May 1st, 1860 – West Virginia Shows Promise in Petroleum

In May 1860, John Castelli Rathbone located oil at a stream named Burning Springs Run, in present-day West Virginia. This discovery is credited with beginning of the petroleum industry in the state.

The well, named the Rathbone Well, had a depth of 300 feet and produced 100 oil barrels per day day. The discovery also marked the first boom that began outside of the state of Pennsylvania and lead to almost 600 oil leases in the area by the end of the year.

Historians credit these events as the start of the gas and oil industry in America. They also lead to West Virginia ultimately becoming a state in 1863.

May 1st, 1916 – Sinclair Oil is Formed

In 1916, a number of struggling oil properties, leases, and five small refineries were acquired for rock-bottom prices by a man named Harry Ford Sinclair. This marked the official formation of Sinclair Oil and Refining Corporation, which would go on to be one of the most notable oil companies of its kind.

Based in New York, Sinclair Oil and Refining reached over $9 million in net income in the first year alone, after Sinclair was able to produce over 6 million oil barrels in a matter of months. In 1932, there were able to reach a capacity of 150,000 oil barrels per day.

The company started using a Brontosaurus (now known as an Apatosaurus) on labels and advertising in 1930. The Jurassic era giant featured in the “Dinoland” area at the New York World’s Fair amazed visitors. It appeared in 1934 and again 1964, helping the company to blossomed into one of the most recognized names in the American oil industry.

May 1st, 2001 – Conoco Oil Pioneers Exhibit

On May 1st, 2001, the “Conoco Oil Pioneers of Oklahoma Plaza,” was officially opened at the Sam Noble Museum on the University of Oklahoma’s campus.

The educational exhibit details the history of the state of Oklahoma and the impact the oil industry had on its development, highlighting how the two are intrinsically linked. The people honored in the exhibit were pioneers that made significant contributions to the state and the oil industry.

The plaza also pays homage to the “King of he Wildcatters,” Tom Slick. The former landman and geologist was responsible for several big discoveries in the area, including the founding of the high-producing Cushing-Drumright Oilfield.

May 3rd, 1870 – Patent for “Yellow Dog” Safety Lamp

In 1870, Johnathen Dillen received a patent for his safety derrick lamp, the “Yellow Dog.”  The safety lamp was actually a lantern with two wicks that was used in America’s first oilfields.

The lamp was designed to illuminate areas around derricks and machinery where explosions were more common. The lamp was designed to be safer than traditional lanterns in these high-risk environments.

There is still some debate over where the lamp got its name, but most think that it is because when lit, the two wicks looked like a dog’s yellow eyes in the night.

May 4th, 1869 – Patent for Offshore Drilling Rig

In 1869, Thomas Rowland was granted a patent for his “submarine drilling apparatus,” marking the first American patent for an offshore drilling rig. Rowland owned a company in Greenpoint, New York called Continental Iron Works. Experts claim that this patent inspired the technology we use for offshore exploration today. Rowland’s design was a worked, fixed platform to be used in offshore drilling at up to a 50-foot depth.

Even though the rig was meant to work in shallow waters, the tower resembled more modern fixed platforms used today. Both Rowland and Continental Iron Works became big names in petroleum tank construction and design. In 1947, as technology improved, wells were drilled offshore in the Gulf of Mexico.

In 1882 the American Society of Civil Engineers established the Thomas Fitch Rowland Prize to pay homage to his innovation and his contributions to the industry.

May 5th, 1889 – Large Indiana Refinery Built Outside Chicago

In May 1889 the Standard Oil Company began construction on their new oil refinery in Whiting, Indiana, a community located just minutes outside of downtown Chicago.

The 235-acre complex used processes that John D. Rockefeller initiated just a few years prior. It was the largest refinery in America when it was completed. BP now owns the complex.

This refinery used newly patented technology and processed “sour crude,” a sulfurous material found Ohio oilfields. It was later transported on railroads controlled by Rockefeller. Soon after, the refinery was producing kerosene used in home lamps, as public demand for the fuel increased.

May 7th, 1920 – Halliburton Company

Erle P. Halliburton founded the Halliburton Company in Wilson, Oklahoma on May 7th, 1920. At the time, it was a cementing and well service company, but it eventually expanded into the New Method Oil Cementing Company, after the “Burkburnett” oil boom.

Using cement in the drilling of wells is still critical in the industry. This is because injecting it in the well protects casing, minimizes the possibility of a blowout and seals off the water formation.

In 1922, a mixer called “jet-cement” was patented. This increased both the quality and speed of mixing. Seventeen Halliburton trucks began servicing Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas and Oklahoma by the end of that year.

This company also launched new innovative cement pumps. Rather than being powered by rig boiler steam, they got their power from truck motors. This allowed a formation to be tested without casing being set. The Halliburton Company provided the first cementing units that were self-contained. They also operated on that contained power source. Soon after, cementing technology continued to become more advanced.

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