April 1959
Schlumberger sets up the first interstate facsimile network for transmitting well logs instantly and in photo form, specifically between their downtown Denver office and field offices in Fort Morgan, Colorado and Kimball, Nebraska.  The system uses page-size Western Union facsimile machines for transmission over telephone lines. $ It is reported that over the past 20 years, the number of productive workers required to refine 10,000 bbl of oil per day had decreased markedly but the number of management and supervisory employees had increased by almost exactly the same number. (Funny how that works.) $ Core Laboratories introduces a major new waterflooding technique in which the water is injected at the gas-oil contact rather than the oil-water contact as in the conventional method.  The concept calls for the injected water to block off the gas cap from the oil-bearing zone and prevent loss of oil into the gas cap which occurs as the conventional program progresses.
East Texas crude oil - $3.25/bbl; U.S. active rig count – 2,057

April 1984
The U.S. Supreme Court, in a case involving a mid-major operator, rules that accountants, unlike attorneys, have no privilege that permits them to withhold confidential documents involving their clients. (But what if your accountant is also your attorney?) $ Iraq reportedly bungles the first deployment of its Exocet-armed Super Etendard French-built strike aircraft by hitting a work boat operating for Aramco and a Greek tanker carrying Kuwaiti oil. (It is believed that the former was likely a blunder, while the latter maybe not.) $ The newest U.S. exploration frontier…Would you believe Vermont?  A 10,500 ft wildcat is staked near Fairfield.  Meanwhile, Washington state’s first oil and gas lease sale in 3 years is a bust, netting a paltry $110,000. $ The DOE reports plans to advertise for a new contractor to operate the Elk Hills and Buena Vista Naval Petroleum Reserves in California. (When visiting Elk Hills, remember: a) visitors are only allowed three internal phone calls from security for admittance verification and b) once admitted, drive slowly on the premises or you could end up in the slammer.)
U.S. active rig count – 2,112

April 2000
Movement towards the virtual oil company continues to gain momentum, as McMoran Exploration and Halliburton announce the formation of an alliance in which Halliburton will take over operation of McMoran’s Gulf of Mexico E&D program. $ The Clinton administration releases a study confirming that growing U.S. dependence on oil imports threatens national security—but proposing no additional energy policies. (Knock! Knock!  Is anyone home?) $ A seemingly endless string of e-venture partnership deals continues, as six of the largest U.S. gas and electricity firms report plans to develop an internet-based business-to-business independent energy trading platform. (No…Enron is not included.) $ Negotiators from Mexico and the U.S. agree on the division of the so-called Western Gap, a region in the central Gulf of Mexico more than 200 nautical miles from either country.  The division will leave Mexico with approximately 60% of the waters in question and the U.S with the remaining 40%. (Both countries will likely be closely monitoring any perceived extended-reach directional drilling.)
Light sweet crude oil - $24.87/bbl; Natural gas - $3.02/MMBTU; U.S. active rig count – 809

The Rest of the Yarn
Continuing with our examination of Saddam Hussein’s impact on the global petroleum industry, this month his inevitable implosion begins.

Despite having led Iraq into two wars and, in so doing, squandering the country’s oil wealth, Hussein succeeded in facing down all internal challenges to his rule.  In 1991, shortly after the end of the Persian Gulf War, Hussein suppressed an uprising among Shias in the south.  Kurds who rebelled in the north were saved from complete defeat only because the international community protected them.  Hussein’s small clique of friends and family was divided after the war, and in the years following, Hussein arrested, exiled, and killed many among them who were thought to threaten his rule.

In the mid-1990’s Hussein began interfering with the work of United Nations inspection teams assigned to Iraq after the Persian Gulf War to ensure that Iraq had ceased development of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and had destroyed any stockpiles of these weapons.  His government insisted that the sanctions against Iraq should be lifted in return for its compliance with UN resolutions and accused the U.S. of seeking not to disarm Iraq but to overthrow the Iraqi regime.  Arguments over the inspections led to a series of international confrontations.  In 1998 Hussein averted conflicts in February and again in November by agreeing to allow inspections to continue.

Next month, Hussein’s implosion is complete.

History Quiz

Which state became the leading U.S. oil-producing state in 1915?

If you would like to participate in this month’s quiz, e-mail your answer to contest@spe.org by noon April 15. The winner, who will be chosen randomly from all correct answers, will receive a $50 gift card to a nice restaurant.

Answer to March’s Quiz

The first DOE-sponsored Massive Hydraulic Fracturing (MHF) treatment was performed in 1976 near Decatur in Wise County, Texas.

Answer to February’s Quiz

For the better part of 25 years, Post, Texas boasted of having 6 synchronized rod pumping units working off of two closely-spaced wellheads.

Congratulations to February’s winner – Cary Brock with Strand Energy