Then & Now - April 2019

Then & Now - April 2019

APRIL 1959

Canada’s chief of mines reports that if the initial atomic blast in Alberta’s Athabasca tar sands is successful, plans call for a series of hydrogen bomb blasts to be set off at the same time.

A major new technique for waterflooding is announced by Core Lab, involving the injection of water at the gas-oil contact, rather than the oil-water contact, as in the conventional method.

East Texas crude: $3.25/bbl

U.S. rig count: 2,057

APRIL 1979

Thanks to natural gas regulations, operators report submitting one million pieces of paper in one case, and 1.5 tons of paper in another case, in order to qualify for eligible gas prices. (Sounds like about one tree per filing!)

In terms of dollar averages at the bachelor’s degree level, petroleum engineering graduates continue to command top dollar at $1,788/month, with chemical engineers second at $1,633/month.

U.S. rig count: 1,946

APRIL 1999

A mere three months after completion of the BP-Amoco merger, a merger of BP-Amoco with ARCO is now reportedly on the table.

The U.N. lifts economic sanctions against Libya after the country surrenders two of its citizens accused in the December 1988 bombing of a PanAm jetliner over Lockerbie, Scotland.

Light sweet crude: $16.66/bbl

Natural gas: $1.97/MMbtu

U.S. rig count: 503


This month, we continue our look back at the rise and fall of wildcatter Glenn McCarthy, as the opening night of the Shamrock Hotel turns into the media event McCarthy had yearned for.

When bedlam broke out as opening night invitees scrambled to get to their tables, comic Ed Gardner attempted to engage the crowd by naming some of the stars in the audience – but it didn’t work. In an act of comic desperation, he began calling an imaginary horse race: “And a big crowd is here tonight at Santa Anita...” That didn’t work either. Dorothy Lamour pleaded for him to stop and ultimately fled to her suite in tears. She later recounted that even while on the road with Bing Crosby and Bob Hope she never experienced anything like opening night at the Shamrock.

The dinner service was a comedy, as waiters weaved through the crowd. There had been considerable speculation surrounding the menu, given the $42-a-plate price tag, which one writer labeled “astronomical.”

Dinner turned out to be beef and a fruit cocktail called “pineapple surprise.”

A ceremony featuring Pat O’Brien and Texas Governor Beauford Jester finally began around midnight, three hours behind schedule. Meanwhile, someone stole Mayor Oscar Holcombe’s chair, forcing Holcombe and his wife to sit in a hallway for two solid hours. “It was the worst mob scene I ever witnessed,” he fumed afterward. A reporter for Time magazine wrote that the party “combined the most exciting features of a subway rush, Halloween in a madhouse, and a circus fire.” The Chronicle’s society editor described it as “bedlam in diamonds.”

Next month, bedlam or not, the Shamrock’s opening night is all about “the new Texas.” 


Which of the following wildcatters has buildings named in his honor at six different Texas universities?

a.) Hugh Roy Cullen b.) Sid Richardson c.) Clint Murchison d.) H.L. Hunt

If you would like to participate in this month’s quiz, e-mail your answer to by noon, April 15. The winner, who will be chosen randomly from all correct answers, will receive a $50 restaurant gift card, courtesy of the ProTechnics Division of Core Laboratories.”


Joseph Cullinan was the former Standard Oil executive who moved to Texas and formed an independent operating company that would later become a major E&P company – Magnolia Petroleum, (which later became Mobil Oil). Cullinan built the first refinery west of the Mississippi and formed another operating company that became a second major E&P company – The Texas Co., (which later changed its name to Texaco).


Bill Liddell with Anadarko Petroleum.