November 1959
On the heels of their success in using microbes to help locate oil deposits, Louisiana State University researchers have begun investigating the use of microbes to “refine” oil by converting its impurities. (Way to geaux Tigers!) $ The race to build the world’s largest supertanker is on, as a 104,520-ton American vessel is superseded by a 106,500-ton Greek vessel, with a 110,000-ton vessel under construction. $ The Cuban government surprises oil men by sealing the office files of all foreign oil exploration companies, stating that the move was preliminary to drafting a new oil law. (How much oil production was affected you ask. Would you believe Cuba’s total oil production of 600 bbl per day?) $ Operators off California’s coast northwest of Santa Barbara now have assurances that an errant missile from a nearby missile range will not plow into their drilling platforms. (Ah…No more air raid shelters on the platforms.)
East Texas crude oil - $3.25/bbl; U.S. active rig count – 2,111


November 1984
An independent operator successfully completes an Oriskany gas discovery well in a previously non-producing area of West Virginia. (What about the Marcellus?) $ A Department of Energy contract is awarded to BDM Corp. to study the shale gas potential of Pennsylvania, New York, Illinois and Michigan. (We might want to revisit that report.) $ It is feared that Oklahoma State’s favorite alum may be making a run at Tenneco, as large blocks of Tenneco stock begin moving. (Oh, I’m sorry.  It’s Boone Pickens.) $ An explosion at a Pemex LPG storage facility in a south-side suburb of Mexico City levels 20 city blocks and kills more than 300 people.
U.S. active rig count – 2,584


November 1999
BG International claims an historic deal in the Eastern Mediterranean as it signs a contract with the Palestine National Authority to explore for gas off the Gaza Strip. $ A team of French and Australian scientists reports what is believed to be the world’s largest natural gas deposit, and its not where you think it is. (Would you believe in a methane hydrates field off the coast of New Caledonia?) $ Noble Drilling spuds in a water-depth record well at 8,816 ft in the Campos Basin. (Would you believe using a semisubmersible?) $ BP Amoco’s proposed purchase of ARCO hits a major snag as federal antitrust enforcers fear that the combine would translate into elevated gasoline prices on the left coast.
Light sweet crude oil - $24.20/bbl; Natural gas - $2.63/MMBTU; U.S. active rig count – 774


The Rest of the Yarn
For the next few months, this column will take a look back at some of the famous (and infamous) historical sites in Houston which had connections with the oil industry.

Completed in 1949, this hotel embodied the early imagery of Texas oil extravagance. Built by Texas oilman Glenn McCarthy, this 1,100 room hotel had a pool large enough for water-skiing exhibitions and featured sixty-three shades of green. Its opening was national news, bringing almost 200 movie stars and journalists. It also helped inspire Edna Ferber’s novel, “Giant.”

Despite its social value, it became a financial cow. McCarthy was forced to sell the hotel in the 1950’s, and it became a Hilton. But in the 1980’s recession, even Hilton couldn’t make it work. Thousands protested its demolition on St. Patrick’s Day, 1986. Today the Texas Medical Center owns the land. It’s home to a small park, which has a 650-ft pool, computer-controlled water columns, and eighty bald cypress trees. It was the Shamrock Hotel. And now you know…The Rest of the Yarn. (Article excerpted from “Houston Then & Now.”)


History Quiz
Where was the first commercial natural gas liquefaction plant built?

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

Answer to October’s Quiz
The early Texas oilman whose drilling and refining operations near Corsicana, funded by Standard Oil, became the nucleus of Magnolia Petroleum Co., which later became an important part of Standard of New York as Socony Mobil was J.S. Cullinan.

Answer to September’s Quiz
The oilfield town that currently lays claim to the worst measured air quality in the U.S. is Bakersfield, California.

Congratulations to September’s winner – Dean Wehunt at Chevron Business Development Inc.