October 1950
While trenching for a pipeline near Sidon in Lebanon, the pipeline crew uncovered the floor of a 6th century Greek Orthodox church. True to the industry’s commitment to ecology and historicity, the crew suspended operations until the Lebanese Ministry of Antiquities could come and unearth the delicate mosaic tiles and relay them in the National Museum. $ Patterned after the very successful “mother chapter” in New Orleans, Houston organizes its own chapter of the Desk and Derrick club with ambitious plans to sponsor field trips, lectures and study courses. $ An excerpt from a paper in Japan reports that an oil well will soon be drilled in Chiba Perfecture in an area that heretofore only produced dry gas. The catch is that the well location was chosen not based on geology or geophysics but on a spinning-string doodlebug. (Patent reportedly still pending.)
East Texas crude oil - $2.65/bbl

October 1970
Taking advantage of Libya’s cutback on crude oil production, Iran takes up the slack by producing a monthly average of 4 million bbl/day, making it the only country other than the U.S. and Russia to sustain that volume for a full month. $ Two U.S. Department of Commerce researchers report that there has been no discernable change in the world’s oxygen supply over the last 60 years – a time of unparalleled burning of fossil fuels. $ Standard Oil of Ohio announces that next month it will introduce a lead-free gasoline and new versions of its regular and premium fuels with lower lead contents. $ Both a West German inventor and an Arkansas engineer propose plans for using a fleet of dirigibles, instead of lengthy and expensive pipelines, to transport natural gas from the almost inaccessible regions of the world. Each airship would be almost a mile in length and about a quarter mile in maximum diameter and would carry an estimated load of 3.6 billion cu ft of natural gas.
U.S. active rig count – 985

October 1990
President Bush reports plans to ask Congress for authority to negotiate a comprehensive free trade agreement with Mexico, expected to facilitate sales of U.S. oil equipment to Mexico but not likely allowing exploration in Mexico by U.S. firms. $ Exxon files claims against the U.S. Coast Guard to recover costs of the Exxon Valdez tanker spill in Alaska’s Prince William Sound, claiming Coast Guard negligence was partly to blame. $ Saddam Hussein takes the first step towards implementation of his threat to destroy oil production facilities in the Persian Gulf if his forces in Kuwait are attacked, by mining Kuwait’s oil fields. $ Plans to hike throughput in the Trans-Alaska Pipeline have been temporarily postponed pending an investigation of allegations of falsified corrosion inspection records and other contractor misconduct.
Light sweet crude oil - $36.83/bbl; U.S. active rig count – 1,056


The Rest of the Yarn
For the next several months, this column will take a look back at the rise and fall of some of the greatest Texas oil fortunes. We will be examining wildcatters and promoters at their zenith and at rock bottom and how they lived the proverbial good life.

The fortunes forged during the Depression created a new top layer of Texas society, what came to be known as the Big Rich. This was wealth on a scale entirely new to the state, and during the 1930’s Roy Cullen, Clint Murchison, Sid Richardson, and H. L. Hunt, soon to be known as the “Big Four” oilmen, laid the foundations of a flamboyant lifestyle that would come to define the image of Texas Oil. There were mansions to build, presidents to meet, European vacations to take, islands to buy, and children to raise.

Murchison, the first to earn his fortune, specifically in the North Texas oilfields around Buckburnett and Wichita Falls, was the first to begin gathering the trappings of serious wealth. In 1927, two years after his wife’s death, he had taken an apartment in Dallas, the city closest to his hometown of Athens. A year later he acquired a two-hundred-acre polo club on Preston Road in a rural area fifteen miles north of downtown. The rolling fields and woods teemed with wildlife, and Murchison, in an effort to reproduce the country life of his boyhood, trucked in hundreds of new animals, cattle, pigs and goats, as well as chickens and dairy cows for milk and butter. The clubhouse was a shack, but Murchison fixed it up, adding two wings with staff quarters and hiring a squadron of governesses and servants. When finished, they called it “The Big House.” Preston Road Farm, as Murchison dubbed the compound, was so vast that the Athens High School football team accepted his invitation to use it for their summer training camp.

Murchison loved it; for the first time since his wife’s death he began to relax. He was lonely though, and began reaching out to his old chums in Athens. They came in droves, along with Murchison’s oil industry pals, turning weekends at the farm into one long rollicking party of whiskey, poker, and dice games, the pots overflowing with not only cash but oil leases and royalty vouchers. The parties usually kicked off on Friday evenings when a dusty maroon Chrysler pulled up the long gravel drive, heralding Sid Richardson’s arrival from West Texas. The gambling and drinking lasted late into the night, when the guests would wander into the bunkhouse Murchison had erected just for his friends, a dozen beds arrayed in one large room, cowboy-style.

Next month, more about Murchison’s opulent lifestyle, his children, and the island that he bought. (Article excerpted from “The Big Rich.”)


History Quiz
Which of the following E&P companies did not make the industry’s top ten in total assets in either 1988 or 1989? a) Amoco b) BP America c) Phillips Petroleum d) Conoco

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

Answer to September’s Quiz
In September 1970, there were 45 “super deep” wells being drilled at one time in the U. S., and the county and state in which the most “super deep” wells were being drilled at that time was Pecos County, Texas.

Answer to May’s Quiz
The order and year of the first oil discoveries in the following states is as follows: Tennessee (1860), New York (1865), Montana (1916) and Arizona (1954).

Congratulations to May’s winner – Bill Viverette, The Woodlands