February 1959

Texas most southeasterly field is opened with discovery of gas condensate well south of Sabine Pass in an area just inshore from an oil slick in the gulf which had been noted by navigators since the days of the Spanish explorers.  (“Creekology” takes a back seat to “Oceanology” as an exploration technique.)  $  North Dakota exploration is off to a fast start in 1959 with 10 new fields being recorded, centering in Burke County.  (All this activity and they were just turning their nose up at the Bakken.)  $  Consumers complain that with the rising price of gasoline, already up to a whopping $0.20 per gallon, service stations should change their name to “squeeze stations,” reminiscent of the Chinese feudal lords who set up “squeeze stations” which were actually tax-collecting stations set up along the highways to exact tribute from all travelers.  (I think we call those toll booths nowadays.)

East Texas crude oil - $3.25/bbl; U.S. active rig count – 1,781

February 1999

The depth of the industry recession is reflected in both OPEC and non-OPEC producers agreeing to oil production cuts. (Do we have a 10 yr. cycle at work here?)  $  Rumors are rampant that a merger amongst Russia’s state-controlled oil firms is taking shape.  Rosneft, Slavneft and Onako reportedly plan to form a holding company in which the government would own a 75% stake.  If the merger is consummated, the new firm would have more reserves than Lukoil.  $  Ever wonder about the relationship between Venezuela’s national oil company Pdvsa and Venezuela’s U.S. refining and marketing entity Citgo?  Hugo Chavez reports the appointment of Roberto Mandini, executive vice president and a director of Citgo, as the new head of Pdvsa.  $  The U.S. active rig count drops to 558, the lowest it has reached since Baker Hughes or its predecessor began keeping the weekly rig talley in 1949.  $  ARCO and Chevron agree to pursue formation of a new company to jointly operate their Permian Basin producing assets.  (Altura copycats!)

Light sweet crude oil - $12.17/bbl; Natural gas - $1.80/MMBTU; U.S. active rig count – 558

The Rest of the Yarn
Continuing with our theme of examining the lives of international public figures that have significantly impacted the petroleum industry in the 20th and 21st centuries, this month we begin a series of articles on Saddam Hussein.

Born to a poor farming family in Tikrit, a town north of Baghdad, Hussein was raised by his widowed mother and other relatives.  He moved to Baghdad in 1955 and became involved in politics, joining the opposition Baath Party, an Arab nationalist movement.  Hussein rose quickly within the party and in 1959 helped organize an assassination attempt on Abdul Karim Kassem, the military president of Iraq.  Both Kassem and Hussein were injured in the gun battle, and Hussein fled to Cairo.

Hussein studied law in  Cairo while continuing party-affiliated activities.  He returned to Baghdad in 1963, married, and rose to the post of assistant secretary general of the Baath Party.  The party remained in opposition to the government until 1968, when it seized power in a coup.  Years of underground work gave Hussein a small core of like-minded friends, many related to him by blood or marriage and most from Tikrit.  After the coup, this clique established itself as a Revolutionary Command Council with absolute authority in the country.  Hussein became vice chairman of the council in 1969.  He worked closely with General Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr, the council’s chairman and president of Iraq.

Hussein took a leading role in addressing the country’s major domestic problems.  He negotiated an agreement in 1970 with separatist Kurdish leaders, giving them autonomy.  The agreement later broke down, leading to brutal fighting between the regime and Kurdish groups.  He also played a part in the nationalization of the oil industry, Iraq’s major source of wealth.  In 1973 oil prices skyrocketed, allowing the government to pursue an ambitious economic development program that included new schools, universities, hospitals, and factories.

Next month, Hussein exerts his will on Iraq’s neighbors.

History Quiz

What Texas city for the better part of 25 years boasted the most synchronized rod pumping units working off of two closely-spaced wellheads?

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

Answer to January’s Quiz

The famous Houston wildcatter who passed away in 2004 and was a major player in the early years of exploratory drilling on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula was Michael Halbouty.

Answer to December’s Quiz

The individual who coined the word “kerosene” and patented a process for making it from coal and who was well on his way to raking in a fortune from this process until Drake drilled an oil well was Dr. Abraham Gesner.

Congratulations to December’s winner – Benjamin Cohen with Occidental of Oman