The latest drilling innovation is the ball-bearing drilling tool. A jet-type nozzle on the end of the drill pipe sprays steel balls at the bottom of the hole via the mud system. As the steel balls bombard the formation, they pulverize the rock. Some of the steel balls are carried to the surface by the mud system and are subsequently separated from the mud and propelled back downhole. # Shell pushes the Gulf of Mexico envelope by staking a location for a test 63 miles off the Texas coast in 93 ft of water. Meanwhile, Zapata Offshore Co. announces plans for a new drilling platform that will be designed for “deep drilling” (100 ft water depths) in the Gulf of Mexico at a construction cost of $2 million. (Look out China, here we come!) # A Canadian historian claims to have conclusive proof that the world’s first successful oil well was brought in at Oil Springs, Ontario, in 1857, 2 years before the Drake well in Titusville, Pennsylvania. Plans are reported for the development of an international historical site commemorating the birthplace of North America’s oil industry. (Arise, ye patriots! Are we going to stand idly by and allow our own American Colonel Drake to be deprived of his just deserts?)
East Texas crude oil—$2.90/bbl
U.S. active rig count—2,768
U.S. active rigs set an all-time record for a single week—3,164, breaking the previous record of 3,137 set back in December 1955. # Australia’s BHP Ltd. is reportedly probing the feasibility of extracting methane from coal seams and has just completed four wells to 1,500 ft in Queensland. (As Bill Skelly was once quoted as telling his geologists, “I don’t care if you find it in a manure pile, just get me some oil.”) # Activity level in the service sector accelerates to the point that Western Company of North America President John Fanning reports that the company has added 50% to its onshore workforce. # A report by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution indicates the most promising spots for future world oil exploration to be Alaska, the Soviet Union, and Mexico. The report goes so far as to state that Mexico could discover reserves in the next 50 years exceeding those of the Middle East.
U.S. active rig count—3,164
Despite a shortage of gasoline stations that has forced Jakartan motorists to resort to using gasoline cut with kerosene in their automobiles, the city of Jakarta reports plans to remove 20 of its gasoline stations and replace them with trees to help absorb mounting levels of carbon dioxide. (Perhaps it’s a good time to invest in rickshaws.) # Gulf of Mexico operators begin returning to facilities evacuated just before Category 5 Hurricane Opal swept across the central gulf. (Sound familiar?) # Ubiquitous tar balls in Alaska’s Prince William Sound reportedly predate the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, and according to an American Chemical Society report, they may have originated all the way back to a 1964 Alaskan earthquake. # The average price of gasoline in the United States drops to its lowest level in 6 months at $1.12 per gallon for self-serve regular unleaded. (Speaking of endangered species…what ever became of the gas station attendant?)
Light sweet crude oil—$17.51/bbl
U.S. active rig count—765
The Rest of the Yarn
For the next few months, this column will celebrate the 75th anniversary of the first colossal American oil field, the East Texas field, by taking a look back at its colorful history.
The discovery well, the now famous Daisy Bradford No. 3, was brought in by C.M. (Dad) Joiner on October 3, 1930. The strike was made in an area considered a very poor risk by most geologists at the time. Joiner had tried twice unsuccessfully before finding oil in the prolific Woodbine sand at 3,592 ft on his third attempt. If the pay had been a few hundred feet deeper, this one too probably would have been plugged.
Joiner’s well, at what became known as Joinerville in Rusk County, was the first of nearly 29,000 wells completed in the first 25 years of the field’s history. At one time there were 559 operators active in the field. Shortly after the field was delineated, it was estimated that this 43-mile-long stratigraphic trap could easily produce 3 billion barrels of oil, a feat it accomplished in its first 25 years. The first quarter of a century of its history was perhaps the most fabulous and colorful of any previous period in the life of the U.S. oil industry.
Things certainly got off to a rocky start for one of the first true wildcatters. Joiner was scraping the bottom of his financial barrel. For some time before the Bradford No. 3 came in, he had paid farmhands to work as roughnecks for a few days at a time. He offered shares in the well and even in the entire Bradford lease to his crew members in lieu of pay.
The Joiner strike excited a great many people, but it was written off lightly by others as an insignificant “pocket” discovery. Some leasing began along the western periphery of the Sabine uplift, but the biggest oil boom of all time did not begin in earnest until two more wells hit. The first of these, the E.W. Bateman Crim No. 1, was located 10 miles north of the Bradford well. This strike was at first believed to be a new pool. A short while later another strike, the Moncrief-Farrell et al. Lathrop No. 1 occurred 14½ miles northeast of the Bateman well. Both the Bateman and the Moncrief-Farrell wells were much bigger than Joiner’s Bradford well, the Crim No. 1 coming in at 22,000 BOPD compared to 300 BOPD for the Bradford No. 3.
The Bateman and Moncrief-Farrell wells opened the flood gates to a tremendous influx of operators and promoters, and the boom was on in earnest. Where there were only five wells drilled by the end of 1930, more than 3,600 wells were drilled and completed by the end of 1931. With the boom came massive leasing and development in and around Kilgore, but also proration violations, price collapses,
a saltwater crisis, and even martial law being declared by the governor. More on these developments in future columns.
Readers are encouraged to submit brief, ostensibly true stories
about notable personalities from our industry’s storied past.
Submissions should be e-mailed to email@example.com.
In 1995, what California oil field became the 15th billion-barrel oil field in the United States?
If you would like to participate in this month’s quiz, e-mail your
answer to firstname.lastname@example.org by noon, October 15. The
winner, who will be chosen randomly from all correct answers,
will receive a $50 gift certificate to a nice restaurant.
Answer to September’s Quiz
In 1912, Standard Oil of New Jersey opened the first prototype service station in the United States.
Answer to May’s Quiz
The “Amerada” portion of the name Amerada Hess is a contraction of America and Canada, the two countries in which Amerada founder Lord Cowdray formed it to explore for oil.
Congratulations to May’s winner—David Smith with Eni Petroleum Exploration Co.