editor’s Note – Recollections, William R. Brice

Moving Offshore in the Gulf of Mexico: People, Technology, and the Organization of Work in the Early Years of Oilfield Diving, Diane E. Austin

Women And Children of Spindletop, Paul N. Spellman

Recollections of Shell’s Bellaire E&P R&D Lab, James M. Parks

2004 Petroleum History Institute (PHI) International Symposium on the History of the Oil Industry, Larry D. Woodfork


Volume 4, 2003 Abstracts

Editorial: A New Editor and a New Organization, William R. Brice, Editor, Oil-Industry History

There is a new name on our masthead.  This issue of Oil-Industry History has been published by the Petroleum History Institute (PHI) and not the Drake Well Foundation (DWF).  The DWF Board felt that the Foundation’s mission had been fulfilled and it was time for a new organization to assume the role of furthering and supporting the history of the petroleum industry, including the publication of this journal.  For a short history of the DWF, please refer to “Drake Well Foundation” by Samuel T. Pees (Oil-Industry History, v. 1, no. 1, p 2.).  Thus, by the action of the DWF Board of Directors on June 28, 2003, the Drake Well Foundation (DWF) ceased to exist, and the new Petroleum History Institute was created.  A review of the details of this transformation can be found in this issue (p. 2).

Also, the DWF Board of Directors  appointed a new editor for Oil-Industry History, and  the Board expresses its gratitude to the first and founding editor, Dr. Gerald M. Friedman,  and to the assistant editor, Anne M. Woods, for creating Oil-Industry History; the only journal devoted exclusively to the history of the petroleum industry.

The articles in this issue come from the symposium held in Shreveport, Louisiana March 26-29, 2003.  Dr. Mary Barrett of Centenary College (Shreveport) was the symposium organizer and created a wonderful meeting.  The participants were treated to marvelous papers, as this issue will attest, three great field trips in three different states, and fabulous meals, including a traditional Louisiana cat-fish fry; true southern hospitality at its best, donated by the Caddo-Pine Island Oil & Historical Society.  Everyone owes Dr. Mary Barrett a large THANK YOU for her creative work with the organization of the symposium.

Also thanks to Dr. Barrett’s efforts, for the first time a Drake Well Foundation oil history symposium had corporate sponsorship.  In addition, sponsor support has helped defray the costs of this issue of Oil-Industry History.  We here, again, express our public appreciation to these sponsors for their support of the symposium and volume 4 of this journal:

Mr. William G. Anderson, Anderson Oil & Gas, Inc., Shreveport, Louisiana
Mr. J. Stafford Comegys, Security Exploration, Inc., Shreveport, Louisiana
Mr. Joe White, Jr. & Ms. Heather W. Lindsey
Marlin Exploration, Inc., Shreveport, Louisiana
Mr. Alan Z. Grosbard,The Summerland Foundation,Los Angeles, California
Ms. Coe Haygood, Caddo-Pine Island Oil and Historical Museum, Oil City, Louisiana.

The Symposium participants would, also,  wish me to acknowledge the kindness of Mr. George A. Khoury, The George A. Koury Foundation, for providing all of us with special tee-shirts from the Oil and Gas Museum on the evening of our fish fry at Oil City.

In closing, I want to extend a note of appreciation to Dr. Gregory Good, Editor of Earth Sciences History, for his many helpful suggestions, and to Ms. Angela Smith, the Instructional Technology Specialist at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, for her assistance in leading me through the maze of technological difficulties I encountered.  And my thanks go to Bill Conradi of Allen Press for his guidance.  Finally, I, also, want to add my personal note of thanks to Dr. Gerry Friedman for his leadership in creating Oil-Industry History.

 

Passing the Torch
Larry D. Woodfork
Consulting Geologist, 652 Villa Place, Morgantown, WV 26505-2414

This issue of our journal is the first to appear under the imprimatur of the Petroleum History Institute (PHI) (previous issues were published by the Drake Well Foundation).  That merits explanation.

The Drake Well Foundation (DWF) was established in 1951 as an outgrowth of an earlier committee of the American Petroleum Institute (API).  The DWF’s major initial charge was support of the Drake Well Museum at Titusville, PA.  Over the years, circumstances evolved and various changes ensued.  Among them, the Drake Well Museum became a Pennsylvania State Museum and a part of Pennsylvania state government.  Subsequently, about a decade ago, a new private organization, The Colonel, Inc., was established and assumed the role of the major external support for the Drake Well Museum.

Concurrently, under the presidency and leadership of Samuel T. Pees, the Drake Well Foundation assumed a more expansive vision and pursued a broader mission to promote public awareness of the history and heritage of the international oil industry as it grew from its 1859 roots in Oil Creek Valley to a worldwide enterprise.

In recognition of these changes and to put in place a new framework to more clearly reflect current realities and facilitate future opportunities for all stakeholders, on June 28, 2003, the Board of Directors of the Drake Well Foundation unanimously voted to dissolve that corporate entity and create a new corporation, the Petroleum History Institute (PHI), a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) corporation.  The mission of the PHI is to pursue the expanded vision of the history, heritage and development of the oil industry from its inception in Oil Creek Valley, Pennsylvania, as well as its early roots in other regions, and its subsequent spread throughout the world to its current global status.  This the torch has been passed!

The first major milestone of this newly chartered enterprise is the publication of this oil history journal.  Its next major venture will be the sponsorship of the 2004 International Symposium on the History of the Oil Industry to be held September 8-11, 2004 in Morgantown, West Virginia.  Stay tuned for additional details.  Hope to see you there!

 

Early History of the Caddo-Pine Island Field
C. Lane Sartor
800 Spring Street, Suite 100, Shreveport, Louisiana 71101-3759

ABSTRACT: The Caddo-Pine Island Field, located in Caddo Parish, Louisiana, was the first very large oil and gas field discovered in Louisiana.  From its discovery in 1905 to the present it has had considerable influence both on the petroleum industry and the general economy of Northwest Louisiana.

The geologic feature responsible for this petroleum accumulation is a large, low relief, closed anticlinal structure which occupies the crest of the Sabine Uplift, the dominant feature between the East Texas Salt Dome Basin on the west and the North Louisiana Interior Salt Dome Basin on the east.  The majority of the production has been from reservoirs within the Upper Cretaceous, together with those Lower Cretaceous zones which occur unconformably below the Upper and Lower Cretaceous contact.  Throughout the ninety-eight year history of the field, as production declined, it was revived by deeper drilling, the development of new production techniques and field extension drilling.  The field’s active 25,577 wells produced 1,286,000 barrels of oil in 2001.  Estimated total oil production through 2001 was 336,633,000 barrels.  Now in its latter stages of depletion, most of this historic fields producing wells are being operated by independents.

 

Jennings Oil Field: The Start of Louisiana’s Oil Industry
Jeff A. Spencer
Osprey Petroleum Company, 15995 N. Barke’s Landing, Suite 350, Houston TX  77079

Byron Miller
Louisiana Geological Survey, 208 Howe-Russell Geoscience Complex, Baton Rouge, LA 70803

ABSTRACT:  Louisiana’s oil industry began September 21, 1901, with the discovery of oil at Jennings Field.  The Jules Clement No. 1 well was completed as a spectacular gusher, spraying a fountain of oil into the air at an estimated rate of  7000 barrels per day.  Just nine months earlier, oil had been discovered near Beaumont, Texas, at Spindletop Field.  Together, the Spindletop and Jennings discoveries ignited an Aoil rush@ of exploration and development activity throughout Texas and Louisiana.

Jennings Field has been a prolific producer, with a total production of 124 million barrels of oil and 52 billion cubic feet of gas since 1901.  Through 1920, the production from Jennings Field alone accounted for 67% of the total oil production for the entire state of Louisiana.  Jennings Field continues to produce oil and gas today and is still an area of drilling and development activity.  Total production in 2002 amounted to 138 thousand barrels of oil and 54 million cubic feet of gas.

 

Oil Development in South Arkansas, 1921-2001
John G. Ragsdale
122 Neel Avenue, El Dorado, Arkansas 71730-5340

ABSTRACT: Another state joined the oil producing world with the historic discovery in south Arkansas in 1921, and yet another oil boom was created.  This paper traces the production rates from that historic discovery up to and including the output from 2001.  There are references to the development of oil in the counties where oil production was established and the relative magnitude of the oil produced in each county.  The counties which had oil production are plotted on a map, and a chart is included which indicates the annual production from the discovery in 1921 through the total oil produced in 2001.

 

The Well at Wichita
Lawrence H. Skelton
Kansas Geological Survey, 1930 Constant Avenue, Campus West, Lawrence, Kansas 66047

ABSTRACT:  At the turn of the 20th century, municipalities in eastern Kansas were beginning to thrive because of large, recently discovered natural gas reserves. Such discoveries and commensurate development attracted outside capital, industries and population. Understandably, such cities were envied by towns farther west. The Wichita Daily Eagle newspaper on March 7, 1896 noted: “If there is any one thing on earth that can prevent Wichita from becoming a great city, it is a lack of cheap fuel.” Exhibiting foresight to avoid such failure, in 1894, the Wichita city council authorized a municipal bond issue of $10,000.00 to finance drilling an exploratory well on city property in search for economic deposits of coal, gas, salt or oil. The well was spudded on October 19, 1895 in what is now downtown Wichita. From then until April 30, 1897, the city struggled with nearly every imaginable problem before conceding defeat. There is a notable lack of information about this well. Only published newspaper accounts of the time and brief mention in an 1898 issue of Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science have been discovered to date. Urban hazards posed by unreported and forgotten old wells became apparent early in 2001 when fires and brine geysers fed by migrating natural gas erupted in nearby Hutchinson, Kansas. Thus, a search in old newspapers may be beneficial to environmental geologists in finding pollution sources and potential hazards.

 

Unintended Consequences of Oil Company Research Laboratories
James M. Parks
159 Wesley Drive, Wilmore KY 40390

ABSTRACT: During World War II, the bulk of the oil fueling of the Allied war effort came from the United States, seriously lowering domestic reserves. To improve exploration effectiveness, some twenty US oil companies responded by starting exploration research. They staffed their labs with top, new geology PhDs from universities across the country. This became a pre-NSF post-doctorate experience for many, and as seventy or more geologists later left the labs for university teaching, they continued their research started in the oil company laboratories, and trained new generations of geologists.

Oil companies commonly get blamed for actions, mainly relating to environmental concerns,  that result in negative publicity. Some actions, however, have unintended consequences with positive results. Exploration research mayCor may notChave been of great benefit to the companies, but a positive unintended consequence was a significant boost to soft-rock geology. The published research had a major impact on the science. Fields of soft-rock geology that got jump-started include: Recent clastics and carbonates, clay mineralogy, carbonate petrography, organic geochemistry, stratigraphy, paleoecology, palynology, rock mechanics, and structural geology. Several of these were aided by pioneering advances in computer applications.

This paper is limited to what can be called the AGolden Age@, the third of a century from 1947 to 1980 when budgets were unlimited, researchers chose their own projects, and could publish some results with little hindrance. Published research tells the obvious story, but of greater interest is the Astory behind the story@Cthose human interest aspects not usually revealed in scientific journals. Personal anecdotes from participants provide the materials for this work-in-progress.

 

California Indians, Artisans of Oil
Susan Fox Hodgson
California Department of Conservation, Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources
801 K Street, MS 20-20, Sacramento, California  95814-3530

ABSTRACT:  California Indians used asphaltum gathered from natural oil and gas seeps for many purposes. These include symbolic and religious practices; decoration; games; mending and recycling; personal adornment; and making arrows, baskets, water bottles, and plank canoes, called tomols. In the process, the Indians heated the asphaltum and added other ingredients, perhaps becoming the first to refine oil in the Western Hemisphere.

 

Submarines, Blimps, Trains, and Ships: Transportation Proposal for Prudhoe Bay Crude Oil, 1968-77
Ross A. Coen
University of Alaska Fairbanks, P.O. Box 82718, Fairbanks, AK 99708

ABSTRACT:   Upon discovery in 1967-68 of the Prudhoe Bay (Alaska) oil field, North America’s largest at 22 billion barrels, the immediate challenge facing the oil industry was devising a transportation method to bring the vast reserves from the notoriously unforgiving environment of Alaska’s North Slope.  Within months of the strike, the industry began aerial and ground surveys of a pipeline route from the North Slope south toward Fairbanks.  Many other transportation ideas also received consideration, including a fleet of nuclear submarines crossing under the polar ice cap, jumbo jet tankers and dirigibles, rail cars and tanker trucks, and even an aerial tramway.  One proposal, the use of ice-breaking tankers to ship the crude oil through the Northwest Passage to the U.S. east coast, merited enough serious consideration that the oil industry spent $40 million testing its feasibility.  Commissioned by Humble Oil (now Exxon) in 1969-70, the S.S. Manhattan was reconfigured with ice-breaking capabilities and became the first commercial vessel to complete the Northwest Passage.  These transportation ideas – whether meritorious or outlandish – fall squarely within Alaska’s frontier myth and pioneer spirit where daring and ingenuity in the face of the natural environment are both encouraged and rewarded.

 

The Oil Photography of the Farm Security Administration (FSA), 1937-1943
Mary L. Barrett
Dept. of Geology & Geography, Centenary College of Louisiana, Shreveport, LA  71134

ABSTRACT:  The Roosevelt-era photographic project of the Farm Security Administration (FSA) is one of the most famous documentary projects in United States history.  Initially organized as the Resettlement Administration in 1935, the program was reorganized as the FSA in 1937 and later as the Office of War Information in 1942. Roy Stryker, a former economics professor at Columbia University, served as chief of the Historical Section and supervised the documentary project. While the photography is best known for the documentation of 1930s rural America, the photographers also captured significant oil-related scenes in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Illinois. Lesser amounts of oil photography were also taken in New Mexico and California. Two photographers, Russell Lee and John Vachon, were responsible for most of the petroleum-related imagery from 1937 through 1943. The FSA project occurred during a downturn and partial recovery in the oil industry.  The oil-related imagery is divided and discussed into the following broad categories—oil workers; oil families; oil towns; petroleum equipment; oil-related landscapes; oil transportation; and petroleum processing and refining.  The FSA photography is available for viewing at the Library of Congress website:   http://lcweb2.loc.gov/pp/fsaquery.html.

 

Moving Offshore in the Gulf of Mexico: People, Technology, and the Organization of Work in the Early Years of Oilfield Diving
Diane E. Austin
Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology, University of Arizona,
P.O. Box 210030, Tucson, AZ 85721-0030

ABSTRACT:  The offshore oil and gas industry in southern Louisiana has a complex history marked by environmental, social, and political challenges. As an extension of the vast U.S. petroleum industry, the offshore industry was and is influenced by the operational, technological, economic, political, and moral issues that characterize that industry (see Yergin 1993; Olien and Olien 2000). Nevertheless, the move offshore produced its own unique contests (see Freudenberg and Gramling 1994; Gramling 1996). Among these, the technological challenges of offshore exploration and production are perhaps the most obvious; these include constructing drilling rigs and platforms that can withstand wave action, developing techniques for cutting and welding metals underwater, and transporting materials and equipment over vast expanses of open water. A close look reveals that the social challenges are equally daunting: attracting and maintaining a workforce able and willing to live on a small metal structure for weeks at a time or to work hundreds and even thousands of feet below the water’s surface; organizing a workforce to take action and achieve results quickly and efficiently; and establishing a huge and oftentimes uncertain industry amid isolated rural communities. This article discusses these technological and social challenges.

 

Women and Children of Spindletop
Paul N. Spellman
History Department, Wharton College
911 Boling Highway, Wharton, Texas 77488

ABSTRACT:  The stories of the Spindletop oil boom in 1901 revolve around the roughnecks and the rascals who poured into Beaumont at the same phenomenal rate as the oil poured out of the ground. The small southeast Texas town swelled to five times its normal population, and for a period of only about two years the crowds ruled “the Hill.” Crime was rampant, money spilled out into the city streets, mud and muck and oil covered everything and everyone. The tales are boisterous and profane, hilarious and tragic, as a piece of the American Frontier made its way through the Big Thicket and Gulf Coast Plains of Texas.

But not all of the stories told have included the “rest of the crowds” that roamed the Beaumont streets and the nearby Gladys City rutted paths: the women and the children of Spindletop. Some were Beaumont born and bred; others came trailing after husbands and fathers. Babies were born in the crude camps, many of those same infants buried in occasional cemeteries. Women established homes as best they could. Many of the transient ones worked side by side with their men.

Their stories make up a poignant, easily overlooked chapter of the history of the oil boom at the turn into the 20th century. Seen through the eyes of struggling wives and wide-eyed children, Spindletop becomes a menagerie of sights and sounds and sensations dramatically different from the perspective of the oil millionaire, the banker, or the roughneck himself.

This paper looks through the eyes of the women and children of Spindletop, follows them across the Hill and along the corduroy road to Saratoga and Sour Lake and Batson Prairie, and presents a unique perspective of the hardships, and the innocent delights, of a world temporarily gone mad.

 

Recollections of Shell’s Bellaire E&P R&D Lab
James M. Parks
159 Wesley Drive, Wilmore, KY 40390

ABSTRACT:   As part of the project to record the history of the Golden Age (1947 to 1980) of oil company geological research, the personal recollections of participants are invaluable. Written contributions and oral (taped interviews) are being collected from as many participants as can be located and who are willing to respond. To start the process, the author here presents some of his personal memories of several years at the Shell Development Company Bellaire Laboratory. The impact of this period on the science of geology is shown by the research articles published in scientific journals, but of greater interest is A) the story behind the story B) those human interest aspects not usually revealed in those publications. The recollections reported here include: Carbonate Research at Shell, Bob Dunham’s Classification of Carbonate Rocks, Bob Ginsburg’s “Living Limestones” Field Trip for Shell Geologists, and Research by Rowboat.

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