December 1961
World’s first machine that makes line pipe while moving along a right-of-way is introduced in North Texas. On a project near Wichita Falls, 4,000 ft of 8-in. pipe was rolled, welded, and strung in 1 day. $ Blue Water Drilling is in the process of modifying a submersible drilling barge so it can drill while afloat. Look out deepwater…here come the semi’s, the tethered platforms, the spars, and who knows what else. $ Iraq’s fiery premier (No, not Saddam but Kassim) vows to “strike at” the three companies which produce Iraq’s oil if they don’t go along with his demand to drastically reduce the areas in the country in which they operate. $ Pressure maintenance programs spring up across McKenzie County, North Dakota in an effort to squeeze a bit more oil out of the Madison formation. (If only they knew then what we know now!)
East Texas crude oil - $3.25/bbl; U.S. active rig count – 2,036
 
December 1986
Despite Iraq’s continuing air attacks on tankers in the Strait of Hormuz, Iranian oil shipments continue from the Larak transshipment point and the effects on oil futures pricing remain minimal. $ Subsidence problems in the Norwegian North Sea lead Phillips Petroleum to make plans to jack up six steel platforms in Ekofisk and install an additional 20 ft to the top of the jackets to combat the subsidence. (Too bad that all of this is happening before Nolan Ryan got into the foundation repair business.) $ The EPA begins cracking down on companies producing gasoline that exceeds the established lead limits. (I understand that rather than octane choices to be made, you boomers used to have to choose between leaded and unleaded gasoline.) $ Halliburton and Dresser Industries form M-I Drilling Fluids, a joint venture owned 60% by Dresser and 40% by Halliburton.
U.S. active rig count – 951

December 2001
A $9 billion merger between Houston energy companies Dynegy and Enron unravels amid reports that Enron’s bonds were being downgraded by Standard & Poor’s, and there was a distinct possibility that Enron could be filing for bankruptcy protection. $ According to a report by Raymond James & Associates, the average U.S. well depth has increased by almost 40% since 1980. $ The number of working rigs operating in “deepwater” (1,500 ft and deeper) in the Gulf of Mexico rises to a high of 43, while 9 rigs are reportedly operating in “ultradeep water” (5,000 ft and deeper). $ Shell WindEnergy reports the installation of 50 one-megawatt wind turbines at Foote Creek Rim, Wyoming, making it Shell’s first major investment in the commercial scale U.S. wind market. (In case you are wondering, the 50 one-megawatt wind turbines will reportedly supply enough energy for approximately 13,000 average homes.)
Light sweet crude oil - $18.43/bbl; Natural gas - $2.75/MMbtu; U.S. active rig count - 907  
 
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.
 
The most desolate spot in which Texans would ever find serious quantities of oil, Winkler County, was to figure prominently in the careers of both Clint Murchison and Sid Richardson. At the time, there was no actual town there. The only settlement, Kermit, was merely a smattering of houses. There were no paved roads, no post office, no hotel, and no telephones. There were barely any people. The 1920 census put the population at eighty-one; by 1926 there were exactly six registered voters. There were no rivers and no lakes, just mile after mile of yellowed grass, a belt of sand dunes, and a hot wind that blew its grains into every nook and cranny. The opening of the Hendricks Field, however, triggered the birth of a consummate Texas boomtown, dubbed Wink, which sprouted in a cattle pasture and within months was home to ten thousand oil workers, speculators, prostitutes, gamblers, and merchants to feed them all.
 
The new gushers in West Texas roused Murchison from his struggle with alcohol and depression. By chance he owned several leases in Winkler County. His geologist, Ernest Closuit, was already analyzing data from the new field when Murchison dispatched him west to drill a test well. Murchison, meanwhile, hit the phones. No muddy boots or windblown tents on a remote drill site for him. Clint Murchison found more oil on the telephone than most of his peers would ever draw from the ground. He first began buying leases, and by the end of 1926, he had put together eighty acres on the edges of the Hendricks Field.
 
One night while he and Closuit were meeting in San Antonio, their test well came in strong. Within weeks they had a dozen more just like it. The problem was, there was no place to put the oil. For the moment, Murchison did what oilmen had always done: he built two giant, five-hundred-thousand barrel storage tanks. The nearest railhead was at Pyote, south of Wink, but there was no way to get the oil there. Though he knew nothing about pipelines, Murchison decided to try and build one. A lumberyard worker at Pyote said he could locate secondhand pipe and lay the pipeline if Murchison paid for everything. Murchison arranged a line of credit and work commenced, but before the pipe reached Pyote, he received crushing news: Humble Oil was building a pipeline of its own. Murchison did not have enough production to feed the pipeline himself. If other producers sold to the Humble line—as they would end up doing—he would face a massive loss.
 
Next month, Murchison embarks on both the pipeline business as well as the natural gas supply business. (Article excerpted from “The Big Rich.”)
 
History Quiz
In 1961, which state ranked third (behind Texas & Oklahoma) in total footage for completed wells?
If you would like to participate in this month’s quiz, e-mail your answer to contest@spe.org by noon December 15. The winner, who will be chosen randomly from all correct answers, will receive a $50 gift card to a nice restaurant.
 
Answer to November’s Quiz
The West Texas oilfield town of Kermit was named after the son of Theodore Roosevelt, who had visited the small Winkler County settlement on a hunting trip.
 
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.
 
Congratulations to October’s winner – Derrick George with Core Laboratories