November 28 – In today’s oilfield of heart-wrenching anxiety over the policies of the Biden administration, historians find the example of the ancient West Texas savages inspiring because today’s industry is grounded in their minds indomitable.
Historians Pat McDaniel and Kathy Shannon say that with little determination and rudimentary technology, the wildcatters would occasionally hit 10 dry holes in a row before finally making the big splash.
“In those days, the savages of western Abilene made this part of the world important to the oil and gas industry,” McDaniel, director of the Haley Memorial Library and the J. Evetts Haley History Center, told Midland. “CT McLaughlin brought in many wells on its Diamond M Ranch in Snyder, and George HW Bush, Earle Craig, Toby Hilliard, Pomeroy Smith and Ed Leede brought Eastern cultural influence to the early 1960s.
“OC ‘Kip’ Harper was one of the first oil scouts who literally camped out while studying surface geology. Clayton Williams was a wildcatter in the vein of the old wildcatters. He went on the No. gas strike. 2 Gataga in 1975 in Loving County near Mentone, but then the bankers and accountants caught him and he had to think about how to sustain the growth.
“It was hit and miss. They knew after they drilled wells and got core samples that there was a sedimentary basin. They didn’t have the benefits of seismic information, but they used surface geology to start and got lucky in the 1950s and hit the Spraberry Field, which was pretty shallow. “
McDaniel said the wildcatters “might hit one in 10, but they never started a project without believing they would make a well.
“The odds were stacked against them,” he said. “If they found a field, they would grow in there and then come out where the edges were. At that time, a well didn’t pay off very quickly. Midland and Odessa didn’t have much going for them. everything until the post-war 1950s, when they started to develop these oil fields and give work to the GIs who stayed here. diversify their investments.
“They were drilling with rotary bits right after the invention of rotary bits in 1933. Now they have all this information from downhole technology guided by GPS. . “
McDaniel said other prominent early figures were William M. Fuller, Cogdell’s breeding family, Fred Hogan, who built the Hogan Building in 1928 and provided much-needed office space where the Yucca Theater is now in the center. town of Midland, and Clarence Scharbauer, who built the Scharbauer Hotel in 28, “where many oil and cow deals were made.
“Then Jack Wilkinson Sr. built a lot of high rise buildings to give these oil companies office space,” he said. “The key things needed to make this work were office space, transportation and money. Oil is a commodity subject to the vagaries of the markets, but the savages were not afraid to take risks and they were smart enough to do their homework and succeed.
“It took a particular type of personality to see the opportunities and then decide to go out and take their risks, to take those opportunities.”
After the First National Bank of Midland failed in 1983 amid the worst oil crisis the basin has ever seen, McDaniel said, most major oil companies fled in 1986 when oil prices fell below of $ 10 per barrel. “A lot of people thought it was the end of this part of the world, but it only opened up opportunities for independent producers like Joe Parsley and his partner Howard Parker,” he said, adding that Parker & Parsley Petroleum had merged with Mesa. Inc. in 1997 to form Pioneer Natural Resources.
“In the early years of oil exploration, a relationship of co-dependency developed between the farmer and the oil tanker. The rancher held the key to the development of the minerals below his surface and the tanker held the key to the wealth produced by the development of these minerals.
“Sometimes there was a strained relationship between the two, but in the end, they all benefited from it.”
Shannon, executive director of the Permian Basin Petroleum Museum, said Sid Richardson, Mack Chase, the John E. Mabee family and the Martin Yates family in eastern New Mexico also hold a significant place in the story. “They had a never give up attitude,” Shannon said.
“They just kept cutting and pulling something out of nothing. The first geologists believed that the earth had oil reserves. It was hard to find, but they did it after OC Harper’s maps gave them a better idea of where to drill.
“Sid Richardson didn’t know how many dry holes he drilled before he hit his first well.”
Shannon said the basin’s start as a global oil and gas hub was the 1922 initiative of investor Frank Pickrell and driller Carl Cromwell near Big Lake in Reagan County to form Texon Oil & Land Co. and spend 646 days drilling the well-named Santa Rita No. 1, named for “the saint of impossible causes” and making only 4.7 feet of daily progress, eventually hitting the dolomitic sands and causing bubbles to appear. natural gas just before the oil blows 3,050 feet.
“The first oil wells were very shallow and when they learned to drill 10,000 and 12,000 feet, the basin became a field of natural gas, not so much oil,” she said. “The Santa Rita set it in motion and helped turn it into an oilfield. Fracking the shale brought it back to oil, which they knew was there. They just couldn’t extract it. “
Shannon said another crucial development was the construction by 1950 of 15,000 miles of pipelines to bring oil and gas to Gulf Coast markets. “George Mitchell understood how fracking and the Jim Henry group perfected it with smooth or soapy water in the early 2000s,” she said.