Oil-Industry History
Volume 6, Number 1, 2005

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Volume 6, 2005 Abstracts

Old Mcdonald Was A Field, E-I-E-I-Oil!
Kathy J. Flaherty
ABARTA Oil & Gas Company, 1000 Gamma Drive, Suite 404, Pittsburgh, PA 15238

ABSTRACT: Early in their histories, McDonald, McCurdy, Venice, Hopper, Moon Run, Crafton, Ewings Mill, and Chartiers oil fields were referred to separately, but oil production from the various fields was tallied and reported collectively as from the McDonald oil field. The fields, which were all discovered between 1888 and 1896, occupy approximately 13,000 acres in western Allegheny and northern Washington counties in Pennsylvania. Sandwiched between the existing oil fields in northwestern Pennsylvania and northern West Virginia, the McDonald fields were explored and developed using the technological advances that evolved as the drillers became experienced in those adjacent regions. The McDonald fields produced oil and some gas from one or more main pay zones, including Hundred Foot, Fifty Foot, Gordon, Fourth and Fifth, all upper Devonian sandstones.

Proximity to established cities contributed to the rapid development in the new oil region. Businesses in Pittsburgh, a few miles east of the McDonald oil field, had already been providing goods and services specific to the petroleum industry. With established roads and railroads, McDonald was not far removed from labor and supplies. Similarly, Little Washington (Washington, PA), a few miles south, had established suppliers in place to service the growing fields. The nearness of population centers also brought a steady stream of speculators, prospectors and curious day-trippers.

Barrels per hour became the standard unit of measurement used to describe the wildly successful wells that produced huge quantities of oil. Several individual wells contributed more than 300,000 barrels of oil during their productive lives. The field reached peak production of 84,300 barrels of oil per day in November, 1891. During the first 50 years, more than 45,000,000 barrels of oil were produced from the McDonald fields. Many companies, such as Royal, Chartiers, South Penn, Guffy and Galey, and others had significant lease positions and had the potential to realize great wealth from their activities. Secondary recovery by gas drive gave the field new life in the late 1930s through the 1960s.


Organic Metamorphism In Pennsylvania Henry Darwin Rogers (1808-1866) And The Origin Of Petroleum
J.G.C.M. Fuller
History of Geology Group
The Geological Society, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1V 0JU, England

ABSTRACT: Henry Darwin Rogers, a young social reformer from Philadelphia, took ship for England in 1832. Somewhat unexpectedly he found himself welcomed into the world of geology, where his astute mind and ready adaptation to metropolitan ways enabled him to absorb and retain an incomparable grounding in the new science given him by Edward Turner, Roderick Murchison and Henry de la Beche.

On returning to America, Rogers began research on the constituents of coal. In 1835 he was appointed Director of the first Geological Survey of Pennsylvania, and soon perceived from analyses of coals in the State that their volatile content varied from place to place, rising in an orderly way from southeast to northwest.

When in 1859 drilling for petroleum began at Titusville, Rogers initially believed this rock-oil to be a product of devolatilized coal, though he soon abandoned that view when oil was found in quantity outside the coal-bearing districts. Convinced by proof of graded metamorphism among coals, Rogers leapt to the realization that a similar gradient was present in organic-rich strata below the coal measures, naming Ordovician Utica shale and perhaps Devonian Genesee and Marcellus shales as petroleum sources. Rogers’s findings were published in 1863 by Good Words, an English journal unknown to science. There they lay unremarked for 67 years, until noticed in 1930 by J.V. Howell and the American Association of Petroleum Geologists. But they were again ignored, and a further 40 years passed before the oil industry brought itself to understand what had been concluded in 1863.


West Virginia’s Oil Industry Illustrated On Postcards
Jeff A. Spencer
675 Piney Creek Road, Bellville, TX 77418

ABSTRACT: Postcard collectors refer to the period 1907-1915 as the “Golden Age of Postcards,” as postcard collecting had become one of the most popular hobbies in the world. Postcards have helped to illustrate the history, geography, and industrial growth of the United States. This is evident in their depiction of the early 20th Century “boom days” of the oil industry. Early wooden derricks were proudly displayed, often with the operator’s name. Oil “gushers” and oil field fires were a common theme of these early postcards, as were petroleum refining and transportation.

Sistersville and Mannington are two examples of early West Virginia oil producing areas depicted on early 20th century postcards. Town scenes of Sistersville show wooden derricks scattered amongst residential and business areas and along the Ohio River. The messages written on postcards can also add to the story of the early oil pioneers. These include oil field workers describing a day in the oil field and local residents expressing their amazement with all the activity and fortunes being made.


The First Over Water Drilling: The Lost History Of Ohio’s Grand Reservoir Oil Boom
Judith L. Sneed
P.O. Box 323, Mooringsport, Louisiana 71060

ABSTRACT: In 1911, Gulf Oil Company’s Ferry Lake No.1 well was completed over the waters of Caddo Lake, Louisiana. It has long been touted as the location of the world’s first over water oil well. This accolade, however, is not correct. Stand alone oil wells produced commercial quantities of oil over a small lake in Ohio as early as 1891. How did we lose this bit of history? [Presented originally at the Shreveport, LA Symposium, March 26-29, 2003.]


Energy’s Stepchild: The Birth And Rearing Of The Appalachian Natural Gas Industry 1800 – 1950
David A. Waples
1871 Eaton Road, Fairview, PA 16415

ABSTRACT: Natural gas is the energy industry=s stepchild, historically overshadowed by its sister energy oil. This vital American enterprise began in the Appalachian states as an accidental and underestimated byproduct of the oil rush of 1859. This paper traces the first discoveries of gasCoften accidentalCcentered in the Appalachian region. Although used sporadically for lighting, cooking, and heating, the initial use of gas was introduced on a wide scale by innovators Joseph Pew and George Westinghouse for the steel and glass industries in PittsburghCknown as the Smoky City due to its high consumption of coal. Local gas companies evolved from individual wells to an interstate supply network acquired by Rockefeller=s Standard Oil interests. This paper also traces the development of the natural gas drilling industry, the first wooden and metal gas pipelines, the creation of compressor engines, the pioneering of storage fields, and the genesis of gas marketing for lighting, heating, cooking, and industrial uses. [Note: This paper was adapted from The Natural Gas Industry in Appalachia by David A. Waples, 8 McFarland and Company Publishers, 2005.]


The Hugoton – Panhandle Gas Field
Lawrence H. Skelton
Kansas Geological Survey, 4150 Monroe, Wichita, Kansas 67209

ABSTRACT: The nine southwestern counties of Kansas probably have not changed significantly in their appearance since 1541 when one of the soldiers or priests who accompanied Francisco Coronado on his trek across the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles into Kansas described topography en route and prophetically wrote, I am of the belief that it will be productive of all sorts of commodities. He predicted correctly for near the end of 1918, a well drilled about 30 miles north of Amarillo, Texas blew in with reported 10 million cubic feet of gas per day. More wells were drilled nearby, the best reportedly open flowing 104 million cubic feet per day, and the giant Panhandle Gas Field soon developed. Liberal, Kansas is less than a hundred miles as the crow flies and by the summer of 1920, a gas well had been drilled and capped there. Two years later, it was completed and flowed five to 10 million cubic feet per day and the Hugoton Gas Field was born. A year later, in 1923, a 25 million cubic foot per day gas well was drilled and completed near Guymon in Texas County, Oklahoma. The wells in all three states produced from Permian age strata. These were the discovery wells of the world-class Hugoton-Panhandle Gas Field that to date has produced tens of trillions of cubic feet of natural gas and has had a continuing, positive affect on the United States economy for eighty-some years.


The Los Angeles City Oil Field California’s First Oil Boom During The Revitalization Period (1875-1900)
Stephen M. Testa
Consulting Geologist and President
Testa Environmental Corporation, 19814 Jesus Maria Road, Mokelumne Hill, CA 95245

ABSTRACT: Oil seeps have been noted by Native Americans and Spanish explorers in the vicinity of Los Angeles since about 1543. The Los Angeles oil field was discovered in 1892 by Edward L. Doheny, Sr. The original oil field was located along Glendale Boulevard between Beverly Boulevard and Colton Avenue, near present-day Dodger Stadium. Doheny’s well, which extended to a depth of about 460 feet, produced 45 barrels a day, put him on the road to becoming one of the wealthiest men in America. The discovery, situated in what is now Echo Park, would set off California’s first oil boom during the revitalization period (1875-1900). Being in close proximity to downtown Los Angeles, its discovery sparked one of the first major land booms in the city. By the second year of production following the discovery, 750,000 barrels of oil were produced, bringing California’s output in excess of 1 million barrels. Within two years, 80 wells were producing oil in the area bounded by Figueroa, First, Union and Temple Streets, and by 1897 more than 500 producing wells existed. By 1898, the Los Angeles field made up 65 percent of the total quantity of oil produced in California for that year. Within a few years there were over 200 oil companies and 2500 wells within the city limits. As of 1913, the Los Angeles City Field encompassed about 0.6 square miles or 380 acres of proved land, with 400 wells (1000 original, some abandoned) or .4 acres per well (typically 4 to 8 acres per well was the economic limit). Of most importance is the effect this field had on the industry, attracting many due to its peculiar location to downtown Los Angeles. The discovery of the Los Angeles City Oil Field would soon lead to other fields being discovered throughout the Los Angeles Basin during the early 20th Century, including the proving of seven giant fields, with the Los Angeles Basin area becoming one of the major oil-producing areas in the world. The Los Angeles City Oil Field continues to remain active today, albeit wells continue to be abandoned, and concerns regarding vapor migration creating a significant risk to public health, safety and welfare exist. The Los Angeles City oil field would become the largest producer in California, and the world, in the late 19th Century, and although other fields yet to be discovered would prove to be larger, the Los Angeles City oil field was the most influential producing field in California’s oil history.


Scandal: A Short History Of The Teapot Dome Affair
Herman K. Trabish
2763 Mary Street, La Crescenta, CA 91214

ABSTRACT: In the Roaring Twenties, the Teapot Dome scandal was infamous. Albert B. Fall, Republican President Warren Harding’s Secretary of the Interior, allowed drilling of oil reserves in the Elk Hills of south-central California and on the central Wyoming high plains near a curiously teapot-shaped rock formation. These lands were legislatively protected during the preceding Roosevelt, Taft and Wilson administrations. Gifford Pinchot, Theodore Roosevelt’s Forest Service chief and the father of modern environmentalism, prodded Democrat and progressive Senators into an investigation. Thorough Senate and legal inquiry exposed Secretary Fall, a colorful Westerner, and those involved in the drilling deals, millionaire oil industry pioneers Harry Sinclair and Edward Doheny. Unmatched until the Watergate and Clinton-Lewinsky affairs, the Teapot Dome hearings and trials, with notorious personalities, nefarious events and racy revelations, made headline fodder for a decade. Procedurally, the Teapot Dome investigations stand as a landmark in the use of congressional and special prosecutorial power.


Timetable Of Petroleum Geology
Gerard V. Middleton1
School of Geography and Geology, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario L8S 4K1, Canada
1Address correspondence to: 90 St Margaret’s Rd, Ancaster, ON L9G 2K9, Canada

ABSTRACT: The essence of petroleum geology as a science is the study of the origin, migration, and trapping of petroleum. As professional prospectors, petroleum geologists traditionally mistrusted theories about origin and migration and relied on discovering traps, based largely on case histories and use of geophysical techniques combined with knowledge of structural and stratigraphic geology. The theoretical foundations of petroleum geology developed slowly but were outlined in the 1930s and began to be widely used in prospecting in the late 1950s and 1960s, particularly as a result of a better understanding of thermal maturation of source rocks. The concept of a “petroleum system” that was part of a larger “basin analysis,” became dominant in the 1970s.


The Occurrence And Exploitation Of Malaysian Oil & Gas Resources
Harwant Singh
Faculty of Resource Science and Technology, University Malaysia Sarawak, 94300 Kota Samarahan, Sarawak, Malaysia

ABSTRACT: The discovery of hydrocarbon resources in Malaysia dates back to more than a century ago. The subsequent exploration and pursuance of the development of the hydrocarbon resources has given rise to what is referred as a mature oil and gas resource industry that has grown into a multi-billion dollar venture. An importance watershed since the beginning of the exploration and production, in keeping with the global developments, was the assumption of ownership by the state of this resource as a national asset followed by a thrust in tapping this highly profitable resource to fulfill its energy needs and for proceeds. Subsequently, growth of its exploitation through exploration and development followed turning it into major economic sector that fueled further growth. This article explains the occurrence – through the geology, traces its exploration history, examines the present exploration, development and production, as well as, the financial investments in the technology for the exploitation of this resource.


Pre-Modern History Of Bitumen, Oil And Gas In Persia (Iran)
Rasoul Sorkhabi
Energy & Geoscience Institute
University of Utah, 423 Wakara Way, Suite 300, Salt Lake City, UT 84108

ABSTRACT: Naft (naphtha), a Persian-Arabic word for petroleum, was derived from the Akkadian-Assyrian napatu (to flare up); qir (bitumen) in Persian was derived from the Greek root, keros (wax); and Mummy has come from the Persian words mum (wax) and mumiya (soft, pure bitumen) on account that bitumen was used for embalming. Herodotus described an oil well near Susa in southwest Iran in ca. 450 B.C. There are abundant historical records of seepages in many parts of the historical Persian Empire, including those at Hit and al-Qayyärah (in Mesopotamia), Susiana (Khuzestan province), Däräbjird and Arrajän (in Far province), southern Caspian (Mäzenderän province), and Baku and Apsheron (in Azerbaijan province). Many of the Zoroastrian fire-temples (atesh-kadeh) were located in areas which contained large petroleum seepages. Muslim scholars used alembic to distill white oil, and suggested an inorganic origin for the formation of petroleum and other minerals involving the interaction of the Four Elements and the combination of sulfur and mercury. A 14th century Persian geographer, Mustawfi Qazwini, considered that water brought oil to the surface. Oil and bitumen were used in various ways in ancient Iran: (1) as mortar in ziggurats (tower temples), city walls and water gutters; (2) in fire-temples; (3) to caulk boats; (4) to manufacture water-proof containers; (5) as fire-hurling weapons; (6) in fireworks; (7) as oil lamp; (8) for lubricating wheels; (9) to glue and cement gemstones in artifacts and decorations; (10) for cleaning dirty spots from clothes (using white oil); (11) for heating (and probably cooking); and (12) as medicine.