March 1957

The Soviets claim to have developed a thermal installation for extracting oil from oil-bearing sand. Have they solved the riddle that has plagued the Canadians for years? (Stay tuned!) Another juicy morsel from behind the Iron Curtain (Remember that term?) is the discovery of oil-eating bacteria that thrive in soils above oil-laden strata. (Fire the geophysicist and hire a microbiologist!) The Los Angeles City Council announces plans to drill exploration wells in some high-rent districts of West Los Angeles, namely, the Rancho Golf Course (free drop if you land in an oil spill), the Hillcrest Country Club, and within blocks of the 20th Century Fox movie lot (perfect spot for “The Duke” to film a movie about Red Duke, don’t you think).

East Texas crude oil - $3.25/bbl
U.S. active rig count – 2,443

March 1982

In what is reported to be the first oilfield technical services contract signed with the Chinese, Core Laboratories in Dallas signs a contract to supply engineering software and training for reservoir simulation and geological evaluation to the China National Oil & Gas Exploration and Development Corp. Exploration in unexpected places, as Phillips reports plans to drill six stratigraphic tests in central and southwestern Arizona. The U.S. rig count falls 619 rigs since the first of the year and downstream U.S. refinery throughput rates reach the second lowest level on record….There is trouble on the horizon!
U.S. active rig count – 3,911

March 1997

Corporate ethical and employment practices law suits grow in number with Pennzoil and Coastal joining the ranks of Royal Dutch/Shell, Texaco, and others. $ After two years of negotiations, Amoco and Shell reach agreement to join forces in a new limited partnership to be called Altura Energy and to be based in Houston. $ Horizontal drilling ushers in a new era in Venezuela’s Orinoco heavy oil belt, enabling the penetration of 2,000 ft of pay as compared with 150 ft when drilling vertically.

Light sweet crude oil - $20.64/bbl
  Natural gas - $1.96/MMBTU
  U.S. active rig count - 885

The Rest of the Yarn

Born in Missouri in 1882, he graduated from Westminster College in 1904 and worked for a Fulton newspaper until heeding the call for adventure. He left Missouri in 1907 and ended up homesteading in Artesia, N.M. Stories of artesian water wells contaminated by oil held his imagination. He firmly believed that oil would someday be discovered in the Pecos Valley, and he wanted to be a part of it.

A 1910 partnership with William Dooley took him from commercial real estate to oil and gas leasing. He and his partner purchased, subdivided, and resold many of the leases, and they ended up investing in some of the wells themselves. Constant water flows ruined any hope for substantial oil production. He felt that there might be more success if they tried drilling east of the Pecos where they would not have the same problems with water interference. The partnership secured a large block of state leases east of the river, contracted a cable tool rig, and hired a geologist to help them avoid repeating the costly mistakes they had made earlier.

The first two wells the partnership drilled only found traces of oil and gas, but the third was a different story. His wife was asked to pick the site for the next well. She selected a spot on a little rise and told him to drill there. The well intersected pay sand in April 1924 with oil filling up the hole and no sign of artesian water. In the process, a New Mexico industry was born.

A well-educated man who had a reputation for honesty, fairness, and for being an astute trader, he also had the faith and perseverance needed to locate oil where others had failed. Associates christened him “Founding Father of the New Mexico Oil Industry.” He was Martin Yates, Jr. And now you know…The Rest of the Yarn.

Readers are encouraged to submit brief, ostensibly true stories about notable personalities from our industry’s storied past. Submissions should be e-mailed to (new e-mail address).     

History Quiz

What refinery was the site of the world’s first commercial catalytic cracker (a.k.a. the work of Eugene Houdry)?

If you would like to participate in this month’s quiz, e-mail your answer to (new e-mail address) by noon March 15. The winner, who will be chosen randomly from all correct answers, will receive a $50 gift certificate to a nice restaurant.

Answer to January’s Quiz

The world’s longest liquid-sulfur pipeline is the 25-mile long line running from Caroline to Shantz in Alberta, western Canada.

Answer to December’s Quiz

The Exchange Bank in Tulsa, which opened in 1910, was formed largely to help fund the oil empire of oil industry baron and Tulsa resident Harry Sinclair.

Congratulations to December’s winner – John Maier with Occidental Oil and Gas