November 1961
Ten major oil companies place initial orders for aluminum foil cans to package motor oil and plan to do away with the heavier metal cans. (What’s next…plastic containers?) $ Pan American comes up with a new method for making fast, cheap down-hole casing repairs…a steel “casing patch,” which is actually an expandable liner. $ The nineteenth largest free-world oil producing country is about to add a new offshore licensee, namely Tennessee Nigeria, Inc. (Strange name huh? It’s a Nigerian subsidiary of Tennessee Gas Transmission Co.) $ Pure Oil and Montgomery Ward link up to build a combined service station / merchandise retailing / catalogue ordering facility. (What next…a combined self-serve gas station / fast food restaurant?)
East Texas crude oil - $3.25/bbl; U.S. active rig count – 1,879
November 1986
Shell Offshore expects to shatter the current water depth drilling record by almost 2,000 ft with its planned 5,400 ft water depth Mississippi Canyon Block 730 or 731 exploratory well. $ BP Chairman Peter Walters (What…no “Sir” title?) says the cost of buying reserves in the U.S. is still too high, and BP will continue to concentrate on acquisition of specific assets rather than of whole companies. $ Speaking of, a General Accounting Office study reports that the Texaco-Getty and Chevron-Gulf mergers have had virtually no effect on the gasoline market. $ Pemex is beginning to sense the downturn, as General Director Mario Ramon Beteta reports that their crude oil export revenues for 1986 will decline to $5.9 billion, compared to $14.6 billion in 1985 (A pretty big dip!).
U.S. active rig count – 860
November 2001
Now would be a good time to charter an oil tanker, as average daily rates have dropped to less than $30,000/day. $ The week-long strike of Brazilian oil workers has ended, with Petrobras incurring $85 million in production losses. $ An MMS study reports that as of the turn of the century, half of the total oil and gas in place in the northern Gulf of Mexico remains to be discovered. $ Speaking of, BP signs a letter of intent for design, fabrication, and transport of what they claim to be the world’s largest semisubmersible drilling-production unit targeted for delivery in 2004 for the Crazy Horse project. $ Meanwhile, the Regional Council of Engineering & Architecture concludes that the sinking of the Petrobras P-36 semisubmersible was caused in part by Petrobras converting the drilling unit into a production platform and the speed with which the conversion was made.
Light sweet crude oil - $21.15/bbl; Natural gas - $3.24/MMbtu; U.S. active rig count – 1,058
The Rest of the Yarn
This month we continue our look-back at the life and times of Clint Murchison, one of the “Big Four” oilmen who laid the foundations of a flamboyant lifestyle that would come to define the image of Texas Oil.
After Murchison and Sid Richardson went their separate ways, Murchison remained in North Texas and went looking for another partner and soon developed a new partnership with a local wildcatter named Ernest Fain, and through the early 1920’s they hit strike after strike. The partnership grew prosperous enough for them to open offices in a Wichita Falls building, and eventually generated enough cash that they were able to add a side business that drilled wells for other oilmen, an undertaking that came to be called “contract drilling.” By 1925, when he turned thirty, Murchison was already a wealthy man, taking in about thirty thousand dollars a month. But the North Texas boom was waning, and he began to cast about for something new. When Ernest Fain balked at drilling outside the area, Murchison dissolved the partnership.
He took his proceeds, an estimated five million dollars, and moved Anne and the boys to cosmopolitan San Antonio. He joked to friends that he was retiring, but in truth he just wanted a settled life, one where he could work finite hours in a clean office, making it home for dinner while a group of new employees worked the oilfields. There were new fields popping up around San Antonio, and Murchison invested in them, all the while casting envious eyes at the massive cattle ranches that stretched south to the Mexican border; like Richardson, what Murchison really wanted was to be a gentleman rancher.
The easy life he envisioned in San Antonio, however, was not to be. That winter Murchison took Anne and her sister to New York for a vacation, embarking from New Orleans by ship. On her return Anne noticed faint brown spots on her skin. Doctors diagnosed yellow jaundice, probably caused by contaminated shipboard water. Her condition quickly deteriorated; she entered the hospital and died in May 1926. Murchison was stricken. He left the children in the care of relatives and disappeared, driving around the state, alone, for weeks at a time, a whiskey bottle usually at his side. What remained of his business began to decay. “When Annie died,” Murchison told his secretary many years later, “people said I stayed drunk for a year.”
Next month, Murchison sobers up and heads west. (Article excerpted from “The Big Rich.”)
History Quiz
The West Texas oilfield town of Kermit was named after the son of what famous dignitary?
If you would like to participate in this month’s quiz, e-mail your answer to by noon November 15. The winner, who will be chosen randomly from all correct answers, will receive a $50 gift card to a nice restaurant.
Answer to October’s Quiz
Massachusetts adventurer and rubber heir Edgar Davis is credited with discovering the Luling oil field following a séance with noted mystic Edgar Cayce.
Answer to September’s Quiz
The sight of the first oil refinery in Central America was Puerto Matias de Galvez, Guatemala, and the year was 1961.
Congratulations to September’s winner – Hagan Joyner with Collarini Associates