May 1957

At the behest of the API, a former MIT professor has come up with an equation involving a mere seven variables that is designed to predict the condition of the atmosphere over the North American Continent at any point in time (Yep…a weather-forecasting equation). $ In an effort to improve public relations and to make the oil industry appear more respectable and dignified, Sun Oil Co. decides to rename some industry icons to: “motor fuel” (formerly gasoline), “service center” (formerly filling station), and “attendant” (formerly filling station guy). $ Back on the east coast, the new Tidewater refinery, considered to be the best-planned refinery in the world, even wins over the environmental community by designing a concrete trough for returning fish-laden cooling water pumped out of the Delaware River and later recycled back into same, thus providing a fresh seafood bar for the neighborhood sea gulls. It seems that the local gulls have become so acclimated to this all-you-can-eat buffet that they have discontinued fishing for a living. Sort of reminiscent of one of the biblical miracles, namely (I apologize in advance for what follows.), the miracle of the “loafers and the fishes.”

East Texas crude oil - $3.25/bbl
U.S. active rig count – 2,383

May 1982

In an effort to overcome “a fragmented and inefficiently managed organization of offshore activities,” the Department of Interior moves all of its Outer Continental Shelf activities into the newly formed Minerals Management Service. $ The first round of bidding for China’s offshore oil rights is underway. Successful bidders will have to pay a $1 million signature bonus, agree to a 12.5% royalty plus a 5% revenue tax on production, and give China the right to at least 51% interest in all development. (Let the faint of heart beware.) $ The big debate in Congress this year is whether federal coffers would be better served by decontrolling natural gas prices or by imposing a U.S. oil import fee.

U.S. active rig count – 3,178

May 1997

Forty-two House Democrats ask to meet with President Clinton about EPA’s proposed smog and soot rule. (No Bill…it has nothing to do with smut, just smog and soot!) $ One of the biggest stories this year in the Gulf of Mexico involves subsalt production, specifically from the Phillips-operated Mahogany project, the site of the world’s first subsalt  production. $ Shareholders meetings generated more than the usual recitation of financial figures and unveiling of grandiose plans for a couple of major operators. Texaco comes under verbal attack by protestors over its environmental record in Ecuador and human rights issues in Myanmar, while Shell is chided by demonstrators for its reported on-going manipulation of communities and coercion of leaders in Nigeria.
Light sweet crude oil - $19.94/bbl; Natural gas - $2.28/MMBTU; U.S. active rig count – 913

The Rest of the Yarn

Born in Ennis, Texas in 1890, he developed into a banker and successful businessman in El Paso. Following Navy and Army service in WW I, he answered the call of the oilfields. By chance, he met up with his former company commander, Rupert Ricker, who had title to 430,000 acres of oil leases on University of Texas property. Unable to afford the rental payment on the leases, Ricker sold his assignments to a group headed by his Army subordinate.

Numerous commutes from Big Lake to New York City ensued as he attempted to raise the capital to fund a test well on the UT property. With but 18 months to secure the funding and spud the first well or else lose the lease, the pressure was on. Two days before the expiration date, he returned from New York with the funds. He then secured a rig, had it hauled to location by train, and spudded the first well just minutes before the midnight deadline.

For an area with a history of dry holes, this venture near Big Lake was more than a rank wildcat; it was a shot in the dark. Yet the impossible occurred on May 28, 1923, as the Santa Rita #1 gushed oil over the top of the derrick. As a result of this dramatic discovery, he and his organization, Texon Oil & Land, and the driller, Carl Cromwell, benefited greatly. The UT system still prospers from this unlikely exploration. This strike triggered the opening and development of the Permian Basin oil empire of West Texas and Southeast New Mexico.

It is fitting that the catalyst behind one of the most historic discoveries in the Permian Basin was honored in 1968 as the first member of the Permian Basin Petroleum Museum’s Hall of Fame. He was Frank Pickrell. And now you know…The Rest of the Yarn.     

History Quiz

What was the first acid corrosion inhibitor used to inhibit hydrochloric acid from attacking tubulars while acidizing limestone formations, circa 1932?

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

Answer to April’s Quiz

Several plausible answers were submitted. The one that was chosen, based on actual reports of its efficacy, was as follows:

In the absence of refrigerants or electricity while stranded on a South Pacific atoll, WW II G.I.’s solved the problem of how to cool their sodas and adult beverages by stacking the drink cans on the sun-drenched beach and covering them with white coral sand. They then dumped copious amounts of aviation gasoline on the whole pile. After reclining under a palm tree for about twenty minutes, the high octane aviation gasoline had evaporated and in the process chilled the drinks.

Answer to March’s Quiz

Sun Oil’s Marcus Hook refinery was the site of the world’s first commercial catalytic cracker, which went on-stream experimentally in 1937.

Congratulations to March’s winner – Gregg Hollabaugh with Pogo Producing