Let it never be said that the oil industry is above advertising glitz. In an effort to outsell its competitors, an oil company in the mid-1950s pitched its gasoline as containing hydrogen, trying to ride the publicity surrounding the H bomb. Yes, of course, all gasoline is made primarily of hydrogen and carbon. Offshore drilling comes to north Texas, as Shell Oil Co. extends its Big Mineral field into Lake Texoma by building more than 30 well sites on 13 earthen fills into the lake. Meanwhile, Carter Oil Co. nears its objective formation in a wildcat being whipstocked under the main channel of the Mississippi River. The well, spudded on the Louisiana bank of the river, reportedly extends laterally 1500 ft to very near the middle of the river at a true vertical depth of 7,500 ft. (I wager that the Long’s made sure Louisiana received a healthy royalty, if the well was a producer.) So, how did they simulate those gushers in the black-and-white movies of the 1940s and 1950s, you ask—a mixture of water and lampblack
pumped by cementing company pump trucks at 500 to 1,000 psi. (That explains why the “crude” never seemed to burn their eyes.)
East Texas crude oil—$2.90 per bbl
U.S. rig count—2,597
What was the average starting salary for petroleum engineering graduates in 1979? Would you believe $1,788/month? And that was the best starting salary among engineering graduates at the time. From the “Do You Know How Close We Came Department”: As gasoline prices began approaching $1 per gallon, the industry almost switched over to posting prices as dollars per liter. The reason for
the dilemma was the additional cost of adding another digit to the gasoline pumps would cost $200 million. (I wonder who ended up paying for that?) The Environmental Protection Agency and refinery groups battle over mounting restrictions
on tetraethyl lead vs. new MMT (methylcyclopenta-dienyl manganese tricarbonyl, but you knew that)
additives for gasoline. Which of the two groups of compounds will win the battle for environmental supremacy? Stay tuned. Ireland is reportedly dusting off plans to form a state-owned oil company. Government officials are reportedly soliciting potential names for
the planned company. (Some early suggestions include Shamrock, Guinness, and Blarney Oil.)
U.S. rig count—1,946
U.S. companies posture for E&P concessions offshore Viet Nam, now that the U.S. trade embargo has been lifted. Anadarko Petroleum Corp., Phillips Petroleum Co., and Amoco Oil Co. lead aggressive bidding for central Gulf of Mexico subsalt prospects. Iraqi officials meet with Total SA and Elf Aquitaine SA in Paris to discuss field development projects that could be pursued once U.N. sanctions are lifted. (Is it any wonder that the French were the “ally” most vociferously opposed to the Iraq war? By the way,
on your next trip to Paris, leave your “Bush for President” buttons at home.) Speaking of Total, it
continues its successful exploitation of what is believed to be the world’s southernmost major
hydrocarbon production. Where might that be?
(The answer is the tiebreaker for this month’s histo-ry quiz.)
West Texas Intermediate—$15.69 per bbl
Natural gas—$2.09 per MMBTU
U.S. rig count—709
BP Amoco plc and Atlantic Richfield Co. announce a planned merger that will create the world’s second-largest oil company. Concurrently the European Commission approves the union of Total and Petrofina SA. On the independent front, Columbia
Energy Group and Dominion Resources Inc. scrap over control of Consolidated Natural Gas Co. The U.N. lifts economic sanctions against Libya after the country surrenders two of its citizens accused in the December 1988 bombing of a PanAmjetliner over Scotland. The move is expectedto trigger a rush of foreign investment in the country’s oil industry. The Pentagon reports that NATO air
strikes have completely destroyed Yugoslavia’s refining capacity. The Houston Astros baseball team announces an agreement to name its new sta-dium, opening next year, after “innovative global energy company” Enron Corp. (Yep, it was innovative all right.)
West Texas Intermediate—$16.44 per bbl
Natural gas—$2.05 per MMBTU
U.S. rig count—498
The Rest of the Yarn
Born on a farm north of Memphis, he left home at the age of 12, when his father died, to help support the family. To do so, he picked up a variety of skills: locomotive driver, steam crane operator, salesman, and merchant seaman. With a stint in the Navy he learned engineering and hydraulics. A job with the Perkins Oil Well Cementing Co. set his life’s direction. Perkins invented and patented a
method of cementing oil wells that would grow increasingly important as the oil businessdeveloped. He was a quick learner; when his constant stream of ideas put him in conflict with his boss, he was fired. Years later, he claimed, “The two best things that ever happened to me were being hired, and then fired, by the Perkins Oil Well Cementing Co.” He traveled to Wichita Falls, a town full of wildcatters and roughnecks working the drilling boom at the Burkburnett and Waggoner fields. He went into business by making a deal with a neighbor. The neighbor would have use of his outdoor privy, and he would have use of his neighbor’s wagon and
team of horses. He then borrowed a pump, bought some hoes, built a mixing box, and entered the oil well cementing business.
In 1919, he established the New Method Oil Well Cementing Co. in Wilson, Oklahoma. By the end of 1920, he owned three trucks and the patent on the cement jet mixer, and he had worked on some 500 wells. In 1924, he convinced seven large oil companies, all his customers, to invest in his growing company. Shortly thereafter the company went public, and he became its CEO. He died in 1957, a few years before his company merged with a major oilfield construction company. Little did he know that within 50 years of his death,
his company would be the world’s leading provider of oilfield pumping services, that it would be handling war-related reconstruction projects in the Middle East, and that its former CEO would become vice president of the U.S. He was, of course, Erle Halliburton.
And now you know...The Rest of the Yarn.
Readers are encouraged to submit brief, ostensibly true stories about notable personalities from our industry’s storied past.
Submissions should be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Enron was created in 1985 by the merger of what two energy companies?
Tiebreaker: see question under April 1994.
If you would like to participate in this month’s quiz, e-mail your
answer to email@example.com by noon, April 15. The winner,
who will be chosen randomly from all correct answers, will
receive a $50 gift certificate to a nice restaurant.
Answer to March’s Quiz
In 1954, Nevada (the silver state) became the 29th oil-producing state in the U.S.
Answer to February’s Quiz
When Stanolind Oil and Gas Co. filed the first application to drill an offshore Texas Outer Continental Shelf well in 1954, it filed that application with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Despite numerous entries, for the first time in a long time, no winner this month.