This will appear in the Farmerville Gazette, Farmerville, Louisiana, USA Week Of 10/20/2014.

There are few things that excite my imagination as much as Oil. I’m not thinking of cooking oil or olive oil. What I am referring to is mineral oil, petroleum, black gold, Texas T and the excitement is more than just dollar signs. This is one product that covers the full spectrum of science, history, commerce, engineering, politics, war and intrigue.
The history of oil began millions of years ago when the world had many shallow seas made of nutrient rich warm waters. These seas were teaming in life and microscopic animals and plants swarmed the warm waters. Over time these microscopic flora and fauna died and sank to the bottom of the seas, decomposed and oil formed. Over time mud settled over the seas and over time turned to stone and thus the oil was finally trapped under thousands of feet of rock. When working in Arabia, our Vice President of Exploration, a Shreveport native, told me that he could not imagine what it must have been like in that part of the world to have produced so much oil in such a relatively small area. Here was a man that had spent his life in the oil patch and was the vice president of the largest oil producing company in the world and still found fascination in the science of oil.
For millions of years oil sat for the most part undisturbed buried thousands of feet beneath the surface of the earth. There were a few places where it bubbled to the surface. American Indians would put it on themselves to act as an insect repellent. Ice age mammals fell into tar pits and remained buried until paleontologist retrieved the remains. Most famous of these pits is the LaBrea Tar Pits in the middle of Las Angeles. The oil patch was quiet until the world grew up and the Industrial Revolution spawned a new breed of man, the industrialist.
We view the beginning of oil development as the Texas oil baron standing on a vast prairie with oil derricks and pumps in the background. Actually oil production began in Russia in the early 1800s and by 1900 it produced half the world’s production. The American oil industry began in earnest in 1859 when Drake drilled the first modern well in Titusville, Pennsylvania. Then Spindle Top in East Texas followed by finds such as Smackover in Arkansas gave rise to the oil boom in America. In the first quarter of the 1900s the United States became the world’s largest oil producer but not without individualist that were willing to take a chance.
In 1870 America was beginning to bloom and flex its’ muscles. In a mere twenty-five years the United States would be viewed in shock and amazement as it defeated mighty Spain and became a world power overnight. In 1970 a young entrepreneur and members of his family started Standard Oil of Ohio. Due to state restrictions this industrialist, John D. Rockefeller, was forced to form other oil companies at the state level. Companies such as Standard Oil of California and Standard Oil of New Jersey were formed. Eventually Rockefeller controlled all aspects of the oil industry by virtue of development and acquisition. He would control all this under one large holding company. He owned vast oil reserves, produced it, transported it, refined it and ultimately sold it. As magnificent as his development was, the monopoly was recognized by Washington and ultimately was broken up. So immense was the corporation that many of our commonly known gas stations had a common ancestry. Standard Oil of New Jersey became Exxon; Standard Oil of New York became Mobil; Standard Oil of California became Chevron; plus numerous other break-ups and mergers of both oil companies and pipeline transport companies.
As great as Standard Oil of California was, there was a new discovery that even that company alone could not manage. In 1933 Standard Oil of California (now Chevron) obtained a succession to drill for oil in Saudi Arabia. After three years of no success it sold 50% to Texaco. Then Dammam #7 was drilled and with production of 1,500 barrels a day the rest became history. The fields were two big to develop and in 1948 Exxon and Mobil bought into the company that was named Aramco. Eventually Aramco became the largest company in the world and Saudi Arabia bought out the four American oil companies.
How ironic that after decades of decline, American ingenuity has once again shown up and we are about to again be the largest oil producer in the world. Proud to have been a part of this journey. If you want a good perspective of the early days of oil, visit the Oil and Brine Museum in Smackover.


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