January 1962
Chrysler is starting the final evaluation of its gas-turbine passenger car, based on a successful run from New York to Los Angeles. $ The price of wildcat acreage under Cook Inlet, Alaska sky-rockets to $500 per acre. (The paperwork alone costs that much nowadays.) $ The U.S. and the state of Louisiana continue their clash over offshore boundaries. (The Supreme Court is likely to get involved.) $ Iraqis are reportedly miffed because their seizure of Iraq Petroleum operating areas did not lead to the expected rejoicing in other Arab lands, while the company is being pressured to surrender 20% of its ownership along with a larger share of its revenues. $ Shell sets a depth record of 20,800 ft for the Upper Gulf Coast with its Chapman #1 in Waller County (Right in our own backyard).
East Texas crude oil - $3.25/bbl; U.S. active rig count – 1,810
January 1987
The nation’s first two diesel buses fueled by natural gas will be road-tested for a year in Tacoma, Washington, using diesel as a pilot to ignite the gas in a 90:10 gas to diesel mix. $ Meanwhile Ford Motor Company is conducting long-term durability tests on flexible fuel vehicles using an 85:15 mix of methanol and gasoline, as Ford believes that methanol is the fuel most likely to replace gasoline in the next energy crisis. $ Alaska Pacific Refining reports plans to build the first U.S. refinery planned specifically for product export at Valdez, Alaska, with the initial intention of selling jet fuel to the Pacific Rim market. $ Ten African producing countries report plans to meet in Lagos, Nigeria to launch the African Hydrocarbon Association as a forum for consultation, dialogue, and cooperation, but to not conflict with OPEC. (Yeah…right!) $ Rising demand in the Caribbean is prompting consideration of more refining capacity or utilization, and who steps up but none other than Cockrell Oil Corp. in, that’s right, Murfreesboro, Tennessee. (Let’s hear it from all you Middle Tennessee State grads out there.)
U.S. active rig count – 962

January 2002
In a study on Arctic gas, two University of Houston professors report that the Mackenzie Valley corridor in Canada almost certainly will prove to be the better choice for the proposed Arctic gas pipeline than a proposed route following the Alaska Highway. $ Syncrude production from the $4.2 billion Sincor project in Venezuela will soon begin entering the 200 km pipeline on its way to Jose, where the 8.5 deg. gravity crude will be upgraded to 32 deg. gravity crude for export. $ Lawsuits against federal and state entities over disputed leases sold previously to operators but delayed due to public opposition continue to mount in California and Florida. $ Numerous countries, including South Korea, China, Norway, Nigeria and Australia announce plans to build LNG facilities this year. $ On the information security front, a survey of energy executives indicates that approximately one-third of the energy companies polled believe that their companies are susceptible to a serious violation of information security, with employees topping the threat list, followed by hackers, competitors and customers.
Light sweet crude oil - $20.59/bbl; Natural gas - $2.23/MMbtu; U.S. active rig count – 856
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.
Faced with potential financial loss due to being up-staged by Humble Oil’s proposed Winkler County oil pipeline, Murchison struggled to find a solution to his pipeline dilemma until one evening while walking down Wink’s muddy main thoroughfare it hit him. Why not offer gas heating and light to the locals? He already had the pipe; it took a matter of weeks to lay it down one side of the street. Residents would be invited to tap into it anywhere they could, five dollars a month for a home, ten dollars a month for a business. Natural gas had been used to heat homes and factories in England for a century but had never caught on in the U.S.; most Texas oilmen simply allowed the gas they found to escape into the atmosphere. Murchison was amazed how simple the business was; once a pipeline was built, all he did was sit back and collect monthly checks. When other West Texas towns expressed interest in having gas lines of their own, Murchison incorporated the Wink Gas Company and built lines to Pecos, Barstow, and Pyote. A friend in Oklahoma said his town could use one too, so Murchison sent work crews north and by mid-1928 had a pipeline furnishing gas to the towns of Kingfisher and Hennessey. He sent salesmen fanning out across South and Central Texas and soon had contracts to supply gas to Navasota, Sealy, Bellville, Eagle Lake, and Columbus.
In late 1928, after taking expansion loans from a pair of Dallas banks, Murchison moved into an apartment in a fashionable Dallas building called Maple Terrace; his roommate, a fastidious, nearsighted boyhood chum named Wofford Cain, ran the Oklahoma side of the pipeline business. The two would remain in business together for decades. In January 1929, in an effort to consolidate the chaotic piles of paperwork in his apartment and San Antonio office, Murchison leased space in the fifteen-floor American Exchange Building in downtown Dallas and, together with his brother Frank and Ernest Closuit, officially merged their far-flung gas operations into a single company they decided to call the Southern Union Gas Company. Murchison had big plans for Southern Union, the kind that occurred to few if any of his peers in Texas oil. He wanted to make it a national company, with stocks and bonds sold in northern stock markets. Murchison would arrange and build the pipelines, Closuit would drill for the gas, and Frank Murchison was sent to Chicago to begin raising money.
Next month, Murchison’s natural gas enterprise spreads west into New Mexico, with or without the necessary funding. (Article excerpted from “The Big Rich.”)
History Quiz
In 1962 what state could lay claim to the world’s deepest LPG cavern?
If you would like to participate in this month’s quiz, e-mail your answer to contest@spe.org by Noon, January 15. The winner, who will be chosen randomly from all correct answers, will receive a $50 gift card to a nice restaurant.
Answer to December’s Quiz
In 1961, Illinois ranked third (behind Texas and Oklahoma) in total footage for completed wells in the U.S.
Answer to November’s Quiz
The West Texas oilfield town of Kermit was named after the son of President Theodore Roosevelt, whose son Kermit had visited the small Winkler County settlement on a hunting trip.
Congratulations to November’s winner – Henry Williams with VAM Drilling