March 1950
Perforating Guns Atlas Corp. reports the development of a new radioactive well logging method which gives both a gamma ray and a neutron log from one instrument in a single run in the hole. (The key is slow-neutron detection.) $ Texas Tech’s petroleum engineering department reports plans to drill a duster on its campus in Lubbock. (That’s right….They are hoping for a dry hole so the students can use the wellbore for their experiments without being bothered by messy crude oil.) $ The U.S. Air Force makes great strides in refueling planes in flight using a new telescopic tube that can be poked into the filling spout by an attendant on a flying tanker. (How come no one has ever conceived of a mobile refueling/recharging system for automobiles?) East Texas crude oil - $2.65/bbl

March 1970
Efforts to remove lead from gasoline continue to indicate that such a change will cause automobiles to suffer a 10% loss in efficiency from compression-ratio reduction plus another 10% loss from the installation of exhaust-gas devices. $ As Cuba’s fledgling oil industry continues to flounder, a new trade protocol signed with Russia provides for a significant increase in delivery of fuel oil and other petroleum products to the Castro government. (What could possibly be in it for the Russians?) $ Union Oil’s one-legged platform or monopod is judged a success after 3 years of operation in Cook Inlet. (Can a spar platform be far behind?) $ The U.S. active rig count drops below 1,000 for the first time since 1943, as the count drops 40 rigs in one week.
U.S. active rig count – 994

March 1990
Illinois environmental officials hike the estimate of an oil spill from a ruptured pipeline at Shell’s Wood River, Illinois refinery from early estimates of 1,000 bbl to 16,000 bbl. $ Petroleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA) is closing in on its goal of sales of 1 million bbl/d of Orimulsion, its extra heavy crude-30% water-emulsifier mix it hopes will compete with coal and fuel oil. $ The DOE is negotiating with the Soviet Union to expand cooperative efforts in energy research and development, energy data exchange, and service and supplies imports/exports. $ BP reportedly will cap a major reshaping of the company with a reorganization that will more than halve the staff at its London headquarters.
Light sweet crude oil - $20.19/bbl; U.S. active rig count – 923


The Rest of the Yarn
This month we continue our look back at some of the famous (and infamous) historical sites in Houston which had connections with the oil industry.

Designed by renowned architect Alfred C. Finn, the Gulf Building at Main and Rusk is one of the finest Art Deco skyscrapers in the Southwest. The site was once the home of Mrs. Charlotte Allen, the “Mother of Houston,” wife of Houston founder Augustus Chapman Allen. Once the corporate headquarters of Gulf Oil, it reportedly cost $3.5 million to build. When completed, it was the tallest building west of the Mississippi.

Now listed in the National Registry of Historical Places, the Gulf Building no longer soars above the skyline, but its grandeur lives on. A number of interesting elements have been added over the years, including two annexes, an industrial-grade telescope, a heliport, and a fifty-foot “Gulf lollipop” neon logo (no longer standing, much to the relief of many). It remains a brilliant, elegant sight especially at night. And now you know…The Rest of the Yarn. (Article excerpted from “Houston Then & Now.”)


History Quiz
Fill in the blank in the following linguistic proportionality (circa 1950) …… “Natural Gasoline” is to refineries as “ “ is to oilfield gasoline plants.

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

Answer to February’s Quiz
The actual “driller” hired by Colonel Drake to drill the first drilled oil well at Titusville, Pennsylvania in 1859 was William A. (Uncle Billy) Smith.

Answer to January’s Quiz
When it was first incorporated in 1870, the Standard Oil Company adopted that name because at that time there were no standard specifications in the industry for kerosene and other oil products, and they were determined to take on that challenge and distinguish themselves in the process.

Congratulations to January’s winner – R. W. Scott