April 1957

After listing at an 8 degree angle for two days, one of the largest and most expensive offshore drilling rigs, Glasscock Drilling’s “Mr. Gus,” capsizes in 40 ft of water in the GOM. The rig that had drilled 13 offshore wells in record-setting water depths and record-setting distances from shore was now reduced to tons of twisted steel and rubble. Some folks believe that the anchor line on the derrick barge that was keeping “Mr. Gus” upright suddenly snapped due to foul play by the ghosts of the four rig hands that had been killed working on the behemoth. $ The shortage of pressurized tank cars for transporting propane has created some interesting family ties. It seems that following WW II, everybody and his brother wanted to buy the surplus tank cars that the Government had for sale, but the only people that could buy them legally were veterans and their brothers. It seems that a number of veterans ended up getting adopted about this time. (You just gotta love man’s ingenuity.)
East Texas crude oil - $3.25/bbl; U.S. active rig count – 2,463

April 1982

A sign of the downturn in drilling activity and the drop in oil prices is a record year for oilfield thieves. It is speculated that unemployed workers are retaliating against former employers by stealing from them. The hottest area for these thieves is the Anadarko basin, and the hottest target is Christmas trees. $ A wave of the future? Getty Oil and Synergen Associates enter into a joint venture to develop microbiological methods for EOR. $ With so many of the industry fundamentals trending negatively, many experts are predicting a $10/bbl tax on imported oil by year-end. (Missed that one!)
U.S. active rig count – 3,701

April 1997

Texaco agrees to out-of-court settlement totaling $176 million to close the books on its racial discrimination lawsuit. $ Greenpeace steps up its actions against BP by staging a building assault and rooftop protest at BP’s Aberdeen offices. $ Extended-reach gas drilling from an onshore drill site reaching as far out as 3.5 miles into the state waters of the Santa Barbara Channel are reportedly planned by Benton Oil & Gas in an effort to break the log-jam currently preventing offshore drilling in this potentially prolific area.
Light sweet crude oil - $19.75/bbl
Natural gas - $1.90/MMBTU
U.S. active rig count - 918

The Rest of the Yarn

Born in Oklahoma, the two brothers attended Amherst College in Massachusetts. Hugh graduated in 1942 and received an MBA from Harvard Business School the following year. By this time brother Bill was at Amherst with the class of 1945, but postponed his studies because of the war. Both brothers joined the navy as officers and served in the Pacific during World War II. They met several times by coincidence in the south Pacific and at one of those meetings planned their future partnership.
After the war, Bill returned to Amherst and received his degree in 1947, while Hugh was working on his law degree at the University of Texas Law School. By 1949 both were married and had graduated from the University of Texas Law School. The two couples packed up their belongings and headed for oil country, ultimately settling in Midland where the brothers opened their law practice in 1950. It was not long thereafter that they became involved in the business of finding oil.
In 1953 they merged their firm with the Bush-Overby Oil Development Co. partnered by George H.W. Bush and John Overby. They named the new company Zapata Petroleum Corp. after the movie “Viva Zapata” which happened to be playing in downtown Midland that spring. The young company’s initial project in Coke County was phenomenally successful. Out of 137 wells drilled, there was not one dry hole. In 1954 they branched out into offshore drilling.
Bill left Zapata in 1955 to wildcat and eventually formed Stetco Petroleum with Hugh having half interest. Zapata Offshore became a separate company headed by Bush. West Texas Zapata Petroleum, South Penn Oil Co. and Stetco Petroleum were merged in 1960 to form what was to ultimately become a major oil company. Their takeover of United Gas in 1968 strengthened their position as a major operator. They were Hugh and Bill Liedtke, and the major oil company that they formed was Pennzoil. And now you know…The Rest of the Yarn.

History Quiz

Put on your thinking caps for a minute and help these WW II G.I.’s in the South Pacific solve the problem of how to cool their small, treasured allotment of sodas and adult beverages while stranded on a South Pacific atoll with no electricity and no refrigerants. All they have at their disposal are their weapons, some “K rations,” a jeep, plenty of aviation gasoline, and two radios.
If you would like to participate in this month’s quiz, e-mail your answer to contest@spe.org  (new e-mail address) 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

Sun Oil’s Marcus Hook refinery was the site of the world’s first commercial catalytic cracker, which went on-stream experimentally in 1937.

Answer to January’s Quiz

The world’s longest liquid-sulfur pipeline is the 110-km long line running from Habshan to Ruwais in Abu Dhabi (correction of answer reported in March column).
Congratulations to January’s winner – Mike Chaffin with Valence Operating