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Black Gold in California: The Story of the California Petroleum Industry

An illustrated history of California's oil and gas industry paired with the histories of companies that have helped shape the industry.

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BLACK GOLD IN CALIFORNIA<br />

<strong>The</strong> <strong>Story</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>California</strong> <strong>Petroleum</strong> <strong>Industry</strong><br />

by Robert D. Francis, Ph.D.<br />

A publication <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

<strong>California</strong> Independent<br />

<strong>Petroleum</strong> Association


Thank you for your <strong>in</strong>terest <strong>in</strong> this HPNbooks publication. For more <strong>in</strong>formation about o<strong>the</strong>r<br />

HPNbooks publications, or <strong>in</strong>formation about produc<strong>in</strong>g your own book with us, please visit www.hpnbooks.com.


BLACK GOLD IN CALIFORNIA<br />

<strong>The</strong> <strong>Story</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>California</strong> <strong>Petroleum</strong> <strong>Industry</strong><br />

by Robert D. Francis, Ph.D.<br />

A publication <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

<strong>California</strong> Independent <strong>Petroleum</strong> Association<br />

HPNbooks<br />

A division <strong>of</strong> Lammert Incorporated<br />

San Antonio, Texas


DEDICATION<br />

CIPA would like to dedicate this book to Phil Ryall,<br />

retired petroleum geologist and historian, who<br />

helped <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> research <strong>of</strong> this project.<br />

Phil Ryall with Daphne Fletcher at <strong>the</strong> CIPA Golf Out<strong>in</strong>g held at <strong>the</strong> Bakersfield Country Club <strong>in</strong><br />

November 2014. Mr. Ryall had many good friends <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> oil <strong>in</strong>dustry!<br />

First Edition<br />

Copyright © 2016 HPNbooks<br />

All rights reserved. No part <strong>of</strong> this book may be reproduced <strong>in</strong> any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, <strong>in</strong>clud<strong>in</strong>g photocopy<strong>in</strong>g, without permission <strong>in</strong> writ<strong>in</strong>g<br />

from <strong>the</strong> publisher. All <strong>in</strong>quiries should be addressed to HPNbooks, 11535 Galm Road, Suite 101, San Antonio, Texas, 78254. Phone (800) 749-9790, www.hpnbooks.com.<br />

ISBN: 978-1-944891-13-8<br />

Library <strong>of</strong> Congress Card Catalog Number: 2016943636<br />

<strong>Black</strong> <strong>Gold</strong> <strong>in</strong> <strong>California</strong>: <strong>The</strong> <strong>Story</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>California</strong> <strong>Petroleum</strong> <strong>Industry</strong><br />

author: Robert D. Francis, Ph.D.<br />

cover photographer: Greg Iger<br />

contribut<strong>in</strong>g writer for “Shar<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong> Heritage”: Joe Goodpasture<br />

HPNbooks<br />

president: Ron Lammert<br />

project manager: Daphne Fletcher<br />

assistant project manager: Anita Andersen<br />

adm<strong>in</strong>istration: Donna M. Mata, Melissa G. Qu<strong>in</strong>n<br />

book sales: Dee Steidle<br />

production: Col<strong>in</strong> Hart, Evelyn Hart, Glenda Tarazon Krouse<br />

Tim Lippard, Christopher D. Sturdevant<br />

<strong>The</strong> <strong>California</strong> Independent <strong>Petroleum</strong> Association would like to thank <strong>the</strong> Chevron Corporation for donat<strong>in</strong>g pictures used <strong>in</strong> this publication.<br />

PRINTED IN SOUTH KOREA<br />

BLACK GOLD IN CALIFORNIA: <strong>The</strong> <strong>Story</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>California</strong> <strong>Petroleum</strong> <strong>Industry</strong><br />

2


CONTENTS<br />

5 PROLOGUE<br />

6 CHAPTER ONE Dawn: 1850 to 1900<br />

30 CHAPTER TWO A New Era Beg<strong>in</strong>s: 1900 to 1920<br />

62 CHAPTER THREE Between <strong>the</strong> Wars<br />

82 CHAPTER FOUR Peace, Prosperity and Change<br />

98 CHAPTER FIVE <strong>The</strong> Path to <strong>the</strong> Future: 1980 to Present<br />

113 MUSEUMS AND MONUMENTS: TRACES OF CALIFORNIA’S PAST<br />

118 BIBLIOGRAPHY<br />

120 SHARING THE HERITAGE<br />

274 SPONSORS<br />

276 ABOUT THE AUTHOR<br />

276 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS<br />

Union Oil Company <strong>of</strong> <strong>California</strong>, unknown date.<br />

PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF THE PETRU CORPORATION.<br />

CONTENTS<br />

3


Howard Supply Company<br />

3824 Buck Owens Boulevard<br />

Bakersfield, <strong>California</strong> 93308<br />

661-324-9721<br />

www.howard-supply.com<br />

<strong>California</strong> Resources Corporation<br />

9200 Oakdale Avenue<br />

Los Angeles, <strong>California</strong> 91311<br />

818-661-6000<br />

www.crc.com<br />

LEGACY SPONSORS<br />

Through <strong>the</strong>ir generous support,<br />

<strong>the</strong>se companies helped to make<br />

this project possible.<br />

Cav<strong>in</strong>s Oil Well Tools<br />

2598 East 28th Street<br />

Signal Hill, <strong>California</strong> 90755<br />

562-424-8564<br />

www.cav<strong>in</strong>s.com<br />

JD Rush Company<br />

5900 East Lerdo Highway<br />

Shafter, <strong>California</strong> 93263<br />

661-392-1900<br />

www.jdrush.com<br />

Petrol Transport, Inc.<br />

5502 South Granite Road<br />

Bakersfield, <strong>California</strong> 93308<br />

661-393-6514<br />

www.petroltransport<strong>in</strong>c.com<br />

BLACK GOLD IN CALIFORNIA: <strong>The</strong> <strong>Story</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>California</strong> <strong>Petroleum</strong> <strong>Industry</strong><br />

4


PROLOGUE<br />

<strong>The</strong> history <strong>of</strong> petroleum <strong>in</strong> <strong>California</strong> beg<strong>in</strong>s 10 to 18 million years ago, dur<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong> Miocene<br />

Epoch, <strong>in</strong> a land lost <strong>in</strong> time. Volcanoes, long s<strong>in</strong>ce vanished, laid down ash deposits a mile thick.<br />

Our deserts were <strong>the</strong>n grassland and forest. Camels, rh<strong>in</strong>os, flam<strong>in</strong>goes, and little Merychippus,<br />

<strong>the</strong> three-foot-tall ancestor <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> modern horse, roamed <strong>the</strong> land. <strong>The</strong> volcanoes flanked great<br />

ocean bas<strong>in</strong>s that deepened and acted as storehouses for <strong>the</strong> Monterey Formation (Shale), source<br />

<strong>of</strong> nearly all <strong>the</strong> petroleum <strong>in</strong> <strong>California</strong>. Eventually <strong>the</strong>se bas<strong>in</strong>s filled up with sediments; some<br />

became land <strong>in</strong> places that were later given names like San Joaqu<strong>in</strong>, Ventura, Santa Maria, and<br />

Los Angeles. Slowly, organic matter <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> Monterey Formation was released to form oil.<br />

<strong>The</strong>se bas<strong>in</strong>s may be small geographically, and o<strong>the</strong>r places on earth may have yielded more<br />

petroleum, but <strong>California</strong> knows no equal when it comes to concentrated richness <strong>of</strong> deposits close<br />

to <strong>the</strong> surface. What is <strong>the</strong> most prolific prov<strong>in</strong>ce <strong>in</strong> terms <strong>of</strong> barrels <strong>of</strong> oil produced per cubic mile<br />

<strong>of</strong> oil-bear<strong>in</strong>g strata? Saudi Arabia? <strong>The</strong> North Sea? <strong>The</strong> Gulf <strong>of</strong> Mexico? No; it is Los Angeles Bas<strong>in</strong>.<br />

Humans arrived <strong>in</strong> <strong>California</strong>, first Indians and <strong>the</strong>n Europeans. <strong>The</strong>y farmed <strong>the</strong> rich land,<br />

built towns and made lives for <strong>the</strong>mselves. At first <strong>the</strong> <strong>in</strong>calculable treasure beneath <strong>the</strong>ir feet was<br />

unknown to <strong>the</strong>m, although it manifested itself at <strong>the</strong> surface <strong>in</strong> various places as tar seeps or even<br />

rivers <strong>of</strong> asphalt. By 1903 <strong>California</strong> became <strong>the</strong> largest produc<strong>in</strong>g state <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> United States,<br />

peak<strong>in</strong>g at over 1 million barrels a day <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> 1970s. It is still produc<strong>in</strong>g over half a million a day,<br />

mak<strong>in</strong>g it <strong>the</strong> number three state. This great resource would never have been utilized for <strong>the</strong><br />

benefit <strong>of</strong> mank<strong>in</strong>d had it not been for <strong>the</strong> pioneers <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> early petroleum <strong>in</strong>dustry. <strong>The</strong> risktak<strong>in</strong>g,<br />

hard work, and <strong>in</strong>novat<strong>in</strong>g spirit <strong>of</strong> those entrepreneurs are still alive today <strong>in</strong> companies<br />

great and small, which even now are f<strong>in</strong>d<strong>in</strong>g new ways to unlock America’s hidden bounty. This is<br />

a story about people—past and present—who made <strong>the</strong> mighty energy <strong>in</strong>dustry <strong>of</strong> today possible.<br />

Carbonaceous marl unit <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Monterey<br />

Formation (or Shale), Gaviota Beach,<br />

<strong>California</strong>. This rock can conta<strong>in</strong> as much<br />

as twenty-three percent organic carbon,<br />

which is <strong>the</strong> source <strong>of</strong> crude oil. <strong>The</strong> layers<br />

dip steeply to <strong>the</strong> left <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> picture, and are<br />

seen both <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> cliff face, and on <strong>the</strong> beach<br />

where <strong>the</strong>y have been eroded by <strong>the</strong> waves.<br />

<strong>The</strong> formation cont<strong>in</strong>ues <strong>of</strong>fshore, where<br />

it dips to great depths under <strong>the</strong> ocean.<br />

<strong>The</strong> ocean <strong>in</strong> this picture (left background)<br />

is at low tide. Pressure and heat at great<br />

depth turned <strong>the</strong> organic matter <strong>in</strong>to <strong>the</strong><br />

crude oil found <strong>in</strong> many oil fields <strong>in</strong> coastal<br />

and <strong>of</strong>fshore Santa Barbara County.<br />

COURTESY OF PROFESSOR RICHARD BEHL,<br />

CALIFORNIA STATE UNIVERSITY LONG BEACH.<br />

PROLOGUE<br />

5


CHAPTER<br />

ONE<br />

DAWN: 1850-1900<br />

GOLD AND ASPHALT<br />

A time <strong>of</strong> transition. Maricopa (San Joaqu<strong>in</strong><br />

Valley) rail sid<strong>in</strong>g with tank cars and oil<br />

derricks <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> background. Mule-drawn<br />

freight wagons are be<strong>in</strong>g used to carry pipe<br />

to where it is needed.<br />

COURTESY OF CALIFORNIA OIL MUSEUM,<br />

SANTA PAULA, CALIFORNIA.<br />

In <strong>the</strong> 1850s <strong>the</strong> gold rush was already wan<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>in</strong>fant State <strong>of</strong> <strong>California</strong>, although<br />

immigrants cont<strong>in</strong>ued to flow <strong>in</strong> for decades, attracted by <strong>the</strong> fertile land and mild climate.<br />

A major problem <strong>in</strong> those early years <strong>of</strong> statehood was isolation from <strong>the</strong> rest <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Union, even<br />

after <strong>the</strong> open<strong>in</strong>g <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> transcont<strong>in</strong>ental railroad <strong>in</strong> 1869. Coal was America’s ma<strong>in</strong> energy<br />

source for factories and transportation. <strong>California</strong> had to import its coal from <strong>the</strong> East, and high<br />

cost <strong>in</strong>hibited <strong>the</strong> development <strong>of</strong> <strong>in</strong>dustry <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> state. <strong>The</strong> discovery <strong>of</strong> <strong>California</strong>’s own oil<br />

changed all that. Before <strong>the</strong> century was out, <strong>the</strong> state’s railroads were us<strong>in</strong>g petroleum <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

locomotives, factories were us<strong>in</strong>g it <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong>ir furnaces and stationary eng<strong>in</strong>es, and m<strong>in</strong>es <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

motive equipment. <strong>The</strong> <strong>in</strong>dustrial revolution <strong>in</strong> <strong>California</strong> was on. By 1900 everyth<strong>in</strong>g was<br />

new. <strong>California</strong> stood on <strong>the</strong> threshold <strong>of</strong> a dynamic twentieth century <strong>of</strong> <strong>in</strong>dustry, fueled<br />

by petroleum. This chapter is <strong>the</strong> story <strong>of</strong> this remarkable transformation, and <strong>the</strong> n<strong>in</strong>eteenth<br />

century people who made it happen.<br />

For uncounted centuries native people harvested “asphaltum” from seeps and tar pits. <strong>The</strong>y<br />

used it to seal baskets, attach arrowheads to <strong>the</strong>ir shafts, and as glue to make brushes to help<br />

gr<strong>in</strong>d acorn meal. <strong>The</strong> Tongva people, who <strong>in</strong>habited Santa Catal<strong>in</strong>a Island for up to 7,000 years,<br />

probably used bitumen to caulk canoes <strong>in</strong> which <strong>the</strong>y made <strong>the</strong> twenty-five-mile journey to <strong>the</strong><br />

ma<strong>in</strong>land to trade with o<strong>the</strong>r tribes. Spaniards used <strong>the</strong> tar as ro<strong>of</strong><strong>in</strong>g material <strong>in</strong> missions and<br />

o<strong>the</strong>r build<strong>in</strong>gs. “Brea,” or tar, is used today <strong>in</strong> place names all over <strong>the</strong> state, perhaps most famously<br />

at <strong>the</strong> La Brea Tar pits, a natural oil seep <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> Los Angeles Bas<strong>in</strong> that is still active today. For <strong>the</strong><br />

immense Spanish-grant rancheros, ma<strong>in</strong>stays <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> early <strong>California</strong> beef economy, <strong>the</strong> tar seeps<br />

and pits were a nuisance, as <strong>the</strong>y trapped and killed numerous cattle. Navigators <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> early 1800s<br />

were well aware <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> iridescent slicks from seafloor seeps <strong>of</strong>f <strong>the</strong> Santa Barbara Coast.<br />

BLACK GOLD IN CALIFORNIA: <strong>The</strong> <strong>Story</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>California</strong> <strong>Petroleum</strong> <strong>Industry</strong><br />

6


Most <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> early production <strong>of</strong> oil was<br />

from surface seeps or by m<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g ra<strong>the</strong>r than<br />

from drill<strong>in</strong>g wells. Apparently <strong>in</strong> 1855 or 1856,<br />

Andres Pico <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> San Fernando Mission tried<br />

to ref<strong>in</strong>e some heavy seep oil from Pico Canyon<br />

near Newhall. Similar attempts were made<br />

at about <strong>the</strong> same time at Rancho La Brea,<br />

just west <strong>of</strong> a little town called Los Angeles.<br />

A fur<strong>the</strong>r attempt was made at Carp<strong>in</strong>teria,<br />

near Santa Barbara, <strong>in</strong> 1857. Although not<br />

commercially successful, <strong>the</strong>se early <strong>in</strong>stances<br />

presaged <strong>the</strong> later development <strong>of</strong> <strong>California</strong>’s<br />

important oil-produc<strong>in</strong>g districts.<br />

M<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g became <strong>the</strong> ma<strong>in</strong> method <strong>of</strong> extraction<br />

<strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> 1860s. At Asphalto <strong>in</strong> San Joaqu<strong>in</strong><br />

Valley, near what would later be <strong>the</strong> town<br />

<strong>of</strong> McKittrick, shafts and tunnels up to 300<br />

feet deep were sunk <strong>in</strong>to ledges, yield<strong>in</strong>g a<br />

tarry oil. This <strong>the</strong>y could ref<strong>in</strong>e to produce a<br />

bitumen much purer than that from <strong>the</strong><br />

Caribbean island <strong>of</strong> Tr<strong>in</strong>idad, <strong>the</strong>n <strong>the</strong> major<br />

producer <strong>of</strong> asphalt. This material was used<br />

for roads and sidewalks <strong>in</strong> San Francisco, and<br />

as grease to skid logs <strong>in</strong> timber<strong>in</strong>g operations.<br />

One shaft yielded a column <strong>of</strong> solid tar ten<br />

feet high and six feet wide, which was<br />

shipped <strong>in</strong>tact for display <strong>in</strong> San Francisco.<br />

Start<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong> 1861 at Sulphur Mounta<strong>in</strong> near<br />

Ventura, tunnels were drilled at a slightly<br />

uphill angle. <strong>The</strong> m<strong>in</strong>ers made a trough <strong>in</strong> a<br />

tunnel floor with wooden planks, allow<strong>in</strong>g<br />

water and oil to flow out. Tongue-and-groove<br />

redwood boards were used as sid<strong>in</strong>g to seal<br />

<strong>of</strong>f water zones. Tunnel<strong>in</strong>g cont<strong>in</strong>ued for<br />

decades, even after conventional drill<strong>in</strong>g took<br />

over. One tunnel, dug by Union Oil <strong>in</strong> 1890,<br />

was 1,940 feet long. In at least one case,<br />

a mirror was set up to reflect sunlight <strong>in</strong>to<br />

<strong>the</strong> tunnel for alignment purposes. Up to<br />

fifty-four <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>se tunnels were eventually<br />

dug, and some were still produc<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong>to<br />

<strong>the</strong> twenty-first century. In fact, some tunnels<br />

experienced a significant <strong>in</strong>crease <strong>in</strong> production<br />

as a result <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> 1994 Northridge earthquake,<br />

which may have opened up fractures<br />

previously sealed by asphalt.<br />

Above: Entrance to salt marsh tunnel.<br />

COURTESY OF CALIFORNIA OIL MUSEUM,<br />

SANTA PAULA, CALIFORNIA.<br />

Below: Tunnel at Sulphur Mounta<strong>in</strong> with a<br />

mirror at <strong>the</strong> entrance to reflect sunlight <strong>in</strong>.<br />

COURTESY OF STEVE MULQUEEN.<br />

CHAPTER ONE<br />

7


THE<br />

ARE<br />

EXPERTS<br />

STUMPED<br />

Above: Oil seepage on road cut near<br />

Santa Paula. <strong>The</strong> oil is very viscous and<br />

slow flow<strong>in</strong>g because <strong>the</strong> lighter components<br />

have been lost through evaporation.<br />

PHOTO BY AUTHOR.<br />

Below: Portion <strong>of</strong> Ventura County show<strong>in</strong>g<br />

Spanish grant ranchos <strong>in</strong>vestigated by<br />

Pr<strong>of</strong>essor Silliman, <strong>in</strong>clud<strong>in</strong>g Rancho Ojai.<br />

Sulphur Mounta<strong>in</strong>, where tunnels were dug<br />

for oil, is located <strong>in</strong> Rancho Ojai.<br />

COURTESY OF STEVE MULQUEEN, MODIFIED.<br />

Right after <strong>the</strong> Drake Well was drilled<br />

<strong>in</strong> Titusville, Pennsylvania, <strong>in</strong> 1859, <strong>the</strong> first<br />

attempts were made to produce oil commercially<br />

by drill<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong> <strong>California</strong>. <strong>The</strong> first<br />

well, drilled <strong>in</strong> Humboldt County <strong>in</strong> 1861,<br />

was dry. <strong>The</strong> first produc<strong>in</strong>g well was drilled<br />

near <strong>the</strong> town <strong>of</strong> Petrolia <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> same county<br />

<strong>in</strong> 1865. <strong>The</strong> <strong>in</strong>itial shipment <strong>of</strong> about 100<br />

gallons <strong>of</strong> ref<strong>in</strong>ed, light oil is said to have<br />

sold <strong>in</strong> San Francisco for $1.40 a gallon.<br />

Small amounts <strong>of</strong> up to fifteen barrels<br />

were shipped <strong>in</strong>termittently for <strong>the</strong> next<br />

two years.<br />

Such was <strong>the</strong> state <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> petroleum <strong>in</strong>dustry<br />

<strong>in</strong> <strong>California</strong> when, <strong>in</strong> April 1864, a<br />

pr<strong>of</strong>essor <strong>of</strong> chemistry and geology from<br />

Yale named Benjam<strong>in</strong> Silliman, Jr., arrived<br />

from <strong>the</strong> East. He came at <strong>the</strong> behest <strong>of</strong> ano<strong>the</strong>r<br />

easterner, f<strong>in</strong>ancier Thomas A. Scott, to <strong>in</strong>vestigate<br />

oil possibilities <strong>in</strong> <strong>California</strong>, Nevada,<br />

and Arizona. Hav<strong>in</strong>g written a report that<br />

had encouraged <strong>in</strong>vestors <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> Drake Well<br />

<strong>in</strong> Pennsylvania, Pr<strong>of</strong>essor Silliman was highly<br />

reputed as a consultant to <strong>the</strong> oil <strong>in</strong>dustry.<br />

Silliman wrote reports on several Spanish<br />

grant estates, <strong>in</strong>clud<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong> 18,000 acre<br />

Rancho Ojai near Ventura. He spoke glow<strong>in</strong>gly<br />

and with some hyperbole about seeps, call<strong>in</strong>g<br />

<strong>the</strong>m “natural wells” and “rivers <strong>of</strong> oil.” Large<br />

pools <strong>of</strong> underground oil had been found<br />

by drill<strong>in</strong>g near seeps <strong>in</strong> Pennsylvania,<br />

and Silliman thought <strong>the</strong> same would be<br />

true <strong>in</strong> <strong>California</strong>. <strong>The</strong> Ojai report formed<br />

part <strong>of</strong> a prospectus for Scott’s <strong>California</strong><br />

<strong>Petroleum</strong> Company.<br />

Scott’s prospectus was prescient <strong>in</strong> that it<br />

claimed, <strong>in</strong> 1864, that oil would replace coal<br />

as <strong>the</strong> source <strong>of</strong> illum<strong>in</strong>ant. It also correctly<br />

predicted that <strong>the</strong> market for <strong>California</strong> oil<br />

would <strong>in</strong>clude <strong>the</strong> whole Pacific region as<br />

far as Australia. Silliman recognized, although<br />

he did not name, <strong>the</strong> Monterey Formation as<br />

<strong>the</strong> source rock, an important step <strong>in</strong> understand<strong>in</strong>g<br />

<strong>the</strong> geological habitat <strong>of</strong> oil <strong>in</strong><br />

<strong>California</strong>. He said that <strong>the</strong> prospects for Ojai<br />

were better than those for Titusville before<br />

<strong>the</strong> Drake Well was drilled. Unfortunately,<br />

this highly optimistic prediction was based<br />

on ra<strong>the</strong>r cursory observations <strong>of</strong> seeps and<br />

surface geology, sometimes made from a<br />

buggy or <strong>the</strong> saddle <strong>of</strong> a horse.<br />

A small boom, with several companies<br />

be<strong>in</strong>g created and shallow wells be<strong>in</strong>g drilled,<br />

occurred largely on <strong>the</strong> strength <strong>of</strong> Silliman’s<br />

rosy projections. However, none <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> wells<br />

produced commercially. <strong>The</strong> end <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Civil<br />

War <strong>in</strong> 1865 and <strong>in</strong>creased production <strong>in</strong><br />

Pennsylvania that drove prices down soon<br />

arrested <strong>the</strong> little boom. Silliman was accused<br />

<strong>of</strong> mislead<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong>vestors with an overoptimistic<br />

report. <strong>The</strong>re were even charges that he<br />

BLACK GOLD IN CALIFORNIA: <strong>The</strong> <strong>Story</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>California</strong> <strong>Petroleum</strong> <strong>Industry</strong><br />

8


falsified chemical analyses <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> oil to make<br />

it appear more valuable. Silliman was forced<br />

to resign his chemistry pr<strong>of</strong>essorship at Yale.<br />

Eventually all <strong>of</strong> his predictions would be<br />

more than v<strong>in</strong>dicated, but that would be<br />

decades <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> future.<br />

<strong>California</strong>’s complex geology and <strong>the</strong><br />

nature <strong>of</strong> its oil presented problems that<br />

Silliman and <strong>the</strong> o<strong>the</strong>r easterners could not<br />

have anticipated. Unlike <strong>the</strong> more or less<br />

“layer cake” geology <strong>of</strong> Pennsylvania, oilproduc<strong>in</strong>g<br />

beds <strong>in</strong> <strong>California</strong> are folded and<br />

faulted <strong>in</strong>to contorted shapes. Oil might<br />

travel up a dipp<strong>in</strong>g bed or fault to a seep.<br />

A well drilled next to such a seep would<br />

miss <strong>the</strong> deep pool by a wide marg<strong>in</strong>. Even<br />

if <strong>the</strong>y did f<strong>in</strong>d oil, <strong>the</strong> early explorers<br />

were <strong>of</strong>ten defeated by <strong>the</strong> chemistry <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

<strong>California</strong> crude, which made it almost<br />

impossible to ref<strong>in</strong>e by <strong>the</strong> methods <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

day. <strong>The</strong> ma<strong>in</strong> product <strong>of</strong> ref<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong> those<br />

days was kerosene, which was used for<br />

illum<strong>in</strong>ation. <strong>The</strong> heavy oil yielded a much<br />

lower percentage <strong>of</strong> kerosene than <strong>the</strong> light<br />

Pennsylvania oil, and <strong>the</strong> kerosene it did<br />

produce was <strong>of</strong> low quality for illum<strong>in</strong>ation<br />

purposes. <strong>The</strong> smelly, smoke-produc<strong>in</strong>g stuff<br />

ignited at an unsafe low temperature. It would<br />

sell only when <strong>the</strong> pure, eastern variety was<br />

<strong>in</strong> short supply and expensive.<br />

NEWHALL: FROM GOLD<br />

TO BLACK GOLD<br />

In 1842, a certa<strong>in</strong> Francisco Lopez was<br />

supposedly napp<strong>in</strong>g under an oak tree <strong>in</strong><br />

Placerita Canyon, near what would become<br />

Newhall <strong>in</strong> nor<strong>the</strong>rn Los Angeles County.<br />

He dreamt that he was float<strong>in</strong>g on a pool <strong>of</strong><br />

gold, <strong>the</strong>n woke up and proceeded to unearth<br />

some wild onions on whose roots he found<br />

little flakes <strong>of</strong> gold. This aptly named canyon<br />

thus became <strong>the</strong> scene <strong>of</strong> <strong>California</strong>’s first<br />

“gold rush,” six years before <strong>the</strong> big strike<br />

at Sutter’s Mill. This little rush was soon<br />

forgotten, and Placerita Canyon went on to<br />

become a scene <strong>of</strong> Hollywood westerns. But<br />

<strong>the</strong>re was someth<strong>in</strong>g else <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> ground, still<br />

unknown and untapped, far more fabulous<br />

than gold or movies. Lopez is said to have<br />

played a role <strong>in</strong> that discovery too.<br />

<strong>The</strong> Newhall area with its many canyons<br />

was at <strong>the</strong> eastern edge <strong>of</strong> what was to become<br />

a swath <strong>of</strong> oil country stretch<strong>in</strong>g to <strong>the</strong> rich<br />

Ventura fields on <strong>the</strong> coast. Although part<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> region orig<strong>in</strong>ally touted by Pr<strong>of</strong>essor<br />

Silliman <strong>in</strong> 1864, Newhall was not targeted<br />

by Scott because it was public land and<br />

could not be purchased like <strong>the</strong> ranchos to<br />

<strong>the</strong> west. This left Andres Pico and o<strong>the</strong>r<br />

locals, <strong>in</strong>clud<strong>in</strong>g Lopez, to pursue <strong>the</strong> seeps<br />

Oil produc<strong>in</strong>g region stretch<strong>in</strong>g from<br />

Newhall to Ventura and beyond. Present<br />

day oil fields (green) and gas fields (red)<br />

are shown. Pico Canyon was discovered <strong>in</strong><br />

1876, Adams Canyon <strong>in</strong> 1888. <strong>The</strong> first<br />

<strong>of</strong>fshore well <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> U.S. was drilled at<br />

Summerland <strong>in</strong> 1897. Grey l<strong>in</strong>es are <strong>the</strong><br />

present system <strong>of</strong> highways and freeways.<br />

CHAPTER ONE<br />

9


Top and <strong>in</strong>set: CSO Hill, named after<br />

<strong>California</strong> Star Oil Works Co., as it<br />

appears today (top), and <strong>in</strong> 1893 (<strong>in</strong>set).<br />

<strong>The</strong> Pico No. 4 discovery well is located<br />

<strong>of</strong>f-frame, about 500 feet to <strong>the</strong> left <strong>of</strong> where<br />

this picture was taken. Virtually noth<strong>in</strong>g<br />

rema<strong>in</strong>s <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> derricks, bridge, shacks and<br />

shop build<strong>in</strong>gs. <strong>The</strong> almost vertically<br />

dipp<strong>in</strong>g beds <strong>of</strong> sandstone, and <strong>the</strong><br />

ruggedness <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> terra<strong>in</strong>, were big<br />

problems for <strong>the</strong>se early, <strong>in</strong>trepid drillers.<br />

INSET PHOTO COURTESY OF CHEVRON USA.<br />

MODERN PHOTO BY AUTHOR.<br />

<strong>the</strong>y knew about <strong>in</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> canyons. Pico, <strong>the</strong><br />

son <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> last Mexican<br />

governor <strong>of</strong> <strong>California</strong>,<br />

Pio Pico, teamed up<br />

with Edward F. Beale.<br />

Pico had been leader<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Mexican army<br />

at <strong>the</strong> Battle <strong>of</strong> San<br />

Pasqual, and Beale was <strong>the</strong> leader <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

Americans. After Mexico lost <strong>the</strong> war Pico<br />

decided to stay on <strong>in</strong> <strong>California</strong>, and <strong>the</strong> two<br />

old soldiers became friends. <strong>The</strong>y and several<br />

o<strong>the</strong>rs <strong>in</strong>clud<strong>in</strong>g Colonel R. F. Baker harvested<br />

oil from pits and shallow hand-dug wells.<br />

Soon, more explorers arrived with <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

primitive drill<strong>in</strong>g rigs. In 1868 Francisco<br />

Lopez apparently showed H. C. Wiley,<br />

Sanford Lyon, and W. W. Jenk<strong>in</strong>s a seep <strong>in</strong><br />

Pico Canyon. This group drilled a well us<strong>in</strong>g<br />

a “spr<strong>in</strong>g pole” rig, which consisted <strong>of</strong> a<br />

fulcrum hold<strong>in</strong>g a flexible tree trunk with<br />

stirrups at one end <strong>in</strong> which men placed <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

feet to push <strong>the</strong> bit up and down. An emerald<br />

green oil was found. A few o<strong>the</strong>r wells<br />

were drilled, but at this time most <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

production was still from pits and surface<br />

seepages. Canyon Country today is littered<br />

with place names from <strong>the</strong>se early oil pioneers:<br />

Wiley Canyon, Lyon’s Station, and o<strong>the</strong>rs.<br />

Dr. V<strong>in</strong>cent Gelcich, <strong>the</strong> coroner <strong>in</strong> Los<br />

Angeles and an <strong>in</strong>-law <strong>of</strong> Pico, was part owner<br />

<strong>of</strong> a m<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g claim <strong>in</strong> one <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> canyons and<br />

wanted to build a ref<strong>in</strong>ery for <strong>the</strong> Newhall oil.<br />

In 1872 he went to San Francisco to promote<br />

oil over coal as a source for illum<strong>in</strong>at<strong>in</strong>g gas.<br />

A company called Metropolitan Gas works<br />

was dedicated to this idea and had built a<br />

ref<strong>in</strong>ery on Channel Street. Unfortunately,<br />

Metropolitan had two larger competitors that<br />

used coal, and price cutt<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong> 1873 doomed<br />

<strong>the</strong> lightly capitalized company.<br />

Gelcich saw greener pastures back <strong>in</strong> his<br />

home town, Los Angeles, where he touted<br />

<strong>the</strong> idea <strong>of</strong> a ref<strong>in</strong>ery. He got <strong>the</strong> editor <strong>of</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> Los Angeles Star to publish a telegram<br />

about a new oil strike at Newhall, alleg<strong>in</strong>g<br />

that a ref<strong>in</strong>ery venture could realize a pr<strong>of</strong>it <strong>of</strong><br />

70 percent. Soon, <strong>the</strong> Los Angeles <strong>Petroleum</strong><br />

Ref<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g Company was set up with local<br />

banker F. P. F. Temple as president, and<br />

Gelcich, Beale, Baker, and Pio Pico as major<br />

stockholders. By <strong>the</strong> end <strong>of</strong> 1873, construction<br />

<strong>of</strong> a ref<strong>in</strong>ery was underway at Lyon’s<br />

station (or Petroliopolis), near Newhall.<br />

In April 1874, <strong>the</strong> ref<strong>in</strong>ery had been built<br />

and was process<strong>in</strong>g oil hauled <strong>in</strong> on wagons<br />

from Pico Canyon, eight miles away. Initial<br />

newspaper reports optimistically said that<br />

<strong>the</strong> kerosene was purer than that from<br />

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Above: Shop build<strong>in</strong>gs, sheds, and shacks<br />

that <strong>the</strong> workers lived <strong>in</strong> were crowded <strong>in</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> narrow Pico Canyon with derricks<br />

and pumps.<br />

COURTESY OF CHEVRON USA.<br />

Left: Inside <strong>the</strong> blacksmith shop at<br />

Pico Canyon. Damaged or worn drill<strong>in</strong>g<br />

tools had to be repaired on site. Bits<br />

and o<strong>the</strong>r tools were <strong>of</strong>ten improvised or<br />

<strong>in</strong>vented from scratch to meet <strong>the</strong> peculiar<br />

needs <strong>of</strong> a well.<br />

COURTESY OF CHEVRON USA.<br />

CHAPTER ONE<br />

11


Above: Demetrius G. Sc<strong>of</strong>ield, schoolmate<br />

<strong>of</strong> Mentry <strong>in</strong> Pennsylvania, was one <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

founders <strong>of</strong> CSOW, and later was chairman<br />

<strong>of</strong> Standard Oil <strong>of</strong> <strong>California</strong>.<br />

PHOTO COURTESY OF CHEVRON USA.<br />

Pennsylvania. Soon, however, <strong>the</strong>se pronouncements<br />

were replaced with silence. As<br />

<strong>in</strong> previous attempts, <strong>the</strong> kerosene was <strong>of</strong><br />

poor quality, and <strong>the</strong> ref<strong>in</strong>ery shut down less<br />

than a year later. Several more attempts were<br />

made, some employ<strong>in</strong>g dubious “black box”<br />

methods. Companies came and went. F<strong>in</strong>ally,<br />

a ref<strong>in</strong>er from Pennsylvania named Joseph A.<br />

Scott arrived <strong>in</strong> January 1876 with his<br />

own secret process. His trip was paid for by<br />

Reuben Denton, who became <strong>the</strong> first San<br />

Franciscan to make a substantial <strong>in</strong>vestment<br />

<strong>in</strong> Newhall oil. Scott managed to produce<br />

kerosene that was better than any produced<br />

previously <strong>in</strong> <strong>California</strong>. Even though it still<br />

was not <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> quality <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Pennsylvania<br />

product, its cheap price made it marketable.<br />

<strong>The</strong> arrival <strong>of</strong> Denton and eventually o<strong>the</strong>r<br />

large <strong>in</strong>vestors on <strong>the</strong> scene changed everyth<strong>in</strong>g.<br />

Previously, it was hard to get <strong>in</strong>vestors<br />

<strong>in</strong>terested. Most <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>in</strong>vestors before 1876<br />

were from Los Angeles, a little town <strong>of</strong> 8,000<br />

people, and <strong>the</strong>re was not enough money to<br />

really make a go <strong>of</strong> it. Not only was <strong>the</strong> crude<br />

difficult to ref<strong>in</strong>e, <strong>the</strong> area was quite remote.<br />

<strong>The</strong>re was no railroad, and <strong>the</strong> only way to<br />

get a vehicle to Los Angeles was through<br />

Beale’s narrow, one-way toll road with 29<br />

percent grades cut n<strong>in</strong>ety feet <strong>in</strong>to a mounta<strong>in</strong><br />

pass. More <strong>in</strong>vestment was needed. <strong>The</strong> obvious<br />

source was San Francisco (population<br />

200,000), <strong>the</strong> prime market for illum<strong>in</strong>ants.<br />

F<strong>in</strong>ally, Denton and Pennsylvania oil man<br />

Demetrius G. Sc<strong>of</strong>ield got San Francisco<br />

<strong>in</strong>vestors toge<strong>the</strong>r to form <strong>the</strong> <strong>California</strong><br />

Star Oil Works company (CSOW). Charles<br />

Mentry, a driller from Pennsylvania who was<br />

already active <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> area, was hired by<br />

Sc<strong>of</strong>ield. Hav<strong>in</strong>g drilled three wells with a<br />

spr<strong>in</strong>g pole that found small amounts <strong>of</strong> oil,<br />

Mentry now brought <strong>in</strong> a steam eng<strong>in</strong>e to<br />

power his rig. That made all <strong>the</strong> difference.<br />

On September 26, 1876, Mentry’s famous<br />

Pico No. 4 hit pay dirt at 370 feet, produc<strong>in</strong>g<br />

25 barrels a day. This was <strong>the</strong> first commercial<br />

well <strong>in</strong> <strong>California</strong>. Amaz<strong>in</strong>gly, it was also <strong>the</strong><br />

longest cont<strong>in</strong>ually produc<strong>in</strong>g commercial<br />

well <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> world <strong>in</strong> 1989 when it was shut <strong>in</strong><br />

after 113 years <strong>of</strong> production. It opened up<br />

<strong>the</strong> Newhall area, which was <strong>the</strong>n <strong>the</strong> state’s<br />

most prolific producer. And it spawned a<br />

little community, now a well-preserved ghost<br />

town, Mentryville, named after <strong>the</strong> resourceful<br />

and determ<strong>in</strong>ed driller.<br />

Right: <strong>The</strong> Newhall ref<strong>in</strong>ery as it appeared<br />

<strong>in</strong> 1880, a few years after it was moved<br />

to a new site next to <strong>the</strong> Sou<strong>the</strong>rn Pacific<br />

Railroad. <strong>The</strong> year 1880 was also <strong>the</strong> year<br />

a new ref<strong>in</strong>ery was built on San Francisco<br />

Bay, so this picture shows <strong>the</strong> Newhall<br />

facility at <strong>the</strong> height <strong>of</strong> its operation.<br />

COURTESY OF CHEVRON USA.<br />

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Slowly, problems were overcome<br />

one by one. <strong>The</strong> orig<strong>in</strong>al<br />

ref<strong>in</strong>ery was enlarged and moved<br />

a few miles to be next to <strong>the</strong><br />

Sou<strong>the</strong>rn Pacific Railroad, whose<br />

newly completed Bakersfield-Los<br />

Angeles route passed nearby <strong>in</strong><br />

1876. <strong>The</strong> kerosene was still <strong>of</strong><br />

ra<strong>the</strong>r low quality, and <strong>in</strong> 1878<br />

J. A. Scott was let go. A vex<strong>in</strong>g<br />

problem that still rema<strong>in</strong>ed was controversy<br />

over <strong>the</strong> titles to <strong>the</strong> land <strong>in</strong> Pico Canyon. This<br />

was caused largely by <strong>the</strong> use <strong>of</strong> m<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g laws<br />

to file claims, which did not work well for<br />

oil properties. From 1878 on <strong>the</strong> future <strong>of</strong><br />

CSOW was clouded by a series <strong>of</strong> lawsuits<br />

between it and <strong>the</strong> duo <strong>of</strong> Beale and Baker.<br />

Until <strong>the</strong> dispute was settled <strong>the</strong> value <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

company was <strong>in</strong> doubt, and its ability to<br />

attract <strong>in</strong>vestors and ma<strong>in</strong>ta<strong>in</strong> its activities<br />

was <strong>in</strong>hibited. <strong>The</strong> stalemate cont<strong>in</strong>ued until<br />

much bigger money appeared on <strong>the</strong> scene,<br />

represented by Charles N. Felton.<br />

Arriv<strong>in</strong>g from New York <strong>in</strong> 1849 at <strong>the</strong> age<br />

<strong>of</strong> 17, Felton would <strong>in</strong> time become one <strong>of</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> outstand<strong>in</strong>g f<strong>in</strong>ancial and political leaders<br />

<strong>of</strong> n<strong>in</strong>eteenth century <strong>California</strong>. Attracted to<br />

<strong>the</strong> goldfields like so many o<strong>the</strong>rs he made<br />

his fortune not by m<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g but by be<strong>in</strong>g a<br />

merchant and banker <strong>in</strong> gold country towns<br />

like Marysville and Nevada City. He also<br />

served as an undersheriff and tax collector <strong>in</strong><br />

Yuba County, and was later elected to <strong>the</strong> State<br />

Assembly. Mov<strong>in</strong>g to San Francisco <strong>in</strong> 1863,<br />

Felton soon jo<strong>in</strong>ed <strong>the</strong> circle <strong>of</strong> <strong>in</strong>fluential<br />

f<strong>in</strong>anciers <strong>of</strong> Nob Hill. By 1868 he was<br />

<strong>the</strong> Treasurer <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> San Francisco M<strong>in</strong>t. Later<br />

<strong>in</strong> life he would become a Congressman<br />

and <strong>the</strong>n a U.S. Senator. It seems that Felton<br />

became <strong>in</strong>terested <strong>in</strong> oil around 1877 by<br />

events at Moody Gulch near San Jose. In a<br />

few years his attention was directed south to<br />

<strong>the</strong> Newhall area.<br />

Felton represented f<strong>in</strong>ancial <strong>in</strong>terests far<br />

more weighty than those <strong>of</strong> Denton, Sc<strong>of</strong>ield<br />

and <strong>the</strong> o<strong>the</strong>rs. In 1879 he founded Pacific<br />

Coast Oil Company (PCO), probably for <strong>the</strong><br />

express <strong>in</strong>tention <strong>of</strong> tak<strong>in</strong>g over CSOW. <strong>The</strong><br />

presence <strong>of</strong> this large moneyed <strong>in</strong>terest may<br />

have prompted Beale and Baker to make a<br />

deal. PCO quickly took over CSOW and<br />

made it a subsidiary. This comb<strong>in</strong>ation would<br />

Above and <strong>in</strong>set: Newhall ref<strong>in</strong>ery as it<br />

appears today. Two <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> orig<strong>in</strong>al stills<br />

rema<strong>in</strong>. <strong>The</strong> plaque (<strong>in</strong>set) on one <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

stills says that <strong>the</strong> site was restored by<br />

Standard <strong>in</strong> 1930.<br />

PHOTOGRAPHS BY AUTHOR.<br />

Below: Charles Felton, <strong>the</strong> f<strong>in</strong>ancier who<br />

founded Pacific Coast Oil Company (PCO).<br />

COURTESY OF CHEVRON USA.<br />

CHAPTER ONE<br />

13


MENTRYVILLE<br />

Driv<strong>in</strong>g west just a few miles on Lyons Avenue from <strong>the</strong> <strong>Gold</strong>en State Freeway is<br />

a trip from <strong>the</strong> modern bedroom community <strong>of</strong> Santa Clarita to a nearly forgotten<br />

past. This was a past when steam was <strong>the</strong> motive power, travel was slow and<br />

difficult, and one had to f<strong>in</strong>d or make <strong>the</strong> necessities <strong>of</strong> life very close at hand. In <strong>the</strong><br />

1870s <strong>the</strong> oil field workers lived <strong>in</strong> cab<strong>in</strong>s or even tents among <strong>the</strong> derricks. Pico<br />

Canyon was narrow, and <strong>in</strong> addition to <strong>the</strong> wells was crowded with <strong>the</strong> field <strong>of</strong>fice,<br />

a mach<strong>in</strong>e shop, storage sheds, and <strong>the</strong> workers’ shacks. <strong>The</strong> nearest “big city,”<br />

Newhall (population about 50), was seven miles away, which would have been quite<br />

a hike to get to work every day. Eventually <strong>the</strong> build<strong>in</strong>gs got <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> way <strong>of</strong> oil field<br />

operations, and a little company town was set up about a mile and a half down<br />

<strong>the</strong> canyon. <strong>The</strong> town was orig<strong>in</strong>ally called “Pico,” but soon acquired <strong>the</strong> name<br />

Mentryville. <strong>The</strong>re was a board<strong>in</strong>g house for <strong>the</strong> s<strong>in</strong>gle men, and little redwood<br />

cab<strong>in</strong>s scattered about for men who had families. <strong>The</strong>re was a bakery, and a stage<br />

came twice a day. <strong>The</strong> stage owner was probably happy about <strong>the</strong> town rule aga<strong>in</strong>st<br />

liquor as it undoubtedly gave him a lot <strong>of</strong> passengers want<strong>in</strong>g to go to <strong>the</strong> “Derrick”<br />

saloon <strong>in</strong> Newhall. Recreation <strong>in</strong> Mentryville consisted <strong>of</strong> dances, picnics, tennis,<br />

and box-lunch socials.<br />

Alex Mentry built a f<strong>in</strong>e Pennsylvania-style mansion, with thirteen rooms, gas<br />

chandeliers, gas fireplaces, pull-cha<strong>in</strong> toilets, alabaster wash bas<strong>in</strong>s, and no electricity<br />

until 1948. This house was occupied by Mentry and his successors <strong>of</strong>f and on until<br />

1994. With wives came children, and that meant a school had to be built. <strong>The</strong> school<br />

and <strong>the</strong> mansion, along with barns and a few o<strong>the</strong>r build<strong>in</strong>gs, still stand.<br />

After <strong>the</strong> oil field was abandoned <strong>in</strong> 1989 PCO’s successor Chevron donated<br />

<strong>the</strong> town and surround<strong>in</strong>g land to <strong>the</strong> Santa Monica Mounta<strong>in</strong>s Conservancy. Now<br />

a well-preserved ghost town, Mentryville is used for movies, wedd<strong>in</strong>gs and<br />

o<strong>the</strong>r events. Up <strong>the</strong> canyon is a replica <strong>of</strong> an old wooden derrick, some discarded<br />

equipment, and a monument at <strong>the</strong> location <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> famous Pico No. 4 well, which<br />

is on <strong>the</strong> National Historic Register. Mentryville <strong>in</strong> a sense lives on, serv<strong>in</strong>g as a<br />

rem<strong>in</strong>der <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> pioneer days <strong>of</strong> petroleum.<br />

BLACK GOLD IN CALIFORNIA: <strong>The</strong> <strong>Story</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>California</strong> <strong>Petroleum</strong> <strong>Industry</strong><br />

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Opposite: Mentry’s mansion.<br />

PHOTO BY THE AUTHOR.<br />

Above: Mentryville from <strong>the</strong> air. A good<br />

portion <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> population seems to be pos<strong>in</strong>g<br />

for <strong>the</strong> picture.<br />

COURTESY OF CHEVRON USA.<br />

Left: Mentryville today.<br />

PHOTO BY THE AUTHOR.<br />

CHAPTER ONE<br />

15


Right: N<strong>in</strong>eteenth and twentieth century<br />

oil fields: <strong>The</strong> many, shallow (mostly less<br />

than 1,600 feet) wells are closely spaced<br />

<strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> narrow, rugged Pico Canyon.<br />

By comparison, <strong>the</strong> Newhall-Potrero Field<br />

just to <strong>the</strong> north, discovered <strong>in</strong> 1937, has<br />

much deeper produc<strong>in</strong>g zones (6,400 to<br />

14,500 feet) and more widely spaced wells.<br />

MAP MODIFIED FROM THE CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF<br />

OIL, GAS, AND GEOTHERMAL RESOURCES (DOGGR).<br />

Below: <strong>The</strong> first field discovered <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

Los Angeles Bas<strong>in</strong> was at Puente Hills <strong>in</strong><br />

1880. It was later comb<strong>in</strong>ed with o<strong>the</strong>r<br />

discoveries as one field, Brea-Ol<strong>in</strong>da.<br />

<strong>The</strong> next two fields discovered <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> Los<br />

Angeles Bas<strong>in</strong> were Los Angeles City (1892)<br />

and Whittier (1896). This was only <strong>the</strong><br />

beg<strong>in</strong>n<strong>in</strong>g. Gray l<strong>in</strong>es on this and<br />

subsequent maps represent <strong>the</strong> present-day<br />

freeway system for geographic reference.<br />

later form an <strong>in</strong>tegral part <strong>of</strong> what would<br />

eventually be called Chevron. <strong>The</strong> first<br />

pipel<strong>in</strong>e <strong>in</strong> <strong>California</strong> was completed <strong>in</strong> 1879,<br />

a 7 mile, 2 <strong>in</strong>ch affair to carry oil to <strong>the</strong> ref<strong>in</strong>ery.<br />

By <strong>the</strong> 1880s Newhall production was up to<br />

100,000 barrels a year.<br />

In 1880 a new ref<strong>in</strong>ery was opened by<br />

PCO at Alameda on San Francisco Bay to handle<br />

oil from newly completed wells at Moody<br />

Gulch. Much <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Newhall oil also went to<br />

Alameda. In 1890 <strong>the</strong> Newhall ref<strong>in</strong>ery was<br />

closed. By 1900, when Charles Mentry<br />

died, 70 wells had been drilled. Ano<strong>the</strong>r 28<br />

wells were drilled after 1900, <strong>the</strong> last one <strong>in</strong><br />

1969. Production cont<strong>in</strong>ued <strong>in</strong> several o<strong>the</strong>r<br />

canyons, among <strong>the</strong>m De Witt, Townsley,<br />

Wiley, and Rice. Production cont<strong>in</strong>ues today<br />

<strong>in</strong> Potrero Canyon, just two miles from <strong>the</strong><br />

orig<strong>in</strong>al Pico Canyon Field, as well as at<br />

<strong>the</strong> site <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> orig<strong>in</strong>al gold rush, Placerita<br />

Canyon. Pico Canyon produced about 3<br />

million barrels <strong>in</strong> its lifetime, and as <strong>of</strong> 2009<br />

all <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> canyons around Newhall had<br />

produced over 150 million.<br />

BOOM AND BUST<br />

<strong>The</strong> 1876 discovery at Newhall led to <strong>the</strong><br />

first real <strong>California</strong> oil boom about four years<br />

later. Annual production <strong>of</strong> 12,000 to 15,000<br />

barrels <strong>in</strong> 1876-1878 rose to almost 100,000<br />

by 1881. Until about 1885 most <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> oil came<br />

from Newhall. <strong>The</strong> 1880s saw discoveries <strong>in</strong><br />

rapid succession: Puente Hills sou<strong>the</strong>ast <strong>of</strong><br />

Los Angeles, Summerland <strong>in</strong> Santa Barbara<br />

County, and Adams Canyon near Santa Paula.<br />

<strong>The</strong>n <strong>the</strong>re were <strong>the</strong> first glimmers <strong>of</strong> what<br />

was to come <strong>in</strong> San Joaqu<strong>in</strong> Valley. Production<br />

soared to nearly 700,000 barrels <strong>in</strong> 1888.<br />

BLACK GOLD IN CALIFORNIA: <strong>The</strong> <strong>Story</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>California</strong> <strong>Petroleum</strong> <strong>Industry</strong><br />

16


Oil was discovered <strong>in</strong> 1880 <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> Puente<br />

Hills by drill<strong>in</strong>g 100 foot wells near seeps<br />

along <strong>the</strong> crest <strong>of</strong> a tightly folded anticl<strong>in</strong>e,<br />

much like that <strong>of</strong> Pico Canyon. This was <strong>the</strong><br />

next oil field discovered <strong>in</strong> Los Angeles<br />

County after Newhall. <strong>The</strong>se early shallow<br />

wells yielded heavy crude and production was<br />

small. In a few years deeper wells were be<strong>in</strong>g<br />

drilled. Very light oil (API gravity 30 to 35)<br />

was produced, show<strong>in</strong>g that light oil could be<br />

found <strong>in</strong> <strong>California</strong> by drill<strong>in</strong>g deep. By 1900<br />

about 60 wells had been drilled to an average<br />

depth <strong>of</strong> about 1,200 feet. Until 1894 most <strong>of</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> oil was shipped to Los Angeles. After that<br />

it was shipped to Ch<strong>in</strong>o to be ref<strong>in</strong>ed, <strong>the</strong><br />

residuum be<strong>in</strong>g supplied as a fuel to a nearby<br />

sugar beet factory. This is an example <strong>of</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> supplant<strong>in</strong>g <strong>of</strong> coal by oil as a fuel for<br />

steam eng<strong>in</strong>es. O<strong>the</strong>r discoveries were made<br />

at Ol<strong>in</strong>da <strong>in</strong> 1897 and Brea <strong>in</strong> 1899.<br />

Ultimately <strong>the</strong>se and o<strong>the</strong>r fields merged <strong>in</strong>to<br />

<strong>the</strong> Brea-Ol<strong>in</strong>da Field as all <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>in</strong>terven<strong>in</strong>g<br />

areas were proven productive.<br />

Oil seeps along <strong>the</strong> coast sou<strong>the</strong>ast <strong>of</strong> Santa<br />

Barbara had been long known by <strong>the</strong><br />

Chumash people. Prospectors dug for oil,<br />

f<strong>in</strong>d<strong>in</strong>g a heavy (API gravity 7) oil that had<br />

little commercial value. <strong>The</strong> first well, drilled<br />

<strong>in</strong> 1886, found sub-commercial amounts <strong>of</strong><br />

lighter oil. A small strike was made near <strong>the</strong><br />

little coastal town <strong>of</strong> Summerland, and by<br />

1894 derricks dotted <strong>the</strong> beaches and bluffs<br />

nearby. Correctly surmis<strong>in</strong>g that <strong>the</strong> field<br />

extended <strong>of</strong>fshore, drillers began build<strong>in</strong>g<br />

piers for <strong>the</strong>ir derricks <strong>in</strong> 1897; <strong>the</strong>se were<br />

<strong>the</strong> first <strong>of</strong>fshore oil wells <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> United States.<br />

<strong>The</strong> Sou<strong>the</strong>rn Pacific rail l<strong>in</strong>e from Los Angeles<br />

to Santa Barbara ran right through <strong>the</strong><br />

Summerland Oil Field. <strong>The</strong> railroad decided<br />

to fuel <strong>the</strong>ir locomotives with <strong>the</strong> field’s heavy<br />

oil ra<strong>the</strong>r than with coal. One pier was built<br />

1,230 feet <strong>in</strong>to <strong>the</strong> ocean with 19 wells along<br />

it to produce oil for <strong>the</strong> tra<strong>in</strong>s.<br />

<strong>The</strong> first real oil wells <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> San Joaqu<strong>in</strong><br />

Valley were drilled <strong>in</strong> 1878 and 1879 near<br />

<strong>the</strong> future town <strong>of</strong> McKittrick, where asphalt<br />

had been m<strong>in</strong>ed for more than ten years.<br />

<strong>The</strong>se early wells were not very successful.<br />

F<strong>in</strong>ally <strong>in</strong> 1887 <strong>the</strong> Wild Goose well came<br />

<strong>in</strong> at 10 barrels a day and <strong>the</strong> oil field town<br />

<strong>of</strong> “Oil City” existed for a few years. <strong>The</strong>n<br />

<strong>in</strong> 1889 <strong>the</strong> discovery well was drilled <strong>in</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> Sunset Field. Rail l<strong>in</strong>es were extended<br />

to McKittrick. All <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>se developments foretold<br />

a bright future for oil <strong>in</strong> San Joaqu<strong>in</strong><br />

Valley, but by 1889 and 1890 <strong>the</strong> oil <strong>in</strong>dustry<br />

<strong>in</strong> <strong>California</strong> was depressed. <strong>The</strong> real breakthroughs<br />

<strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> valley came later when <strong>the</strong><br />

next boom was already go<strong>in</strong>g strong:<br />

<strong>the</strong> Shamrock Gusher at McKittrick (1896),<br />

<strong>the</strong> Blue Goose Gusher at Coal<strong>in</strong>ga (1898),<br />

and <strong>the</strong> Kern River discovery (1899).<br />

Perhaps <strong>the</strong> most important strike <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

1880s was near Santa Paula <strong>in</strong> Ventura County.<br />

This discovery led to <strong>the</strong> found<strong>in</strong>g <strong>of</strong> one <strong>of</strong><br />

<strong>California</strong>’s greatest oil companies, Union Oil,<br />

produced <strong>the</strong> first gusher <strong>in</strong> <strong>California</strong>, and<br />

f<strong>in</strong>ally gave truth to Silliman’s twenty-year-old<br />

vision <strong>of</strong> “rivers <strong>of</strong> oil.” It is also a story <strong>of</strong> one<br />

man, Lyman Stewart, who risked everyth<strong>in</strong>g,<br />

made and lost many fortunes, overcame sickness<br />

and defeated determ<strong>in</strong>ed opposition.<br />

Stewart was <strong>the</strong> one whose dogged persistence<br />

carried <strong>the</strong> day for Union Oil. Stewart<br />

also had <strong>the</strong> vision to help prod <strong>California</strong>’s<br />

<strong>in</strong>dustries to convert from coal to oil, and he<br />

Top, left: Central Oil Company had 2,700<br />

acres <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> Puente Hills near Whittier, and<br />

by 1900 had 800 wells. It was one <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

more prom<strong>in</strong>ent companies <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> field.<br />

This photograph was taken <strong>in</strong> 1895.<br />

COURTESY OF THE CALIFORNIA STATE LIBRARY.<br />

Top, right: Wooden derricks on piers,<br />

Summerland. This is where <strong>the</strong> first <strong>of</strong>fshore<br />

well was drilled <strong>in</strong> 1897. By <strong>the</strong> time this<br />

photo was taken many piers had been built,<br />

with multiple derricks on each pier. By 1939<br />

all <strong>of</strong> this had been washed away by storms.<br />

COURTESY OF CALIFORNIA OIL MUSEUM,<br />

SANTA PAULA, CALIFORNIA.<br />

Below: Lyman Stewart.<br />

COURTESY OF CALIFORNIA OIL MUSEUM,<br />

SANTA PAULA, CALIFORNIA.<br />

CHAPTER ONE<br />

17


Above: Oil field <strong>in</strong> a canyon near<br />

Santa Paula, look<strong>in</strong>g down a steep tramway<br />

that was used to br<strong>in</strong>g workers <strong>in</strong> and out<br />

each day. This illustrates <strong>the</strong> rugged<br />

topography that <strong>the</strong> early oil developers<br />

had to negotiate.<br />

COURTESY OF CALIFORNIA OIL MUSEUM,<br />

SANTA PAULA, CALIFORNIA.<br />

Opposite, top: Oil wells on small ledges<br />

atop cliffs.<br />

COURTESY OF CALIFORNIA OIL MUSEUM,<br />

SANTA PAULA, CALIFORNIA.<br />

Opposite, bottom: Santa Paula <strong>in</strong> 1889.<br />

This is right after <strong>the</strong> Adams No. 16 gusher<br />

<strong>of</strong> 1888 and before <strong>the</strong> found<strong>in</strong>g <strong>of</strong><br />

Union Oil <strong>in</strong> 1890.<br />

COURTESY OF CALIFORNIA OIL MUSEUM,<br />

SANTA PAULA, CALIFORNIA.<br />

formed a company that <strong>in</strong>novated oil field<br />

tools and mach<strong>in</strong>ery for decades.<br />

Lyman Stewart, a man <strong>of</strong> contradictions,<br />

was born <strong>in</strong> 1840 <strong>of</strong> a deeply religious,<br />

Scottish family that was not wealthy, yet<br />

highly respected. Lyman’s fa<strong>the</strong>r was one <strong>of</strong><br />

two tanners <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> rural area <strong>of</strong> western<br />

Pennsylvania that was to become <strong>the</strong> scene<br />

<strong>of</strong> a fantastic oil strike some 19 years later.<br />

Follow<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong> custom <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> times, Lyman<br />

was apprenticed at age 12 to follow <strong>in</strong> his<br />

fa<strong>the</strong>r’s footsteps as a tanner. By 1859,<br />

when <strong>the</strong> famous Drake well was drilled <strong>in</strong><br />

nearby Titusville, 19-year-old Lyman Stewart<br />

was establish<strong>in</strong>g himself as a full-fledged tanner,<br />

but he loa<strong>the</strong>d <strong>the</strong> job. He hated <strong>the</strong> idea <strong>of</strong><br />

spend<strong>in</strong>g his life as a tanner, and wanted to<br />

come up with money to allow him to do<br />

what he really wanted: become a missionary.<br />

Oil seemed <strong>the</strong> answer. He had $125, a<br />

substantial sum for a 19-year-old at that time,<br />

and with partners <strong>in</strong>vested all <strong>of</strong> it <strong>in</strong> an oil<br />

lease. <strong>The</strong> trouble was that <strong>the</strong> partners did<br />

not keep back any money to drill a well, and<br />

<strong>the</strong>y ended up los<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong> lease. Two years later<br />

he had saved enough to <strong>in</strong>vest <strong>in</strong> ano<strong>the</strong>r<br />

lease and actually drilled a well. This time <strong>the</strong><br />

price <strong>of</strong> oil nosedived, and Stewart aga<strong>in</strong> lost<br />

his <strong>in</strong>vestment.<br />

Stewart <strong>the</strong>n spent <strong>the</strong> Civil War <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

Pennsylvania Cavalry. In 1865 he came back<br />

to f<strong>in</strong>d his hometown turned <strong>in</strong>to an oil<br />

boom madhouse. He took a bus<strong>in</strong>ess course<br />

and opened up an oil leas<strong>in</strong>g <strong>of</strong>fice. Of great<br />

advantage was his <strong>in</strong>timate knowledge <strong>of</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> local terra<strong>in</strong> and farmers’ properties. This<br />

priceless asset he had ga<strong>in</strong>ed from his days<br />

as a tanner rid<strong>in</strong>g all over <strong>the</strong> county on<br />

horseback to pick up hides and deliver<br />

lea<strong>the</strong>r. He learned to buy small 1/64 <strong>in</strong>terests<br />

<strong>in</strong> oil leases so that he could spread his capital<br />

and m<strong>in</strong>imize risk. By 1872 Stewart and<br />

his bro<strong>the</strong>r Milton had amassed a fortune <strong>of</strong><br />

$300,000, a pr<strong>in</strong>cely sum <strong>in</strong> those days.<br />

Unfortunately Stewart got <strong>in</strong>volved <strong>in</strong> a<br />

scheme to sell farm implements, and he lost<br />

every penny as well as his house. He was<br />

forced to take a low-pay<strong>in</strong>g job just to support<br />

his family. This might have been <strong>the</strong> end <strong>of</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> story as far as <strong>the</strong> history books are concerned,<br />

but Lyman Stewart was not a quitter.<br />

It seemed as though providential events<br />

occurred <strong>in</strong> Stewart’s life when least expected,<br />

and when <strong>the</strong>y were most needed. Dur<strong>in</strong>g one<br />

BLACK GOLD IN CALIFORNIA: <strong>The</strong> <strong>Story</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>California</strong> <strong>Petroleum</strong> <strong>Industry</strong><br />

18


CHAPTER ONE<br />

19


<strong>of</strong> his plush periods he had befriended two<br />

young bro<strong>the</strong>rs from Ma<strong>in</strong>e, James and<br />

Harvey Hardison, who were oil field laborers<br />

good at fish<strong>in</strong>g for lost drill<strong>in</strong>g tools. Stewart<br />

helped <strong>the</strong>m start a bus<strong>in</strong>ess, and although<br />

he did not pr<strong>of</strong>it monetarily from this, he<br />

made a connection that changed his life. Just<br />

when th<strong>in</strong>gs seemed darkest, a third Hardison<br />

bro<strong>the</strong>r showed up <strong>in</strong> Pennsylvania. Wallace<br />

Hardison, who had made a fortune <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

West from railroad ties, came to meet Stewart<br />

based on k<strong>in</strong>d words about him from his<br />

two bro<strong>the</strong>rs. Wallace proposed a partnership<br />

with Stewart: Stewart knew about <strong>the</strong> oil bus<strong>in</strong>ess,<br />

said Hardison, and he (Hardison) had<br />

<strong>the</strong> money. Stewart’s confidence was restored,<br />

and <strong>the</strong> partners went on to make yet ano<strong>the</strong>r<br />

fortune from oil.<br />

One <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Hardison-Stewart partnership’s<br />

projects was part <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> new field <strong>in</strong> Bradford,<br />

Pennsylvania, which eventually produced<br />

100,000 barrels a day from 7,000 wells. This<br />

k<strong>in</strong>d <strong>of</strong> production, 80 percent <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> U.S.<br />

total <strong>in</strong> 1881, caused <strong>the</strong> price <strong>of</strong> oil to plummet.<br />

Big buyers like John D. Rockefeller’s<br />

Standard Oil monopolized pipel<strong>in</strong>es, railroads,<br />

and o<strong>the</strong>r distribution facilities. <strong>The</strong><br />

wellhead oil price was forced down to a<br />

ru<strong>in</strong>ous 8 cents a barrel. In 1882 Stewart was<br />

approached by I. E. Blake, an acqua<strong>in</strong>tance<br />

who had gone to <strong>California</strong> and gotten<br />

<strong>in</strong>volved <strong>in</strong> Pico Canyon. Blake suggested that<br />

Stewart and Hardison pull up stakes and look<br />

for oil out west. Stewart sold out most <strong>of</strong> his<br />

Pennsylvania <strong>in</strong>terests, netted $70,000, and<br />

made <strong>the</strong> trip <strong>in</strong> 1883. Although Hardison<br />

<strong>in</strong>itially decided to go to Kansas and try his<br />

hand at farm<strong>in</strong>g, he was later persuaded to<br />

rejo<strong>in</strong> Stewart <strong>in</strong> <strong>California</strong>.<br />

Why would Stewart, at age 43, make such<br />

a decision when <strong>the</strong> total production <strong>of</strong> all<br />

<strong>California</strong> fields s<strong>in</strong>ce <strong>the</strong> <strong>in</strong>dustry started was<br />

about equal to what <strong>the</strong> Bradford Field put<br />

out <strong>in</strong> five days? Why would a conservative,<br />

cautious bus<strong>in</strong>essman abandon a sure source<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>in</strong>come for a risky adventure <strong>in</strong> an<br />

unknown place? Probably Blake did not tell<br />

him about <strong>the</strong> complex <strong>California</strong> geology,<br />

or <strong>the</strong> difficulty <strong>in</strong> ref<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong> crude. Stewart<br />

was to f<strong>in</strong>d out <strong>the</strong>se th<strong>in</strong>gs, and more,<br />

for himself. Stewart’s move was probably<br />

<strong>in</strong>fluenced by <strong>the</strong> monopolistic tactics <strong>of</strong><br />

Rockefeller and o<strong>the</strong>rs <strong>in</strong> Pennsylvania. It was<br />

a bold decision, regardless <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> motivation.<br />

It is ano<strong>the</strong>r example <strong>of</strong> Stewart’s risk tak<strong>in</strong>g,<br />

and it caused heartache and seem<strong>in</strong>gly<br />

endless struggles. But it paid <strong>of</strong>f spectacularly.<br />

In <strong>California</strong>, Blake showed Stewart <strong>the</strong><br />

Pico Canyon Field. Stewart saw <strong>the</strong> success <strong>of</strong><br />

BLACK GOLD IN CALIFORNIA: <strong>The</strong> <strong>Story</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>California</strong> <strong>Petroleum</strong> <strong>Industry</strong><br />

20


some <strong>of</strong> his fellow Pennsylvanians, <strong>in</strong>clud<strong>in</strong>g<br />

Mentry, Joseph Scott, and former schoolmate<br />

Demetrius Sc<strong>of</strong>ield. Blake proposed that<br />

Stewart and Hardison sublease unproven land<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Pacific Coast Oil Company and drill<br />

<strong>the</strong>re. Stewart and Hardison ended up drill<strong>in</strong>g<br />

six dry holes <strong>in</strong> Pico Canyon and two o<strong>the</strong>rs<br />

near Santa Paula. Desperately low on funds,<br />

Stewart asked Blake if <strong>the</strong>y could drill on<br />

proven land owned by PCO. Back <strong>in</strong> Pico<br />

Canyon, <strong>the</strong>y spent <strong>the</strong> last <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>ir money to<br />

f<strong>in</strong>ally br<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong> a producer, Star No. 1, at 75<br />

barrels a day. Hav<strong>in</strong>g no money left to develop<br />

<strong>the</strong> field, <strong>the</strong>y had no choice o<strong>the</strong>r than<br />

to take a cash <strong>of</strong>fer from Blake for <strong>the</strong> well.<br />

This taught <strong>the</strong>m ano<strong>the</strong>r lesson: drill your<br />

own leases so that you can make your own<br />

decisions. Stewart and Hardison decided to<br />

use <strong>the</strong> money to make down payments on<br />

m<strong>in</strong>eral leases near Santa Paula, and <strong>the</strong>n<br />

used <strong>the</strong> leases as collateral to borrow money<br />

to drill wells.<br />

In those years oil was be<strong>in</strong>g produced<br />

around Santa Paula mostly from tunnels. <strong>The</strong><br />

first successful well, Old Adams <strong>in</strong> Adams<br />

Canyon, had been drilled <strong>in</strong> 1875 with a<br />

small production <strong>of</strong> 2 or 3 barrels a day. In<br />

1884 Stewart and Hardison drilled several<br />

wells and got a small amount <strong>of</strong> production.<br />

Unfortunately <strong>the</strong>ir first two wells were be<strong>in</strong>g<br />

dra<strong>in</strong>ed by later ones. <strong>The</strong> oil was very<br />

viscous and was useful only for asphalt. <strong>The</strong>n,<br />

<strong>in</strong> 1884, <strong>the</strong>y heard about <strong>the</strong> light oil from<br />

deep drill<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> Puente Field. Ano<strong>the</strong>r<br />

Pennsylvania associate, W. E. Youle, had<br />

drilled a 1,600 foot well <strong>the</strong>re and was visited<br />

by Stewart and Hardison, who wondered<br />

how this oil could be so much lighter than<br />

that from nearby shallow wells. <strong>The</strong>y lacked<br />

modern geological knowledge, yet <strong>the</strong>y could<br />

still test <strong>the</strong> idea <strong>of</strong> drill<strong>in</strong>g deep <strong>in</strong> Adams<br />

Canyon. Return<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong>re <strong>the</strong>y drilled several<br />

more wells with partial success.<br />

F<strong>in</strong>ally, <strong>in</strong> 1888, <strong>the</strong> first gusher <strong>in</strong><br />

<strong>California</strong>, Adams No. 16, came <strong>in</strong> at 500<br />

barrels a day with oil spout<strong>in</strong>g over <strong>the</strong> top<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> derrick. Four years later this modest<br />

gusher was topped by <strong>the</strong> Adams No. 28 at<br />

1,500 barrels a day. This one took <strong>the</strong> drillers<br />

by surprise, and <strong>the</strong>y were unable to conta<strong>in</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> oil. <strong>The</strong> result<strong>in</strong>g river flowed all <strong>the</strong> way<br />

to <strong>the</strong> ocean, <strong>in</strong> a sense validat<strong>in</strong>g Silliman’s<br />

ra<strong>the</strong>r colorful statements <strong>of</strong> twenty-four<br />

years before. This success helped establish <strong>the</strong><br />

Stewart and Hardison partnership as a force <strong>in</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> state’s petroleum <strong>in</strong>dustry, and put Santa<br />

Paula on <strong>the</strong> map as an important oil town.<br />

As important as <strong>the</strong> discoveries at Puente,<br />

Summerland, Adams Canyon, and <strong>the</strong> o<strong>the</strong>r<br />

places were for <strong>the</strong> future, <strong>the</strong> boom was<br />

short-lived, production dropp<strong>in</strong>g more than<br />

50 percent <strong>in</strong> 1889. None<strong>the</strong>less <strong>California</strong><br />

had gotten its first real taste <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> oil bug.<br />

<strong>California</strong> petroleum was becom<strong>in</strong>g more<br />

valuable as its ma<strong>in</strong> use shifted from illum<strong>in</strong>ation<br />

to fuel. New technologies were be<strong>in</strong>g<br />

developed, such as better ref<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g methods,<br />

nozzles to allow oil to efficiently burn <strong>in</strong><br />

boilers, pipel<strong>in</strong>es to move heavy oil, and<br />

tanker-ships. Oil trade with Pacific nations<br />

such as Mexico and <strong>the</strong> K<strong>in</strong>gdom <strong>of</strong> Hawaii<br />

was open<strong>in</strong>g up. <strong>The</strong> debacles <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> 1860s<br />

were becom<strong>in</strong>g dim memories. <strong>The</strong> stage was<br />

set for <strong>the</strong> next boom, ushered <strong>in</strong> by a remarkable<br />

discovery <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> city <strong>of</strong> Los Angeles,<br />

which would dwarf everyth<strong>in</strong>g that had<br />

come before. It would beg<strong>in</strong> a long-term<br />

upward trend <strong>of</strong> production <strong>in</strong> <strong>California</strong><br />

(with short-term fluctuations) that would last<br />

from 1892 until about 1982, when it topped<br />

out at over 420,000,000 barrels a year.<br />

Opposite page: Union Oil ref<strong>in</strong>ery <strong>in</strong><br />

Santa Paula. This ref<strong>in</strong>ery began operations<br />

<strong>in</strong> 1887 under one <strong>of</strong> Union’s predecessor<br />

companies. It rema<strong>in</strong>ed Union’s only<br />

ref<strong>in</strong>ery until <strong>the</strong> more advanced one at<br />

Oleum (San Francisco Bay) was opened<br />

<strong>in</strong> 1896. <strong>The</strong> Santa Paula ref<strong>in</strong>ery was<br />

destroyed by fire just four months later.<br />

COURTESY OF CALIFORNIA OIL MUSEUM,<br />

SANTA PAULA, CALIFORNIA.<br />

Below: Annual oil production <strong>in</strong> <strong>California</strong>,<br />

1875-1900. Dates <strong>of</strong> major discoveries are<br />

shown along <strong>the</strong> bottom. <strong>The</strong> second boom<br />

<strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> 1880s and beg<strong>in</strong>n<strong>in</strong>g <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> third<br />

boom <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> 1890s are shown.<br />

DATA FROM REDPATH, 1900.<br />

CHAPTER ONE<br />

21


THE NEXT BOOM:<br />

LOS ANGELES CITY<br />

AND BEYOND<br />

Right: Edward L. Doheny. After drill<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong><br />

discovery well <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Los Angeles City Field<br />

with Charles A. Canfield, Doheny went on<br />

to develop o<strong>the</strong>r oil fields <strong>in</strong> <strong>California</strong>,<br />

became a prom<strong>in</strong>ent citizen <strong>of</strong> Los Angeles,<br />

and was <strong>in</strong>volved <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> Teapot<br />

Dome scandal.<br />

COURTESY OF THE LOS ANGELES PUBLIC LIBRARY.<br />

Below: Street map <strong>of</strong> Los Angeles (1906)<br />

show<strong>in</strong>g narrow distribution <strong>of</strong> wells<br />

(black and open circles). Vermont Avenue is<br />

on <strong>the</strong> west, Los Angeles River on <strong>the</strong> east,<br />

and Sunset Boulevard on <strong>the</strong> north.<br />

MODIFIED FROM U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY BULLETIN, 1906.<br />

In 1857 a small hand-dug well at Third<br />

and Coronado Streets on <strong>the</strong> west side <strong>of</strong><br />

Los Angeles began provid<strong>in</strong>g heavy oil and<br />

asphaltum to oil <strong>the</strong> streets <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> town. Little<br />

or no o<strong>the</strong>r successful drill<strong>in</strong>g is recorded<br />

until 1890, when prospectors Maltman and<br />

Ruhland achieved production <strong>of</strong> a few barrels<br />

a day. <strong>The</strong>n, <strong>in</strong> 1892, <strong>the</strong> same year as <strong>the</strong><br />

Adams No. 28 gusher, a down-on-his-luck<br />

Colorado prospector named Edward L. Doheny<br />

and his partner Charles A. Canfield began<br />

digg<strong>in</strong>g a shaft on a lot at <strong>the</strong> corner <strong>of</strong> Patton<br />

and Colton Streets. No trace rema<strong>in</strong>s to <strong>in</strong>dicate<br />

<strong>the</strong> spot, now somewhere <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> park<strong>in</strong>g lot<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> municipal Echo Park Swimm<strong>in</strong>g Pool.<br />

This four by six foot shaft was dug with picks<br />

and shovels. <strong>The</strong>y encountered oil seeps as<br />

<strong>the</strong>y dug, but when <strong>the</strong>y reached 155 feet<br />

<strong>the</strong>y had to stop because <strong>of</strong> toxic gas <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

hole. <strong>The</strong>n Doheny used a eucalyptus trunk<br />

with a sharpened end as a percussion drill<br />

to deepen <strong>the</strong> well ano<strong>the</strong>r 70 feet. <strong>The</strong>y hit<br />

<strong>the</strong> oil reservoir, and began produc<strong>in</strong>g seven<br />

barrels a day. Thus began <strong>the</strong> Los Angeles<br />

City Field, which caused <strong>California</strong> production<br />

to skyrocket from under 400,000 barrels<br />

annually <strong>in</strong> 1893 to almost 2 million by 1897.<br />

A real estate promotion had occurred here<br />

a few years before, and <strong>the</strong> whole area had<br />

been subdivided <strong>in</strong>to small lots, some <strong>of</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong>m only 50 by 150 feet. Anyone who<br />

owned a lot and $1,500 could drill a well.<br />

Even without <strong>the</strong> money it could be done<br />

by attract<strong>in</strong>g any <strong>of</strong> a hoard <strong>of</strong> <strong>in</strong>vestors. Of<br />

BLACK GOLD IN CALIFORNIA: <strong>The</strong> <strong>Story</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>California</strong> <strong>Petroleum</strong> <strong>Industry</strong><br />

22


course one would have to drill before <strong>the</strong><br />

neighbors dra<strong>in</strong>ed <strong>the</strong> reservoir. If a neighbor<br />

drilled two wells, a person would drill two,<br />

or even more, on a t<strong>in</strong>y lot, just to keep up.<br />

In three years about 300 wells were sunk,<br />

mostly on a trend to <strong>the</strong> nor<strong>the</strong>ast. When<br />

<strong>the</strong>y reached Victor Street, it appeared as if<br />

a fault term<strong>in</strong>ated <strong>the</strong> productive reservoir,<br />

so <strong>the</strong> prospectors went back to <strong>the</strong> orig<strong>in</strong>al<br />

discovery site and began mov<strong>in</strong>g west. In<br />

1896 ano<strong>the</strong>r discovery was made east <strong>of</strong><br />

Victor Street, near Sisters’ Hospital (near<br />

what is now Elysian Park).<br />

At its peak <strong>the</strong> field was about three miles<br />

long east to west, stretch<strong>in</strong>g from Elysian<br />

Park on <strong>the</strong> east, pass<strong>in</strong>g north <strong>of</strong> Downtown<br />

and south <strong>of</strong> what is now Dodger Stadium,<br />

extend<strong>in</strong>g to about Vermont Avenue on <strong>the</strong><br />

west. <strong>The</strong> field was only about 1,000 feet<br />

wide. Peak production <strong>of</strong> 1.8 million barrels<br />

from about 1,150 wells occurred <strong>in</strong> 1901.<br />

After that production decl<strong>in</strong>ed rapidly.<br />

Only two new wells were drilled after 1915.<br />

By 1961, 93 produc<strong>in</strong>g wells rema<strong>in</strong>ed<br />

and by 2015 only a few stripper wells<br />

were left.<br />

Left: Pumpjack used <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> Los Angeles<br />

City Field. This pumpjack belonged to <strong>the</strong><br />

four-generation Manley Oil Company,<br />

whose Los Angeles City Field operations<br />

were run out <strong>of</strong> a small house built <strong>in</strong> 1887.<br />

This family bus<strong>in</strong>ess lasted 100 years.<br />

<strong>The</strong> pumpjack was used until 1985, when it<br />

had to be removed because authorities said<br />

it was a fire hazard. It was counterbalanced<br />

with an orange crate filled with rocks.<br />

An electric motor supplied power by means<br />

<strong>of</strong> a belt to <strong>the</strong> large wheel <strong>in</strong> front.<br />

PHOTO BY THE AUTHOR, BY PERMISSION OF THE ANTIQUE<br />

GAS AND STEAM ENGINE MUSEUM, VISTA, CALIFORNIA.<br />

Below and <strong>in</strong>set: Los Angeles City Field,<br />

1900 and 2015. Deadend <strong>of</strong> Edgeware<br />

Street at Court Street. <strong>The</strong> old house at<br />

<strong>the</strong> end <strong>of</strong> Edgeware (bottom) has lasted<br />

through an eventful century, while <strong>the</strong><br />

derricks (<strong>in</strong>set) gave way to skyscrapers.<br />

INSET PHOTO LOS ANGELES PUBLIC LIBRARY.<br />

MODERN PHOTO BY THE AUTHOR.<br />

CHAPTER ONE<br />

23


Bim<strong>in</strong>i Baths. <strong>The</strong> street along <strong>the</strong> left side<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> spa is now called Bim<strong>in</strong>i Place. <strong>The</strong><br />

trolley tracks <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> background may still be<br />

seen imbedded <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> street’s pavement and<br />

<strong>in</strong> a private driveway. Rayfield Apartments<br />

on <strong>the</strong> corner still exists.<br />

LOS ANGELES PUBLIC LIBRARY.<br />

In <strong>the</strong> first few years what had been a<br />

residential area became a forest <strong>of</strong> derricks.<br />

In some places one could walk from one<br />

derrick floor to ano<strong>the</strong>r. <strong>The</strong>re were no regulations<br />

at that time about well spac<strong>in</strong>g or<br />

subsurface rights. At one po<strong>in</strong>t <strong>the</strong> city<br />

council restricted <strong>the</strong> drill<strong>in</strong>g <strong>of</strong> oil wells <strong>in</strong><br />

some areas. Suddenly people began drill<strong>in</strong>g<br />

“water wells.” Mishaps unavoidably occurred.<br />

In 1907 an oil tank made <strong>of</strong> redwood burst.<br />

Oil flowed down <strong>the</strong> street <strong>in</strong>to Echo Lake,<br />

where it caught fire and burned for several<br />

days. Crim<strong>in</strong>al behavior, such as steal<strong>in</strong>g<br />

tools, or oil out <strong>of</strong> tanks, was common and<br />

difficult to prevent. Competition was <strong>in</strong>tense<br />

among <strong>the</strong> many operators and sabotage was<br />

not unknown.<br />

One well near Vermont Street never found<br />

oil. Instead, at 1,750 feet, seem<strong>in</strong>gly <strong>in</strong>exhaustible<br />

amounts <strong>of</strong> hot water with dissolved<br />

sodium bicarbonate, prized for m<strong>in</strong>eral<br />

bath<strong>in</strong>g, began flow<strong>in</strong>g. Thus was born<br />

<strong>the</strong> Bim<strong>in</strong>i Bathhouse, which lasted from<br />

1903 until <strong>the</strong> 1950s. Founded by dentist<br />

David W. Edwards, <strong>the</strong> spa was named<br />

after <strong>the</strong> tropical island that was supposed<br />

to have had <strong>the</strong> founta<strong>in</strong> <strong>of</strong> youth. Located<br />

on Bim<strong>in</strong>i Place near Second Street, <strong>the</strong><br />

enormous build<strong>in</strong>g had concrete tanks that<br />

could hold half a million gallons, and large<br />

gates that allowed water to quickly re-fill <strong>the</strong><br />

pools every day. <strong>The</strong>re were over 500 dress<strong>in</strong>g<br />

rooms, separate floors for men and women,<br />

three large pools for athletic swimm<strong>in</strong>g and<br />

BLACK GOLD IN CALIFORNIA: <strong>The</strong> <strong>Story</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>California</strong> <strong>Petroleum</strong> <strong>Industry</strong><br />

24


div<strong>in</strong>g, over 50 private baths, a café, and o<strong>the</strong>r<br />

amenities. Patrons could get Turkish baths,<br />

steam baths, and all sorts <strong>of</strong> “hydropathic”<br />

treatments. Dr. Edwards built a hotel across<br />

<strong>the</strong> street, and supplied it with <strong>the</strong> m<strong>in</strong>eral<br />

water. O<strong>the</strong>r establishments later sprang up<br />

around <strong>the</strong> spa, most notably <strong>the</strong> Palomar<br />

Ballroom, where <strong>the</strong> likes <strong>of</strong> Benny Goodman,<br />

Tommy Dorsey, and Glenn Miller enterta<strong>in</strong>ed.<br />

<strong>The</strong>y had marathon dances <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> street <strong>in</strong><br />

front <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> spa. Bim<strong>in</strong>i was quite a social<br />

spot and all you needed to go <strong>the</strong>re was<br />

trolley fare and <strong>the</strong> $0.25 price <strong>of</strong> admission.<br />

Today <strong>the</strong> old hotel build<strong>in</strong>g soldiers on as<br />

a treatment center for alcoholics. <strong>The</strong> spa is<br />

long gone. <strong>The</strong> only memories are a street<br />

name and old trolley rails imbedded <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

street’s pavement.<br />

<strong>The</strong> boom spawned hundreds <strong>of</strong> oil<br />

companies. <strong>The</strong> Los Angeles Oil Exchange<br />

was founded <strong>in</strong> 1899 to provide a place for<br />

stocks to be bought and sold. Dozens <strong>of</strong><br />

advertisements could be found <strong>in</strong> newspapers<br />

and magaz<strong>in</strong>es. At first only stocks <strong>of</strong><br />

companies with produc<strong>in</strong>g wells were<br />

allowed to be traded. However, <strong>the</strong> public’s<br />

demand for oil stocks, any oil stocks, was<br />

<strong>in</strong>satiable. <strong>The</strong> <strong>California</strong> Oil and Stock<br />

Exchange, founded <strong>in</strong> 1900, decided to<br />

<strong>in</strong>clude non-produc<strong>in</strong>g companies; later <strong>the</strong><br />

Los Angeles Oil Exchange followed suit. <strong>The</strong><br />

Los Angeles Oil Exchange merged with <strong>the</strong><br />

San Francisco Stock and Bond Exchange <strong>in</strong><br />

1957 to form <strong>the</strong> Pacific Stock Exchange,<br />

which ma<strong>in</strong>ta<strong>in</strong>ed trad<strong>in</strong>g floors <strong>in</strong> both cities<br />

until 2001.<br />

Among <strong>the</strong> countless companies was <strong>the</strong><br />

Women’s Pacific Coast Oil Company, which<br />

was run exclusively by women except for<br />

a consult<strong>in</strong>g eng<strong>in</strong>eer named H. Hawgood,<br />

who supervised drill<strong>in</strong>g operations. While<br />

men could <strong>in</strong>vest <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> company <strong>the</strong>y were<br />

not allowed any role <strong>in</strong> management. Like<br />

companies today, <strong>the</strong> Women’s Pacific Coast<br />

Oil Company had operations <strong>in</strong> many oil<br />

fields, <strong>in</strong>clud<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong> Los Angeles City Field,<br />

Placerita Canyon <strong>in</strong> Newhall, Summerland <strong>in</strong><br />

Santa Barbara, Brea-Ol<strong>in</strong>da, and <strong>the</strong> new and<br />

promis<strong>in</strong>g Kern River District. This comprises<br />

nearly all <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> major oil-produc<strong>in</strong>g areas<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>California</strong> at <strong>the</strong> time.<br />

By 1900, new ways <strong>of</strong> explor<strong>in</strong>g for petroleum<br />

were beg<strong>in</strong>n<strong>in</strong>g to displace <strong>the</strong> early<br />

method <strong>of</strong> simply look<strong>in</strong>g for seeps, which<br />

<strong>in</strong> large part was <strong>the</strong> underly<strong>in</strong>g method<br />

used by Silliman <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> 1860s. Fields such as<br />

Los Angeles City and Pico Canyon showed<br />

<strong>the</strong> importance <strong>of</strong> anticl<strong>in</strong>es and, especially<br />

<strong>in</strong> <strong>California</strong>, faults. <strong>The</strong> new ideas can be<br />

found <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> follow<strong>in</strong>g comment by Pr<strong>of</strong>essor<br />

W. L. Watts <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>California</strong> State M<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g<br />

Bureau, published <strong>in</strong> 1900:<br />

…<strong>in</strong> a general way, it may be said that <strong>the</strong><br />

oil l<strong>in</strong>es, or l<strong>in</strong>es along which remunerative<br />

wells may be found, follow <strong>the</strong> strike <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

axes <strong>of</strong> folds <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> rocks, or <strong>the</strong> course <strong>of</strong><br />

faults which have isolated blocks <strong>of</strong> strata<br />

<strong>in</strong>clos<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong> oil-yield<strong>in</strong>g rocks…<strong>the</strong> trac<strong>in</strong>g<br />

<strong>of</strong> oil l<strong>in</strong>es <strong>in</strong> this state and <strong>the</strong> development<br />

<strong>of</strong> oil fields, necessitates a competent knowledge<br />

<strong>of</strong> structural geology, without which <strong>the</strong><br />

risks <strong>of</strong> oil m<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g would be greatly <strong>in</strong>creased.<br />

However, old ways die hard. It would take<br />

more than twenty years for this new approach<br />

to take hold. Eventually this use <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> scientific<br />

method, as applied to geology, would<br />

lead to discoveries <strong>of</strong> oil fields with no surface<br />

expression, <strong>in</strong> places totally unexpected. As<br />

we shall see, <strong>the</strong> result<strong>in</strong>g yield exceeds by<br />

orders <strong>of</strong> magnitude that previously found by<br />

look<strong>in</strong>g for surface seeps.<br />

Production from <strong>the</strong> Los Angeles City Field<br />

topped 1,000,000 barrels <strong>in</strong> 1895 and follow<strong>in</strong>g<br />

years, fuel<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong> third <strong>California</strong> boom<br />

and far surpass<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong> previous boom <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

early 1880s. In <strong>the</strong> late ’90s production from<br />

<strong>the</strong> gushers at McKittrick and Coal<strong>in</strong>ga drove<br />

<strong>the</strong> boom still higher. <strong>The</strong>n, <strong>in</strong> 1899, <strong>the</strong> Kern<br />

River Field was discovered, sett<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong> stage<br />

for even greater glory <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> twentieth century.<br />

Ano<strong>the</strong>r factor was just on <strong>the</strong> horizon: <strong>the</strong><br />

rise <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> automobile and <strong>the</strong> airplane,<br />

which would <strong>in</strong>crease demand for petroleum<br />

exponentially, and shift <strong>the</strong> major usage from<br />

light<strong>in</strong>g and manufactur<strong>in</strong>g to transportation.<br />

At <strong>the</strong> same time <strong>the</strong> Los Angeles City Field<br />

and Kern River Field would demonstrate <strong>the</strong><br />

need for better control <strong>of</strong> oil field practices to<br />

maximize production and field life, <strong>in</strong> order<br />

to meet future demand.<br />

Below: Advertisements for oil stocks, about<br />

1910. Such advertisements were common <strong>in</strong><br />

<strong>California</strong> publications <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> time.<br />

FROM OUT WEST MAGAZINE.<br />

Bottom: Stock advertisement for <strong>the</strong><br />

Women’s Pacific Coast Oil Company.<br />

FROM OUT WEST MAGAZINE.<br />

CHAPTER ONE<br />

25


EMMA SUMMERS,<br />

OIL QUEEN OF CALIFORNIA<br />

Banker’s daughter Emma McCutchen wanted to make music<br />

her life, hav<strong>in</strong>g graduated from <strong>the</strong> New England Conservatory<br />

<strong>of</strong> Music. She married carpenter Alpha Summers, and <strong>the</strong>y<br />

moved from Kentucky to Los Angeles, where Mrs. Summers<br />

<strong>in</strong>tended to give piano lessons. However, a completely different<br />

l<strong>in</strong>e <strong>of</strong> work was dest<strong>in</strong>ed to make her famous, not to mention<br />

very rich. <strong>The</strong> new Summers home was just a few blocks from<br />

where Doheny and Canfield would later drill <strong>the</strong>ir discovery<br />

well. When <strong>the</strong> oil field came <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> oil bug bit Emma Summers,<br />

and it bit hard. In 1893 Summers paid $700 for a half <strong>in</strong>terest<br />

<strong>in</strong> a nearby well. Unfortunately <strong>the</strong> well had cas<strong>in</strong>g problems<br />

and lost tools, and she had to borrow ano<strong>the</strong>r $1,800 to save<br />

<strong>the</strong> well. “Night after night, by <strong>the</strong> light <strong>of</strong> a flar<strong>in</strong>g torch, she<br />

hovered over it, as if it were a sick babe’s cradle.” F<strong>in</strong>ally <strong>the</strong> babe<br />

recovered and became a producer.<br />

<strong>The</strong> bug bit harder. Summers <strong>in</strong>vested <strong>in</strong> ano<strong>the</strong>r well, <strong>the</strong>n<br />

ano<strong>the</strong>r. When she was $10,000 <strong>in</strong> debt (easily four or five years’<br />

wages <strong>in</strong> 1900), she thought that if she could get her money back<br />

and that much more, she would quit. She made <strong>the</strong> $20,000, yet<br />

she didn’t quit. She used boilers to remove sediment from <strong>the</strong><br />

viscous oil; such tasks were more efficiently carried out by an<br />

operator who could comb<strong>in</strong>e <strong>the</strong> production <strong>of</strong> several wells.<br />

Above: Emma A. Summers, <strong>the</strong> Oil Queen <strong>of</strong> <strong>California</strong>.<br />

Right: Los Angeles City Field, show<strong>in</strong>g derricks with legs almost <strong>in</strong>terlac<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong> some cases,<br />

and tanks belong<strong>in</strong>g to <strong>in</strong>dividual owners. Entrepreneurs such as Emma Summers bought<br />

out <strong>the</strong>se small operators and consolidated <strong>the</strong>m <strong>in</strong>to larger, more efficient units.<br />

COURTESY OF CALIFORNIA OIL MUSEUM, SANTA PAULA, CALIFORNIA.<br />

So, she learned how to consolidate <strong>the</strong> operations <strong>of</strong> smaller,<br />

less efficient operators. By 1901 she had 14 wells altoge<strong>the</strong>r<br />

produc<strong>in</strong>g 50,000 barrels a month, about 2.5 percent <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> state’s<br />

total production. She achieved this by personally manag<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong><br />

bus<strong>in</strong>ess and look<strong>in</strong>g to every detail <strong>in</strong>clud<strong>in</strong>g purchase <strong>of</strong> pipe<br />

and hir<strong>in</strong>g <strong>of</strong> workers. After a day’s work she would do <strong>the</strong><br />

bookkeep<strong>in</strong>g and give piano lessons to earn money to <strong>in</strong>vest <strong>in</strong><br />

more wells. At first she sold her oil through brokers. Later she<br />

took over that part <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> bus<strong>in</strong>ess too, sell<strong>in</strong>g directly to hotels,<br />

factories, <strong>the</strong> local light company, and commuter railroads.<br />

Summers had 40 horses, 10 wagons, and a blacksmith.<br />

Emma Summers was highly <strong>in</strong>telligent and organized. She<br />

used <strong>the</strong> laws <strong>of</strong> supply and demand to dom<strong>in</strong>ate <strong>the</strong> market <strong>in</strong><br />

a volatile environment <strong>in</strong> which prices varied between $1.80<br />

and ten cents a barrel. In <strong>the</strong> process she bought out o<strong>the</strong>r, failed<br />

operators for barga<strong>in</strong> prices. She did all <strong>of</strong> this without tak<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong><br />

any o<strong>the</strong>r <strong>in</strong>vestors. It was with good reason that Sunset magaz<strong>in</strong>e<br />

said <strong>in</strong> 1911, “<strong>The</strong>re are men <strong>in</strong> Los Angeles who do not like<br />

Emma A. Summers.” Yet she was fair to her customers and<br />

employees, and became known as <strong>the</strong> “Oil Queen <strong>of</strong> <strong>California</strong>.”<br />

Eventually <strong>the</strong> Los Angeles City Field faded, so Summers<br />

diversified. She got <strong>in</strong>to real estate, buy<strong>in</strong>g ranches <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> San<br />

Fernando Valley, apartment houses, and a mansion on Wilshire<br />

Boulevard where Bullock’s Wilshire now stands. She converted<br />

one build<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong>to a hotel and named it <strong>the</strong> Queen. <strong>The</strong>n she<br />

purchased several <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> new-fangled movie houses.<br />

Later <strong>in</strong> life Emma Summers lived <strong>in</strong> nice style at <strong>the</strong> Biltmore<br />

Hotel and <strong>the</strong> Alexandria Hotel. She f<strong>in</strong>ally passed away <strong>in</strong><br />

Glendale <strong>in</strong> 1941 at <strong>the</strong> age <strong>of</strong> 83. Not much is known <strong>of</strong> her<br />

husband, who died <strong>in</strong> 1939, and less is known <strong>of</strong> any children.<br />

Los Angeles had become a great city by 1941, and Emma<br />

Summers had someth<strong>in</strong>g to do with it. She has been gone for<br />

three quarters <strong>of</strong> a century now. Few <strong>of</strong> today’s citizens <strong>of</strong><br />

Los Angeles know anyth<strong>in</strong>g about her, but for anyone who cares<br />

to know her life’s story, she is a true representative <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

American Dream, a person who started a bus<strong>in</strong>ess and thrived<br />

through her own resourcefulness and hard work.<br />

BLACK GOLD IN CALIFORNIA: <strong>The</strong> <strong>Story</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>California</strong> <strong>Petroleum</strong> <strong>Industry</strong><br />

26


TWO OIL GIANTS<br />

OF CALIFORNIA<br />

Two large oil companies, qu<strong>in</strong>tessentially<br />

<strong>California</strong>n, have had an enormous impact on<br />

<strong>the</strong> petroleum <strong>in</strong>dustry world-wide, not just<br />

<strong>in</strong> <strong>California</strong>. As we have seen, both Chevron<br />

(Standard <strong>of</strong> <strong>California</strong>) and Unocal (Union)<br />

had <strong>the</strong>ir orig<strong>in</strong>s <strong>in</strong> t<strong>in</strong>y, shaky companies <strong>of</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> 1870s and 1880s. One company, Chevron,<br />

is a “major” that was orig<strong>in</strong>ally part <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> great<br />

Standard Oil trust, while <strong>the</strong> o<strong>the</strong>r, Unocal,<br />

was always known as an <strong>in</strong>dependent, albeit<br />

a very large one. Both companies grew <strong>in</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> twentieth century <strong>in</strong> part by absorb<strong>in</strong>g<br />

o<strong>the</strong>rs, Standard tak<strong>in</strong>g Gulf and Texaco, and<br />

Union merg<strong>in</strong>g with Pure Oil, so that <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

operations expanded far beyond <strong>California</strong>.<br />

In 1885, <strong>the</strong> Stewart-Hardison partnership<br />

that was to become Union was drill<strong>in</strong>g deep<br />

wells (up to 3,000 feet) based on what <strong>the</strong>y<br />

learned from <strong>the</strong> Puente Field. However <strong>the</strong>y<br />

produced only 4,806 barrels that year. Costs<br />

<strong>of</strong> drill<strong>in</strong>g and operat<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong> fields exceeded<br />

revenue, forc<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong>m to borrow to stay afloat.<br />

To reduce costs, Stewart decided to use oil<br />

that <strong>the</strong>y produced to run <strong>the</strong>ir boilers, ra<strong>the</strong>r<br />

than coal. Through trial and error his crews<br />

developed a nozzle that made this practical.<br />

This was <strong>the</strong> beg<strong>in</strong>n<strong>in</strong>g <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> revolution <strong>in</strong><br />

which oil replaced coal as an <strong>in</strong>dustrial fuel<br />

<strong>in</strong> <strong>California</strong>. To reduce cost <strong>of</strong> shipp<strong>in</strong>g oil to<br />

San Francisco, <strong>the</strong>y built a four-<strong>in</strong>ch pipel<strong>in</strong>e<br />

to <strong>the</strong> Pacific Ocean, <strong>the</strong> first <strong>of</strong> its k<strong>in</strong>d <strong>in</strong><br />

<strong>California</strong>. Production <strong>in</strong>creased to over 35,000<br />

barrels <strong>in</strong> 1886, about 10 percent <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> state’s<br />

total. Even so, <strong>the</strong> partnership teetered on <strong>the</strong><br />

edge <strong>of</strong> collapse: <strong>the</strong>y needed more money.<br />

This is where Thomas R. Bard came <strong>in</strong>.<br />

Bard had drilled wells <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> unsuccessful<br />

Rancho Ojai venture <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> 1860s, and later<br />

made a fortune develop<strong>in</strong>g and sell<strong>in</strong>g real<br />

estate. Bard came <strong>in</strong>to <strong>the</strong> partnership as<br />

an “angel.” A group <strong>of</strong> four companies was<br />

formed with Hardison and Stewart hav<strong>in</strong>g<br />

majority <strong>in</strong>terest, and Bard more or less <strong>in</strong><br />

operational control. <strong>The</strong> four companies were<br />

merged <strong>in</strong> 1890 to form Union Oil Company.<br />

<strong>The</strong> stage was set for an immense struggle<br />

between <strong>the</strong> cautious Bard and <strong>the</strong> aggressive<br />

Stewart, who wanted to get as many leases as<br />

possible. <strong>The</strong>y were still <strong>in</strong> debt, and several<br />

near disasters were barely averted even after<br />

<strong>the</strong> gushers at Adams Canyon. Production<br />

<strong>in</strong>creased to 121,000 barrels <strong>in</strong> 1887 and over<br />

236,000 <strong>in</strong> 1888. Bard wanted to simply<br />

produce and sell crude oil and let o<strong>the</strong>rs do<br />

<strong>the</strong> ref<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g, distribution and market<strong>in</strong>g.<br />

Stewart had much grander plans.<br />

Stewart advocated tirelessly for conversion<br />

to oil as fuel for <strong>in</strong>dustries <strong>in</strong> <strong>California</strong>. He<br />

met fierce opposition from steamboat <strong>in</strong>spectors,<br />

railroads, and from his partner Thomas<br />

Bard. <strong>The</strong>re were many setbacks, <strong>in</strong>clud<strong>in</strong>g<br />

steamboat explosions supposedly caused by<br />

fuel oil and railroad locomotives that could<br />

not develop enough power on oil. Gradually<br />

<strong>the</strong> technological problems were overcome,<br />

and <strong>the</strong> use <strong>of</strong> oil <strong>in</strong> eng<strong>in</strong>es surpassed its<br />

use as an illum<strong>in</strong>ant. Stewart also formed a<br />

company to supply drill<strong>in</strong>g tools to <strong>the</strong><br />

<strong>in</strong>dustry, a move vehemently opposed by<br />

Bard. This and many o<strong>the</strong>r disagreements<br />

fed a steadily <strong>in</strong>creas<strong>in</strong>g acrimony. F<strong>in</strong>ally,<br />

<strong>in</strong> 1898-1899, matters came to a head. Bard<br />

precipitated a fierce stockholder fight for<br />

control. <strong>The</strong> Stewart <strong>in</strong>terests, when all <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

shares were counted, held 50.6 percent. At<br />

last Lyman Stewart was <strong>in</strong> undisputed control,<br />

and from that time was free to put his<br />

plans <strong>in</strong>to motion to create one <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> greatest<br />

<strong>in</strong>dependent petroleum empires <strong>of</strong> all<br />

time. Although Stewart did not become a<br />

missionary, he founded <strong>the</strong> well-known Bible<br />

Institute <strong>of</strong> Los Angeles (Biola University).<br />

Above: Thomas Bard.<br />

COURTESY OF CALIFORNIA OIL MUSEUM,<br />

SANTA PAULA, CALIFORNIA.<br />

Below: Union Oil Headquarters <strong>in</strong><br />

Santa Paula, <strong>California</strong>. <strong>The</strong> hardware<br />

store on <strong>the</strong> ground floor was owned by<br />

<strong>the</strong> company. Kerosene lamps that burned<br />

Union’s products are prom<strong>in</strong>ently displayed<br />

<strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> w<strong>in</strong>dow. <strong>The</strong> horseless carriage, which<br />

would become <strong>the</strong> <strong>in</strong>dustry’s ma<strong>in</strong>stay,<br />

was still <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> future.<br />

COURTESY OF CALIFORNIA OIL MUSEUM, SANTA PAULA,<br />

CALIFORNIA (WHICH NOW OCCUPIES THIS BUILDING).<br />

CHAPTER ONE<br />

27


Pacific Coast Oil Company built this<br />

ref<strong>in</strong>ery at Alameda Island <strong>in</strong> 1880.<br />

It would be expanded many times by<br />

Standard <strong>of</strong> <strong>California</strong>.<br />

COURTESY OF CHEVRON USA.<br />

<strong>The</strong> Pacific Coast Oil Company (PCO),<br />

nucleus <strong>of</strong> what would become Chevron, pursued<br />

a different course than <strong>the</strong> brash Lyman<br />

Stewart’s Union Oil. Where Union acquired as<br />

many leases as possible, precipitat<strong>in</strong>g numerous<br />

f<strong>in</strong>ancial crises, PCO relied on its wells<br />

<strong>in</strong> Pico Canyon Field and nearby. Although<br />

Union’s market was ma<strong>in</strong>ly <strong>in</strong> Sou<strong>the</strong>rn<br />

<strong>California</strong>, <strong>the</strong>y would sell wherever <strong>the</strong>y<br />

could. PCO sold <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> San Francisco area,<br />

us<strong>in</strong>g product from <strong>the</strong>ir Alameda ref<strong>in</strong>ery.<br />

Although this ref<strong>in</strong>ery had been built largely<br />

to process <strong>the</strong> Moody Gulch oil, it fortunately<br />

was located near <strong>the</strong> Sou<strong>the</strong>rn Pacific Railroad<br />

ra<strong>the</strong>r than at <strong>the</strong> end <strong>of</strong> a small narrow<br />

gauge railroad near <strong>the</strong> Moody wells. When<br />

<strong>the</strong> th<strong>in</strong> Moody sands played out <strong>the</strong>y were<br />

still able to ship <strong>the</strong>ir Pico oil north to<br />

Alameda. As a result <strong>the</strong> smaller ref<strong>in</strong>ery <strong>in</strong><br />

Newhall was eventually phased out <strong>of</strong> service.<br />

Pico production was not enough to satisfy<br />

<strong>the</strong> San Francisco market, so prices rema<strong>in</strong>ed<br />

high. PCO’s ma<strong>in</strong> competition was higher<br />

quality eastern oils, marketed primarily by<br />

Rockefeller’s Standard Oil <strong>of</strong> Iowa, which<br />

was on its way to becom<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong> dom<strong>in</strong>ant<br />

marketer on <strong>the</strong> west coast <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> 1880s.<br />

On <strong>the</strong> production side, PCO concentrated<br />

ma<strong>in</strong>ly on <strong>in</strong>-field drill<strong>in</strong>g and new technology<br />

to improve success. For example, <strong>the</strong> first<br />

time <strong>in</strong> <strong>California</strong> that a diamond bit rotary<br />

rig was used for oil drill<strong>in</strong>g was <strong>in</strong> Pico<br />

Canyon <strong>in</strong> 1889. <strong>The</strong> bit, a hollow cyl<strong>in</strong>der<br />

edged with diamonds, cut a straight hole.<br />

However progress was much slower than<br />

with cable tools, and <strong>the</strong> bit had trouble<br />

with cobbles, which were ever-present <strong>in</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> Pico formations. A side benefit <strong>of</strong> this<br />

bit, which was similar to those used <strong>in</strong><br />

hard rock m<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g operations, was <strong>the</strong> ability<br />

to take a core, mak<strong>in</strong>g it possible to log<br />

<strong>in</strong> detail <strong>the</strong> characteristics <strong>of</strong> strata<br />

encountered by <strong>the</strong> well. This gave Edward<br />

North, PCO’s manager <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> field, an idea.<br />

He told Mentry to make such logs for all<br />

future wells, and reconstruct <strong>the</strong>m as best as<br />

possible from memory for old wells. This<br />

enabled <strong>the</strong>m to construct geologic cross<br />

sections that could be used to predict<br />

depths <strong>of</strong> oil-bear<strong>in</strong>g sands and give <strong>the</strong> best<br />

locations for new wells.<br />

Until 1894 <strong>the</strong> comb<strong>in</strong>ed production <strong>of</strong><br />

PCO and its rival Union accounted for up to<br />

75 percent <strong>of</strong> <strong>California</strong>’s total. At this po<strong>in</strong>t<br />

BLACK GOLD IN CALIFORNIA: <strong>The</strong> <strong>Story</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>California</strong> <strong>Petroleum</strong> <strong>Industry</strong><br />

28


<strong>the</strong> Los Angeles City Field exceeded <strong>the</strong><br />

totals <strong>of</strong> both companies and caused serious<br />

oversupply problems, especially for Union’s<br />

sou<strong>the</strong>rn <strong>California</strong> market. <strong>The</strong> heavy<br />

Los Angeles oil, unfit for ref<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong>to<br />

kerosene, was used as fuel oil <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> local<br />

market. Union first tried to make a deal<br />

<strong>in</strong> which it would market and distribute<br />

<strong>the</strong> oil <strong>of</strong> many <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> hundreds <strong>of</strong> small<br />

producers. <strong>The</strong> locals refused, caus<strong>in</strong>g Union<br />

to look for markets o<strong>the</strong>r than Los Angeles<br />

for its products. PCO <strong>in</strong> turn realized that<br />

its San Francisco market could be jeopardized<br />

as well if Union tried to shift its sales<br />

<strong>the</strong>re. <strong>The</strong>re was also a brief threat <strong>of</strong><br />

substantial imports <strong>of</strong> newly-discovered oil<br />

from Peru.<br />

To solve this market<strong>in</strong>g problem PCO<br />

approached Union with <strong>the</strong> idea <strong>of</strong> build<strong>in</strong>g a<br />

tanker ship to carry oil from both companies<br />

to San Francisco. PCO’s reason<strong>in</strong>g was that<br />

s<strong>in</strong>ce it could not supply all <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> needs <strong>of</strong><br />

San Francisco with its Pico oil, allow<strong>in</strong>g<br />

Union to supply <strong>the</strong> rest would discourage<br />

competitors like Standard <strong>of</strong> Iowa. It would<br />

also give PCO <strong>the</strong> benefit <strong>of</strong> economy <strong>of</strong><br />

scale. Union accepted <strong>the</strong> barga<strong>in</strong>, and <strong>in</strong><br />

1895 PCO built <strong>the</strong> George Loomis, <strong>the</strong> first<br />

ship <strong>in</strong> which <strong>the</strong> hull itself was <strong>the</strong> tank,<br />

divided <strong>in</strong>to six sections by partitions, that<br />

carried <strong>the</strong> oil. Earlier tankers had tanks<br />

fitted <strong>in</strong>to <strong>the</strong>ir holds, wast<strong>in</strong>g space and<br />

add<strong>in</strong>g weight. Thus PCO began a beneficial,<br />

although ra<strong>the</strong>r testy relationship with <strong>the</strong><br />

rival it had helped to create a dozen years<br />

before. This lasted until <strong>the</strong> end <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

century, when <strong>the</strong> existence <strong>of</strong> PCO as an<br />

<strong>in</strong>dependent company came to an end.<br />

Standard Oil Company <strong>of</strong> New Jersey<br />

and <strong>the</strong> Rockefeller trust absorbed PCO <strong>in</strong><br />

1900-1901. PCO and Standard <strong>of</strong> Iowa, <strong>the</strong><br />

Trust’s market<strong>in</strong>g arm <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> West, were<br />

merged to form Standard Oil Company <strong>of</strong><br />

<strong>California</strong> <strong>in</strong> 1906. <strong>The</strong> head <strong>of</strong>fice <strong>in</strong> New<br />

York was firmly <strong>in</strong> control, and all significant<br />

decisions had to be approved by it. Standard<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>California</strong> became <strong>in</strong>dependent when<br />

<strong>the</strong> Standard trust was broken up by <strong>the</strong><br />

U. S. Supreme Court <strong>in</strong> 1911. <strong>The</strong> merger<br />

with Standard <strong>of</strong> Iowa had provided <strong>the</strong><br />

company with new assets and a strong<br />

market<strong>in</strong>g capability. Standard was free <strong>in</strong><br />

1911 to move forward <strong>in</strong> its own right as<br />

a major player <strong>in</strong> <strong>California</strong>’s oil <strong>in</strong>dustry.<br />

<strong>The</strong> George Loomis (on <strong>the</strong> left), was built<br />

by Pacific Coast Oil Company <strong>in</strong> 1895.<br />

COURTESY OF CHEVRON USA.<br />

CHAPTER ONE<br />

29


CHAPTER<br />

TWO<br />

A NEW ERA BEGINS:<br />

1900 TO 1920<br />

FROM SEEPS TO SCIENCE<br />

Production graph show<strong>in</strong>g a steady,<br />

long-term <strong>in</strong>creas<strong>in</strong>g trend (dashed l<strong>in</strong>e)<br />

that began around 1900 and cont<strong>in</strong>ued until<br />

1982. Short-term ups and downs resulted<br />

from economic booms, world wars,<br />

<strong>the</strong> depression, and o<strong>the</strong>r events.<br />

DATA FROM DEPARTMENT OF OIL, GAS,<br />

AND GEOTHERMAL RESOURCES (DOGGR).<br />

As <strong>the</strong> new century dawned <strong>California</strong>’s petroleum <strong>in</strong>dustry was poised for new heights as part<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> ensu<strong>in</strong>g golden age <strong>of</strong> transportation and technology. Annual production <strong>of</strong> about 2 million<br />

barrels at <strong>the</strong> turn <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> century would steadily rise to 100 million by 1920. This flood <strong>of</strong> oil<br />

would help supply <strong>the</strong> allied effort <strong>in</strong> World War I and usher <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> age <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> automobile. <strong>The</strong>se<br />

two decades would see <strong>the</strong> proliferation <strong>of</strong> factories build<strong>in</strong>g cars, and on every street corner<br />

gas stations, repair shops, and parts stores. <strong>The</strong> fabric <strong>of</strong> American life was changed forever.<br />

<strong>The</strong> oil <strong>in</strong>dustry itself was transformed by <strong>the</strong> <strong>in</strong>troduction <strong>of</strong> rational, scientific methods for <strong>the</strong><br />

exploration and production <strong>of</strong> oil.<br />

One scene <strong>of</strong> this new day was San Joaqu<strong>in</strong> Valley, which previously had seen impressive new<br />

f<strong>in</strong>ds at McKittrick and Coal<strong>in</strong>ga <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> late 1890s. However, real growth <strong>of</strong> this new oil region<br />

would beg<strong>in</strong> <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> Kern River Field <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> first few years after 1900. This fabled field started<br />

<strong>in</strong> 1899, not with a gusher but with a well that produced only 15 barrels a day at <strong>the</strong> pump.<br />

Four years after this <strong>in</strong>auspicious start Kern River was produc<strong>in</strong>g 17 million barrels annually,<br />

nearly as much as <strong>the</strong> entire state <strong>of</strong> Texas. It accounted for 70 percent <strong>of</strong> <strong>California</strong>’s 24 million<br />

barrels, first place among <strong>the</strong> states that year. Ohio was a distant second at about 20 million.<br />

That first well was drilled by <strong>the</strong> fa<strong>the</strong>r-and-son team <strong>of</strong> Jonathon and James Elwood along<br />

<strong>the</strong> north bank <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Kern River seven miles nor<strong>the</strong>ast <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> town <strong>of</strong> Bakersfield. <strong>The</strong> Elwoods<br />

were attracted by stories <strong>of</strong> oil seeps, slicks on <strong>the</strong> Kern River, and a spr<strong>in</strong>g bubbl<strong>in</strong>g with gas,<br />

which a nearby rancher captured us<strong>in</strong>g a bell-shaped trap. <strong>The</strong> Elwoods first sank a shaft with a<br />

hand auger, f<strong>in</strong>d<strong>in</strong>g an oil sand at 43 feet. <strong>The</strong>y used timber to shore up <strong>the</strong> s<strong>of</strong>t sand <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> shaft,<br />

BLACK GOLD IN CALIFORNIA: <strong>The</strong> <strong>Story</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>California</strong> <strong>Petroleum</strong> <strong>Industry</strong><br />

30


ut when <strong>the</strong>y got to 75 feet fumes stopped<br />

<strong>the</strong>m. Us<strong>in</strong>g a cable tool rig and oil from<br />

<strong>the</strong> shaft as fuel, <strong>the</strong>y drilled a new hole,<br />

complet<strong>in</strong>g it at a depth <strong>of</strong> 260 feet. News <strong>of</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> discovery spread and almost overnight<br />

about 200 small oil companies with names<br />

like Prosperity, <strong>the</strong> Sovereign and <strong>the</strong><br />

Peerless, Apollo and Aladd<strong>in</strong>, and American<br />

Eagle, were vy<strong>in</strong>g for claims. In an area<br />

twelve miles square, thousands <strong>of</strong> wells<br />

were drilled on small plots <strong>of</strong> land. <strong>The</strong> field<br />

had many <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> problems that went with<br />

wells too close toge<strong>the</strong>r and lack <strong>of</strong> plann<strong>in</strong>g<br />

to maximize long-term production <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

whole field.<br />

Before 1909 <strong>the</strong> many small companies<br />

needed an efficient way to transport <strong>the</strong>ir oil<br />

to market. This was supplied by Standard <strong>of</strong><br />

Iowa (soon to be merged <strong>in</strong>to Pacific Coast<br />

Oil to form <strong>the</strong> new Standard <strong>of</strong> <strong>California</strong>),<br />

which built an 8-<strong>in</strong>ch pipel<strong>in</strong>e from <strong>the</strong> oil<br />

field to its new ref<strong>in</strong>ery at Richmond on<br />

San Francisco Bay. This was <strong>the</strong> first major<br />

pipel<strong>in</strong>e west <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Mississippi, and was <strong>of</strong><br />

a new type that could transport <strong>the</strong> heavy<br />

Kern River oil. Heat<strong>in</strong>g and pump<strong>in</strong>g stations<br />

were built close toge<strong>the</strong>r and l<strong>in</strong>ked with<br />

telegraph l<strong>in</strong>es to regulate <strong>the</strong> flow <strong>of</strong> oil.<br />

By this time <strong>the</strong> problems associated with<br />

us<strong>in</strong>g oil <strong>in</strong> steam eng<strong>in</strong>e boilers had mostly<br />

been solved. Much <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> low-gravity crude<br />

was used as fuel for steam locomotives. For<br />

$10.60, a hefty sum <strong>in</strong> those days, tourists<br />

and presumably <strong>in</strong>vestors could ride <strong>the</strong><br />

Sou<strong>the</strong>rn Pacific south from San Francisco to<br />

see <strong>the</strong> oil field, with its forest <strong>of</strong> wooden derricks<br />

and cacophony <strong>of</strong> sounds and smells.<br />

Such were <strong>the</strong> enterta<strong>in</strong>ments <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> day for<br />

<strong>the</strong> well-healed residents <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> big city.<br />

As spectacular as Kern River was <strong>in</strong>itially,<br />

a possible game-killer soon reared its head:<br />

saltwater. This problem was particularly<br />

serious <strong>in</strong> <strong>California</strong>. Oil sands <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> eastern<br />

U. S. were generally deeper than water sands,<br />

and were separated from <strong>the</strong>m by an impermeable<br />

cap rock. Drillers would set cas<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> cap rock, effectively seal<strong>in</strong>g <strong>of</strong>f <strong>the</strong> water<br />

sands. Drill<strong>in</strong>g ahead with a<br />

smaller diameter bit, <strong>the</strong>y<br />

would complete <strong>the</strong> well <strong>in</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> oil sand. Unfortunately<br />

<strong>the</strong> oil sands at Kern River<br />

and elsewhere <strong>in</strong> <strong>California</strong><br />

are <strong>of</strong>ten lens-like and are<br />

<strong>in</strong>terbedded with water sands,<br />

without an <strong>in</strong>terven<strong>in</strong>g cap<br />

rock. Some <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> sands are<br />

s<strong>of</strong>t and unconsolidated. If<br />

water got <strong>in</strong>to an oil sand <strong>the</strong><br />

well would quickly “water out”<br />

and become non-commercial.<br />

Top: Standard Oil Company’s ref<strong>in</strong>ery at<br />

Richmond, on San Francisco Bay, 1913.<br />

This is different from <strong>the</strong> ref<strong>in</strong>ery built by<br />

PCO at Alameda Po<strong>in</strong>t.<br />

LIBRARY OF CONGRESS.<br />

Above: A part <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Kern River Field,<br />

1910 operated by American Crude Oil<br />

Company. Many companies had hold<strong>in</strong>gs <strong>of</strong><br />

different sizes <strong>in</strong> this field, and practices<br />

varied widely.<br />

LIBRARY OF CONGRESS.<br />

Left: Early days <strong>in</strong> San Joaqu<strong>in</strong> Valley.<br />

<strong>The</strong> first well drilled <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> McKittrick Field<br />

was <strong>in</strong> 1896, but tar pits had been m<strong>in</strong>ed<br />

for decades previously.<br />

COURTESY OF CALIFORNIA OIL MUSEUM,<br />

SANTA PAULA, CALIFORNIA.<br />

CHAPTER TWO<br />

31


Wooden pumpjack near Taft, photographed<br />

<strong>in</strong> about 1977. A relic out <strong>of</strong> its time, <strong>the</strong><br />

pumpjack is shown still rigged up to a well.<br />

COURTESY OF CARL F. BAGGE.<br />

In <strong>the</strong> early days <strong>of</strong> wide-open wildcatt<strong>in</strong>g,<br />

poor-to-nonexistent record keep<strong>in</strong>g, and<br />

many small operators, wells were <strong>of</strong>ten completed<br />

haphazardly. One operator could easily<br />

ru<strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> adjacent wells <strong>of</strong> ano<strong>the</strong>r. To make<br />

matters worse, abandoned wells were <strong>of</strong>ten<br />

not properly plugged, so that any sands <strong>the</strong>y<br />

penetrated could potentially be flooded with<br />

water. In 1904 production decl<strong>in</strong>ed from<br />

<strong>the</strong> previous high <strong>of</strong> 17 million barrels to<br />

14 million barrels, and many wells along<br />

<strong>the</strong> sou<strong>the</strong>rn edge <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> field had to be<br />

abandoned. In 1905, Colonel John Carter,<br />

mak<strong>in</strong>g a reconnaissance <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> field for<br />

Standard Oil, said:<br />

No matter what <strong>the</strong> production…was or<br />

what <strong>the</strong> hopes <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> producer are, death<br />

and destruction surround that field, and it<br />

will only be a year or two at most, when it<br />

will be numbered with last year’s snows and<br />

be forgotten.<br />

Carter conveyed a similar pessimistic<br />

appraisal <strong>of</strong> o<strong>the</strong>r fields <strong>in</strong> <strong>California</strong>.<br />

What could <strong>the</strong>y do? Various attempts<br />

were made to seal <strong>of</strong>f <strong>the</strong> space between <strong>the</strong><br />

cas<strong>in</strong>g shoe and <strong>the</strong> wall <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> hole us<strong>in</strong>g<br />

chopped rope, clay, brick chips, and cement.<br />

However, no matter what an operator did,<br />

he was <strong>of</strong>ten at <strong>the</strong> mercy <strong>of</strong> what his neighbor<br />

did. Disputes led to lawsuits and perhaps<br />

o<strong>the</strong>r less “civilized” actions. Gradually operators<br />

came to <strong>the</strong> realization that someth<strong>in</strong>g<br />

general had to be done or most <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> petroleum<br />

resources <strong>of</strong> <strong>California</strong> would be forever<br />

lost. <strong>The</strong> first attempt at legislation <strong>in</strong> 1903<br />

failed because it provided no mechanism<br />

by which <strong>the</strong> law could be enforced.<br />

Additional laws passed <strong>in</strong> 1909 and 1911 had<br />

<strong>the</strong> same problem.<br />

F<strong>in</strong>ally some operators <strong>the</strong>mselves got<br />

toge<strong>the</strong>r <strong>in</strong> 1912 and formed <strong>the</strong> Kern County<br />

Oil Protective Association for <strong>the</strong> Midway-<br />

Sunset Field. It was largely a repository to<br />

which operators were supposed to furnish<br />

drill<strong>in</strong>g records. However, some operators,<br />

<strong>in</strong>clud<strong>in</strong>g Standard Oil, did not jo<strong>in</strong> this<br />

organization. In 1914 <strong>the</strong> Coal<strong>in</strong>ga Water<br />

Arbitration Association was formed with a<br />

certa<strong>in</strong> amount <strong>of</strong> enforcement power over<br />

its members. <strong>The</strong>se two organizations were<br />

<strong>of</strong> course voluntary and local. <strong>The</strong>re was<br />

still no consistent way <strong>of</strong> attack<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong> water<br />

<strong>in</strong>filtration problem for all <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> many oil<br />

fields <strong>in</strong> <strong>California</strong>.<br />

BLACK GOLD IN CALIFORNIA: <strong>The</strong> <strong>Story</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>California</strong> <strong>Petroleum</strong> <strong>Industry</strong><br />

32


<strong>The</strong> State M<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g Bureau, formed <strong>in</strong> 1880,<br />

was ma<strong>in</strong>ly a clear<strong>in</strong>g house for <strong>in</strong>formation<br />

about m<strong>in</strong>eral resources <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> state. In 1914<br />

<strong>the</strong> State M<strong>in</strong>eralogist, Fletcher Hamilton,<br />

decided to make a survey <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> petroleum<br />

<strong>in</strong>dustry. For this job he appo<strong>in</strong>ted Roy<br />

McLaughl<strong>in</strong>, an eng<strong>in</strong>eer who had worked at<br />

<strong>the</strong> m<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g camps <strong>of</strong> Bodie, <strong>California</strong>, and<br />

Manhattan, Nevada, and had been a geologist<br />

<strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> Taft oil region. McLaughl<strong>in</strong>’s survey<br />

found that water <strong>in</strong>filtration had damaged<br />

many oil fields <strong>in</strong> <strong>California</strong>.<br />

As a result <strong>of</strong> this survey Hamilton proposed<br />

a new statewide agency to ensure<br />

that all operators did everyth<strong>in</strong>g possible to<br />

prevent water <strong>in</strong>filtration. He got <strong>the</strong> support<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> two Associations <strong>in</strong> San Joaqu<strong>in</strong>,<br />

<strong>the</strong> Independent Oil Producers Agency<br />

(represent<strong>in</strong>g producers at Kern River and<br />

Coal<strong>in</strong>ga), and Fred Hillman, one <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

men who spearheaded <strong>the</strong> development <strong>of</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> newly <strong>in</strong>dependent Standard <strong>of</strong> <strong>California</strong>.<br />

It appeared that a critical mass <strong>of</strong> medium<br />

and large sized operators had come to <strong>the</strong><br />

op<strong>in</strong>ion that state regulation was needed to<br />

control <strong>the</strong> many operators, some fly-by-night,<br />

who took shortcuts such as not seal<strong>in</strong>g <strong>of</strong>f<br />

abandoned wells.<br />

In early 1915 a bill was passed to “protect<br />

oil sands menaced by water.” This set up<br />

<strong>the</strong> Department <strong>of</strong> <strong>Petroleum</strong> and Gas with<strong>in</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> State M<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g Bureau, <strong>the</strong> forerunner <strong>of</strong><br />

today’s Division <strong>of</strong> Oil, Gas, and Geo<strong>the</strong>rmal<br />

Resources (DOGGR). Hamilton appo<strong>in</strong>ted<br />

McLaughl<strong>in</strong> as <strong>the</strong> first state oil and gas<br />

supervisor. One <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> first th<strong>in</strong>gs done was<br />

to require operators to keep records <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

drill<strong>in</strong>g operations. <strong>The</strong> Kern County and<br />

Coal<strong>in</strong>ga Associations donated <strong>the</strong>ir records<br />

to start <strong>the</strong> collection. Companies that<br />

planned to drill a well had to file a “Notice<br />

<strong>of</strong> Intent to Drill,” which had <strong>the</strong> well<br />

location, estimated depth <strong>of</strong> water shut-<strong>of</strong>f,<br />

depth <strong>of</strong> oil or gas sands, and o<strong>the</strong>r data.<br />

<strong>The</strong>y also had to keep log books detail<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong><br />

work done by each twelve-hour tour <strong>of</strong> a<br />

drill<strong>in</strong>g crew, <strong>in</strong>clud<strong>in</strong>g depth <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> well,<br />

what formations had been encountered,<br />

whe<strong>the</strong>r oil or gas was present <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> well,<br />

how much cas<strong>in</strong>g was put <strong>in</strong> or taken out,<br />

and more.<br />

All <strong>of</strong> this record-keep<strong>in</strong>g was meant to<br />

provide a “complete record or log <strong>of</strong> each<br />

well, giv<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong> detail each and every step<br />

taken <strong>in</strong> its construction and repair, as well<br />

as <strong>the</strong> location and thickness <strong>of</strong> all strata<br />

penetrated so far as can be determ<strong>in</strong>ed.”<br />

Records were also kept <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> production<br />

history <strong>of</strong> oil and water <strong>of</strong> each well and each<br />

field. All <strong>of</strong> this <strong>in</strong>formation is available today<br />

to <strong>the</strong> general public, and is <strong>in</strong>valuable for<br />

eng<strong>in</strong>eers and geologists who are explor<strong>in</strong>g<br />

for new deposits <strong>of</strong> oil.<br />

<strong>The</strong>se well records played a central role<br />

<strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> development <strong>of</strong> petroleum exploration<br />

<strong>in</strong>to an enterprise that uses <strong>the</strong> scientific<br />

method <strong>in</strong> its endeavors. Each medium and<br />

large operator began keep<strong>in</strong>g copies <strong>of</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> public data, toge<strong>the</strong>r with its private<br />

<strong>in</strong>formation, <strong>in</strong> a “vault” cover<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong> regions<br />

<strong>in</strong> which it operated. Today this <strong>in</strong>formation<br />

is used to help determ<strong>in</strong>e where to drill<br />

<strong>in</strong>-field wells, design cas<strong>in</strong>g programs, well<br />

completions, well stimulation procedures and<br />

more. Geologists (company employees and<br />

<strong>in</strong>dependents) use <strong>the</strong> data to map geologic<br />

structures and estimate depths and locations<br />

<strong>of</strong> potential oil reservoirs adjacent to or near<br />

exist<strong>in</strong>g fields. Any clues, such as a change <strong>in</strong><br />

drill<strong>in</strong>g rate or density <strong>of</strong> drill<strong>in</strong>g mud, or use<br />

<strong>of</strong> a new type <strong>of</strong> drill<strong>in</strong>g bit, can be mean<strong>in</strong>gful<br />

to an experienced geologist or eng<strong>in</strong>eer. Over<br />

<strong>the</strong> years oil seekers have supplemented<br />

DOGGR records <strong>in</strong> various ways, such as<br />

do<strong>in</strong>g geophysical surveys or send<strong>in</strong>g someone<br />

to observe oil field operations. Scouts<br />

have estimated how deep a competitor is<br />

drill<strong>in</strong>g by us<strong>in</strong>g b<strong>in</strong>oculars to count <strong>the</strong><br />

number <strong>of</strong> stands <strong>of</strong> pipe when a driller is<br />

“tripp<strong>in</strong>g out.” Any available clue is potentially<br />

useful, especially today <strong>in</strong> a state where<br />

most <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> obvious pools <strong>of</strong> oil have already<br />

been found. DOGGR is currently <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

process <strong>of</strong> upload<strong>in</strong>g all <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>ir old files<br />

onl<strong>in</strong>e for public use through <strong>the</strong>ir webpage.<br />

In addition to record keep<strong>in</strong>g, <strong>the</strong><br />

Department <strong>of</strong> <strong>Petroleum</strong> and Gas had<br />

enforcement power to require operators to<br />

follow procedures to shut <strong>of</strong>f water, and to<br />

repair a well that was damaged. Such orders<br />

could be reviewed at <strong>the</strong> request <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> operator<br />

by a board composed <strong>of</strong> fellow operators.<br />

CHAPTER TWO<br />

33


INDEPENDENTS: UNSEEN GIANTS OF CALIFORNIA’ S OIL INDUSTRY<br />

Large companies like Standard <strong>of</strong> <strong>California</strong>, Shell, Associated<br />

(affiliated with Sou<strong>the</strong>rn Pacific Railroad) and Union are prom<strong>in</strong>ent<br />

<strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> annals <strong>of</strong> <strong>California</strong> oil, but small <strong>in</strong>dependent companies<br />

<strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong>ir thousands have collectively made as big a contribution as<br />

any major company. This is especially true for many <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> early,<br />

shallow-production fields such as Los Angeles City and Kern River.<br />

Independents participated <strong>in</strong> many <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>in</strong>novations, <strong>in</strong>clud<strong>in</strong>g<br />

methods <strong>of</strong> controll<strong>in</strong>g water <strong>in</strong>trusion <strong>in</strong> wells. We shall see <strong>in</strong><br />

later chapters how <strong>in</strong>dependents have recently become <strong>the</strong> major<br />

players <strong>in</strong> <strong>California</strong>, gett<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong> most out <strong>of</strong> mature fields with<br />

new technology.<br />

Independents have been able to form associations to <strong>in</strong>crease<br />

<strong>the</strong>ir <strong>in</strong>fluence on <strong>the</strong> <strong>in</strong>dustry. One such comb<strong>in</strong>ation, <strong>the</strong><br />

Independent Oil Producers Agency, was formed <strong>in</strong> 1904 at Kern<br />

River, largely as a result <strong>of</strong> a very low price <strong>of</strong> 11 2/3 cents per<br />

barrel <strong>of</strong>fered by Pacific Coast Oil Company (<strong>the</strong>n controlled by<br />

<strong>the</strong> Standard trust). Orig<strong>in</strong>ally consist<strong>in</strong>g <strong>of</strong> n<strong>in</strong>eteen operators,<br />

<strong>the</strong> Independent Oil Producers Agency represented a significant<br />

portion <strong>of</strong> Kern River production. <strong>The</strong> agency leased <strong>the</strong> members’<br />

land and gave <strong>the</strong>m licenses to operate <strong>the</strong>ir hold<strong>in</strong>gs. <strong>The</strong><br />

Agency had <strong>the</strong> right to sell <strong>the</strong> oil and thus had considerably<br />

more negotiat<strong>in</strong>g power than any <strong>in</strong>dividual company. In 1907<br />

<strong>the</strong> Coal<strong>in</strong>ga Oil Producers Agency was formed by heavy oil<br />

producers <strong>in</strong> that field. In 1910 <strong>the</strong>se two agencies merged.<br />

Low oil prices plagued <strong>the</strong> <strong>in</strong>dependents <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> early years <strong>of</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> century. <strong>The</strong> high production at Kern River and o<strong>the</strong>r fields<br />

was a major factor. Two major buyers were Standard <strong>of</strong> <strong>California</strong><br />

and Associated. Many <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>in</strong>dependents thought that <strong>the</strong>se<br />

two colluded to keep prices low. By 1909 <strong>the</strong> two agencies<br />

accounted for more than 10 percent <strong>of</strong> <strong>California</strong>’s production,<br />

accord<strong>in</strong>g to contemporary estimates. Suddenly <strong>in</strong> May <strong>of</strong> that<br />

year <strong>the</strong> agencies made an agreement with Union to build a<br />

pipel<strong>in</strong>e from San Joaqu<strong>in</strong> Valley to <strong>the</strong> coast so that <strong>the</strong>y<br />

would not have to use Standard’s pipel<strong>in</strong>e. Of this comb<strong>in</strong>ation<br />

<strong>California</strong> Oil World said “For <strong>the</strong> first time <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> history <strong>of</strong> oil <strong>in</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> West <strong>the</strong>re is an absolutely dom<strong>in</strong>ant hand at <strong>the</strong> head <strong>of</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> bus<strong>in</strong>ess.” Although this is an overstatement, it has a r<strong>in</strong>g <strong>of</strong><br />

truth. <strong>The</strong> comb<strong>in</strong>e was shortly to be jo<strong>in</strong>ed by Associated. By<br />

1919 <strong>the</strong> Independent Oil Producers Agency was responsible for<br />

8.8 percent <strong>of</strong> <strong>California</strong>’s production. Union and Associated<br />

each had almost <strong>the</strong> same production, for a total <strong>of</strong> 26.5 percent,<br />

surpass<strong>in</strong>g that <strong>of</strong> Standard <strong>of</strong> <strong>California</strong>. Clearly, Standard <strong>of</strong><br />

<strong>California</strong> had to reth<strong>in</strong>k its policy <strong>of</strong> buy<strong>in</strong>g most <strong>of</strong> its crude<br />

from o<strong>the</strong>r producers. With a free hand s<strong>in</strong>ce it had been released<br />

from its ties to <strong>the</strong> Standard Rockefeller trust <strong>in</strong> 1911, Standard<br />

developed its own exploration program and went on to become<br />

<strong>the</strong> giant we know today as Chevron.<br />

<strong>The</strong> <strong>California</strong> <strong>in</strong>dependents went on to endure many ups<br />

and downs <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> oil <strong>in</strong>dustry. Competition with majors cont<strong>in</strong>ued,<br />

as it does today. Nearly all <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> production at Kern River<br />

was eventually taken over by Chevron; somewhat ironically, <strong>the</strong><br />

actions <strong>of</strong> those <strong>in</strong>dependents streng<strong>the</strong>ned Chevron immeasurably.<br />

Most <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> small, early companies are forgotten, but some still<br />

exist after a century or more. Younger <strong>in</strong>dependents have jo<strong>in</strong>ed<br />

<strong>the</strong>m to create <strong>the</strong> dynamic <strong>California</strong> <strong>in</strong>dustry <strong>of</strong> today, as we<br />

shall see <strong>in</strong> Chapter 5.<br />

If necessary law courts could be called on<br />

to enforce orders. Companies were required<br />

to follow procedures when abandon<strong>in</strong>g a<br />

well so that water could not travel through<br />

<strong>the</strong> well bore to a productive sand. <strong>The</strong><br />

department <strong>in</strong>itially had an annual budget<br />

<strong>of</strong> $45,000, out <strong>of</strong> which McLaughl<strong>in</strong><br />

hired four assistants who were assigned to<br />

different geographic areas. <strong>The</strong>y had to<br />

regulate an <strong>in</strong>dustry that had some 7,000<br />

produc<strong>in</strong>g wells, almost 81,000 acres <strong>of</strong><br />

proved oil land, 2,000 miles <strong>of</strong> pipel<strong>in</strong>es, 30<br />

ref<strong>in</strong>eries, and about 40 tanker ships. It was<br />

a Herculean task. Gradually a modus operandi<br />

developed <strong>in</strong> which operators cooperated to<br />

make <strong>the</strong> system work, because it was <strong>in</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> <strong>in</strong>dustry’s <strong>in</strong>terest. An important reason<br />

why this government regulation has worked<br />

is that it was devised over time with <strong>the</strong><br />

participation <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>in</strong>dustry be<strong>in</strong>g regulated,<br />

ra<strong>the</strong>r than be<strong>in</strong>g imposed “top down”<br />

without <strong>the</strong> expertise <strong>of</strong> those operat<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> fields.<br />

<strong>The</strong> Kern River Field went on to produce<br />

about 2 billion barrels as <strong>of</strong> 2007, third <strong>in</strong><br />

<strong>California</strong> after Wilm<strong>in</strong>gton and Midway-<br />

Sunset, and fifth <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> U.S. <strong>The</strong> field now<br />

has about 9,000 wells <strong>in</strong> an area <strong>of</strong> 17 square<br />

miles. Rema<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g reserves are probably<br />

around 500 million barrels and annual<br />

production was about 26 million <strong>in</strong> 2012.<br />

<strong>The</strong> early small companies were eventually<br />

consolidated so that only a few operators<br />

such as Tidewater, Getty, and Texaco were left.<br />

F<strong>in</strong>ally <strong>the</strong>se were for <strong>the</strong> most part bought<br />

out by Chevron, whose ancestor had built<br />

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that orig<strong>in</strong>al 8-<strong>in</strong>ch pipel<strong>in</strong>e. This made it<br />

possible to operate <strong>the</strong> field <strong>in</strong> a consistent,<br />

rational manner, us<strong>in</strong>g all <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> log and o<strong>the</strong>r<br />

data to design ways to maximize production.<br />

GEOLOGY COMES<br />

TO THE FOREFRONT<br />

More discoveries were made <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> first<br />

years <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> new century, and Kern River <strong>in</strong><br />

its turn was eclipsed. Drill<strong>in</strong>g near seeps<br />

was still common. However, geological ideas<br />

about anticl<strong>in</strong>es and faults <strong>in</strong>creas<strong>in</strong>gly<br />

became prime considerations <strong>in</strong> explor<strong>in</strong>g for<br />

oil. At first this meant look<strong>in</strong>g for outcrops<br />

and surface expressions such as l<strong>in</strong>es <strong>of</strong> low<br />

hills. Companies varied <strong>in</strong> how much trust<br />

<strong>the</strong>y placed <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> new ideas. Geologists with<br />

<strong>the</strong>ir fancy degrees from Stanford or Berkeley<br />

<strong>of</strong>ten met resistance from hard-scrabble oil<br />

men who with <strong>the</strong>ir years <strong>of</strong> experience<br />

thought <strong>the</strong>y could better manage a well<br />

without <strong>in</strong>terference. Progress was slow but it<br />

was sure.<br />

<strong>The</strong> Santa Maria Field near <strong>the</strong> present-day<br />

town <strong>of</strong> Orcutt <strong>in</strong> nor<strong>the</strong>rn Santa Barbara<br />

County was opened by Western Union Oil<br />

Company, part <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Shell comb<strong>in</strong>e, <strong>in</strong> 1902.<br />

Map <strong>of</strong> present-day oil and gas fields.<br />

San Joaqu<strong>in</strong> Valley is <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> center-right<br />

portion <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> map. Also shown are fields<br />

near Santa Maria (Orcutt Hill), Cuyama,<br />

Sal<strong>in</strong>as Valley, and <strong>of</strong>fshore Santa Maria<br />

and Santa Barbara, all <strong>of</strong> which are<br />

discussed <strong>in</strong> follow<strong>in</strong>g pages. Oil fields<br />

are grey, gas fields are black. Present-day<br />

major highways are shown as grey l<strong>in</strong>es.<br />

CHAPTER TWO<br />

35


Above: Members <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Hartnell family<br />

look<strong>in</strong>g at <strong>the</strong> oil <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> “Old Maud” sumps.<br />

<strong>The</strong>ir faces suggest differ<strong>in</strong>g op<strong>in</strong>ions about<br />

what <strong>the</strong>y are see<strong>in</strong>g.<br />

COURTESY OF DARWIN SAINZ FAMILY.<br />

Right: “Old Maud” (Hartnell No. 1),<br />

12,000 barrel a day gusher, 1904.<br />

COURTESY OF DARWIN SAINZ FAMILY.<br />

Below: Sumps, or lakes <strong>of</strong> oil from<br />

“Old Maud.”<br />

COURTESY OF DARWIN SAINZ FAMILY.<br />

This drill<strong>in</strong>g was based on outcrops <strong>of</strong><br />

“asphaltum” on canyon walls. O<strong>the</strong>r prom<strong>in</strong>ent<br />

operators <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> area were P<strong>in</strong>al and<br />

Dome Oil Companies, both owned by J. F.<br />

Goodw<strong>in</strong> and his partners. Union Oil, with<br />

new ideas and an aggressive leas<strong>in</strong>g policy,<br />

would prove to be a major player. After send<strong>in</strong>g<br />

its geologist, W. W. Orcutt, to survey <strong>the</strong><br />

area, Lyman Stewart leased almost 70,000<br />

acres. Strik<strong>in</strong>g oil only three days before <strong>the</strong><br />

leases expired, Union went on to drill 38<br />

wells. One <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> most famous <strong>of</strong> all oil wells,<br />

“Old Maud,” blew <strong>in</strong> at 12,000 barrels a day<br />

<strong>in</strong> 1904. It took three months to get <strong>the</strong> well<br />

under control. Water was a serious problem<br />

at Santa Maria, as elsewhere <strong>in</strong> <strong>California</strong>.<br />

Union’s Drill<strong>in</strong>g Super<strong>in</strong>tendent Frank Hill<br />

came up with a bailer that had holes to allow<br />

cement to flow out <strong>of</strong> it and outside <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

cas<strong>in</strong>g, seal<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong> well from higher water<br />

sands. This was one <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> first down-hole<br />

cement<strong>in</strong>g jobs attempted.<br />

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Above: Excavation <strong>of</strong> La Brea Tar Pits<br />

for fossils, by Orcutt and o<strong>the</strong>rs, about<br />

1900-1915. Oil derricks are visible just<br />

north <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> tar pits. Bones up to 38,000<br />

years old have been found. <strong>The</strong> modern<br />

day tar lake (left), complete with concrete<br />

models <strong>of</strong> trapped mammoths, was once<br />

an asphalt m<strong>in</strong>e. Hancock Park is now<br />

surrounded by densely populated city,<br />

and no signs <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> early oil field rema<strong>in</strong>.<br />

<strong>The</strong> George C. Page Museum, at <strong>the</strong> park,<br />

has a million fossils from <strong>the</strong> pits, <strong>in</strong>clud<strong>in</strong>g<br />

mammoths, saber tooth cats, bisons, camels,<br />

and more.<br />

EARLY PHOTO COURTESY OF STEVE MULQUEEN.<br />

MODERN PHOTO BY AUTHOR.<br />

Below: W. W. Orcutt, Union Oil’s geologist.<br />

COURTESY OF CALIFORNIA OIL MUSEUM,<br />

SANTA PAULA, CALIFORNIA.<br />

<strong>The</strong> town <strong>of</strong> Orcutt, named after <strong>the</strong> company<br />

geologist for <strong>the</strong> many oil discoveries<br />

credited to him, was a company town built<br />

to house <strong>the</strong> many workers needed for this<br />

successful oil field. Orcutt was considered<br />

<strong>the</strong> “dean” <strong>of</strong> <strong>California</strong> petroleum geologists.<br />

He established a petroleum geology department<br />

at Union and used surface geology<br />

to explore successfully for petroleum. He<br />

pioneered <strong>the</strong> use <strong>of</strong> aerial photography<br />

(from rickety early biplanes) to record<br />

surface geology. He made use <strong>of</strong> oil seeps,<br />

but he <strong>in</strong>corporated this <strong>in</strong>formation <strong>in</strong>to<br />

his geologic mapp<strong>in</strong>g <strong>of</strong> potential oil-produc<strong>in</strong>g<br />

formations, ra<strong>the</strong>r than bl<strong>in</strong>dly drill<strong>in</strong>g<br />

any location merely because it was near<br />

a seep<br />

CHAPTER TWO<br />

37


Top: Go<strong>in</strong>g up Hartnell grade, Santa Maria<br />

Bas<strong>in</strong>, haul<strong>in</strong>g equipment for a gas plant<br />

with seven horses, five mules and a steam<br />

traction eng<strong>in</strong>e.<br />

COURTESY OF DARWIN SAINZ FAMILY.<br />

Middle: P<strong>in</strong>al No. 26, Orcutt Hill, Santa<br />

Maria Bas<strong>in</strong>. Early <strong>in</strong>ternal combustion<br />

eng<strong>in</strong>e, with flywheels sp<strong>in</strong>n<strong>in</strong>g, is driv<strong>in</strong>g<br />

<strong>the</strong> belt that goes <strong>in</strong>to <strong>the</strong> shed at right.<br />

COURTESY OF DARWIN SAINZ FAMILY.<br />

Bottom: Work<strong>in</strong>g on tools, P<strong>in</strong>al No. 26<br />

well. A heavy cable tool is rest<strong>in</strong>g on <strong>the</strong><br />

anvil. <strong>The</strong> tool dresser had to ma<strong>in</strong>ta<strong>in</strong> and<br />

repair <strong>the</strong>se tools us<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong> forge <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> shed<br />

next to a well.<br />

COURTESY OF DARWIN SAINZ FAMILY.<br />

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Orcutt was a remote place <strong>in</strong> those days.<br />

As at Pico Canyon and many o<strong>the</strong>r oil fields,<br />

workers and <strong>the</strong>ir families lived close to <strong>the</strong><br />

oil wells. Transportation was difficult, and<br />

<strong>the</strong> necessities <strong>of</strong> life had to be brought to<br />

<strong>the</strong> people who lived <strong>the</strong>re. <strong>The</strong> hilly terra<strong>in</strong><br />

made it difficult to br<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> heavy equipment<br />

needed. Draft animals and steam<br />

eng<strong>in</strong>es were sometimes comb<strong>in</strong>ed<br />

to do <strong>the</strong> job. Electrical power was<br />

<strong>of</strong>ten lack<strong>in</strong>g, and steam eng<strong>in</strong>es<br />

or early “hit-and-miss” <strong>in</strong>ternal<br />

combustion eng<strong>in</strong>es were used to<br />

generate electricity or directly supply<br />

motive power. <strong>Black</strong>smiths and<br />

o<strong>the</strong>r skilled artisans had to improvise<br />

solutions to problems, usually<br />

“lost tools,” as <strong>the</strong>y arose. In spite <strong>of</strong><br />

remoteness <strong>the</strong> companies and <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

workers were able to build an <strong>in</strong>frastructure<br />

that <strong>in</strong>cluded not only<br />

oil wells, but pipel<strong>in</strong>es, process<strong>in</strong>g<br />

facilities such as gas plants, tankage,<br />

and transport term<strong>in</strong>als.<br />

Back <strong>in</strong> San Joaqu<strong>in</strong> Valley, production<br />

at Oil City was <strong>in</strong> decl<strong>in</strong>e <strong>in</strong><br />

1900 after just a few years. <strong>The</strong>n <strong>in</strong><br />

1901 <strong>the</strong> Coal<strong>in</strong>ga West pool was<br />

brought <strong>in</strong>. <strong>The</strong> Coal<strong>in</strong>ga East pool<br />

followed about a year later. In 1909<br />

<strong>the</strong> Silvertip gusher blew <strong>in</strong>, produc<strong>in</strong>g<br />

102,000 barrels <strong>in</strong> a month. <strong>The</strong> Los Angeles<br />

Stock Exchange was closed for a day so that<br />

its traders could go to Coal<strong>in</strong>ga and witness<br />

<strong>the</strong> gusher for <strong>the</strong>mselves. A pipel<strong>in</strong>e was<br />

built 110 miles west to Monterey on <strong>the</strong><br />

coast, and a branch was built to <strong>the</strong> Standard<br />

Oil Kern River—Richmond pipel<strong>in</strong>e.<br />

Above: Brookshire Lease, Rice Ranch Oil<br />

Company. A truck from Orcutt Mercantile<br />

is deliver<strong>in</strong>g supplies.<br />

COURTESY OF DARWIN SAINZ FAMILY.<br />

Below: Life on Orcutt Hill, 1908.<br />

COURTESY OF DARWIN SAINZ FAMILY.<br />

CHAPTER TWO<br />

39


Top: P<strong>in</strong>al Gas plant, 1916.<br />

COURTESY OF DARWIN SAINZ FAMILY.<br />

Middle: Interior <strong>of</strong> P<strong>in</strong>al Gas plant, 1916.<br />

COURTESY OF DARWIN SAINZ FAMILY.<br />

Bottom: Internal combustion eng<strong>in</strong>e <strong>in</strong> rear<br />

is driv<strong>in</strong>g a generator <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> foreground,<br />

P<strong>in</strong>al Gas plant, 1916.<br />

COURTESY OF DARWIN SAINZ FAMILY.<br />

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<strong>The</strong> town <strong>of</strong> Coal<strong>in</strong>ga boomed. Although<br />

<strong>the</strong> nearest railroad depot was twenty miles<br />

away, people got <strong>the</strong>re somehow. <strong>The</strong> swell<strong>in</strong>g<br />

town had a roughneck district, with “Whiskey<br />

Row” at <strong>the</strong> center. <strong>The</strong> streets were mud, and<br />

conveniences like baths were rare and expensive<br />

(for <strong>the</strong> second person us<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong> bathwater<br />

it was cheaper). Gambl<strong>in</strong>g could be had<br />

anywhere. In 1913 much <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> production <strong>of</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> area was purchased by Shell, giv<strong>in</strong>g that<br />

company a significant foothold <strong>in</strong> <strong>California</strong>.<br />

Shell built a company town called Oilfields<br />

near Coal<strong>in</strong>ga. Almost a billion barrels have<br />

been produced at Coal<strong>in</strong>ga, and rema<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g<br />

reserves are about 60 million. Coal<strong>in</strong>ga, like<br />

several o<strong>the</strong>r fields along <strong>the</strong> western marg<strong>in</strong><br />

<strong>of</strong> San Joaqu<strong>in</strong> Valley, is <strong>in</strong> an anticl<strong>in</strong>e that<br />

has surface expression as a low, elongated hill.<br />

In 1889 preparations were made to drill near<br />

some tar seeps <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> vic<strong>in</strong>ity <strong>of</strong> present-day<br />

Maricopa, southwest <strong>of</strong> Bakersfield. This would<br />

ultimately be recognized as ano<strong>the</strong>r anticl<strong>in</strong>e,<br />

and <strong>the</strong> field would be named Midway-<br />

Sunset. Drill<strong>in</strong>g activity cont<strong>in</strong>ued at a slow<br />

pace through <strong>the</strong> 1890s and early 1900s. A<br />

small ref<strong>in</strong>ery was built at Maricopa. Daily<br />

production was less than a few thousand<br />

barrels until 1908. Oil field workers and<br />

<strong>the</strong>ir families lived among <strong>the</strong> derricks <strong>in</strong><br />

towns like Taft and Sunset. Higher oil prices<br />

stimulated drill<strong>in</strong>g, and daily production rose<br />

to almost 150,000 barrels <strong>in</strong> 1914. Eventually,<br />

22 <strong>in</strong>dividual oil reservoirs were found <strong>in</strong><br />

six formations <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> 30 square mile area <strong>of</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> field. Discoveries were still be<strong>in</strong>g made <strong>in</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> 1980s. By 2008 <strong>the</strong> field had more than<br />

Above: Auto race through <strong>the</strong> streets <strong>of</strong><br />

Oilfield on Wash<strong>in</strong>gton’s Birthday, 1912.<br />

PHOTO FROM BILL RINTOUL COURTESY OF<br />

GENERAL PRODUCTION SERVICES.<br />

Left: “Derrick Blvd.” at Coal<strong>in</strong>ga, an<br />

example <strong>of</strong> evenly spaced wells, a more<br />

efficient way <strong>of</strong> develop<strong>in</strong>g a field than <strong>the</strong><br />

chaotic town lot drill<strong>in</strong>g <strong>of</strong> several <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

early fields.<br />

CALIFORNIA STATE LIBRARY.<br />

Below: Monarch Maricopa Ref<strong>in</strong>ery,<br />

Midway-Sunset Oil Field, 1907.<br />

<strong>The</strong> Temblor Range is <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> background.<br />

PHOTO FROM BILL RINTOUL COURTESY OF<br />

GENERAL PRODUCTION SERVICES.<br />

CHAPTER TWO<br />

41


Above: <strong>The</strong> town <strong>of</strong> Taft sprang up <strong>in</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> midst <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Midway-Sunset Field.<br />

This panoramic photograph, with residents<br />

(and possibly as many horses and mules)<br />

assembled, was taken <strong>in</strong> 1910.<br />

LIBRARY OF CONGRESS.<br />

Right: School <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> oil field at Sunset, 1902.<br />

PHOTO FROM BILL RINTOUL COURTESY OF<br />

GENERAL PRODUCTION SERVICES.<br />

Below: Box<strong>in</strong>g match at Taft, 1913.<br />

This was typical <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> enterta<strong>in</strong>ment <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

oil towns.<br />

PHOTO FROM BILL RINTOUL COURTESY OF<br />

GENERAL PRODUCTION SERVICES.<br />

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11,000 produc<strong>in</strong>g wells. Estimated reserves<br />

have risen over <strong>the</strong> years with discovery <strong>of</strong><br />

new pools and use <strong>of</strong> new methods <strong>of</strong><br />

enhanced oil recovery, such as steamflood<strong>in</strong>g.<br />

Midway-Sunset has produced more oil than<br />

any o<strong>the</strong>r <strong>in</strong> <strong>California</strong>, hav<strong>in</strong>g reached 3<br />

billion barrels by 2006, three times <strong>the</strong> total<br />

reserves estimated <strong>in</strong> 1930.<br />

Probably <strong>the</strong> most spectacular gusher <strong>in</strong><br />

U.S. history occurred at Midway-Sunset <strong>in</strong><br />

1910-1911. <strong>The</strong> famous Lake View gusher<br />

flowed out <strong>of</strong> control for 18 months and<br />

produced 9 million barrels <strong>of</strong> oil. This well<br />

had been spudded by <strong>the</strong> small Lake View Oil<br />

Company. Supposedly Julius Fried, a grocer<br />

who wanted to have an oil well, had located<br />

<strong>the</strong> drill<strong>in</strong>g site by look<strong>in</strong>g for a patch <strong>of</strong> red<br />

grass <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> late summer. Whe<strong>the</strong>r or not this is<br />

true, Fried leased <strong>the</strong> land. Lack<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong> capital<br />

to drill <strong>the</strong> well, he teamed up with Charles Off<br />

to form <strong>the</strong> Lake View Oil Company. Us<strong>in</strong>g<br />

second-hand tools <strong>the</strong>y managed to get down<br />

to 1,340 feet, where <strong>the</strong>re was a show <strong>of</strong> gas.<br />

<strong>The</strong>n <strong>the</strong>y ran out <strong>of</strong> money.<br />

Below: Charles Off, fac<strong>in</strong>g camera, stak<strong>in</strong>g<br />

<strong>the</strong> drill<strong>in</strong>g location for <strong>the</strong> well that would<br />

become <strong>the</strong> Lake View gusher.<br />

PHOTO FROM BILL RINTOUL COURTESY OF<br />

GENERAL PRODUCTION SERVICES.<br />

CHAPTER TWO<br />

43


Off and Fried made a deal with a much<br />

larger company that controlled a neighbor<strong>in</strong>g<br />

piece <strong>of</strong> land. This was Union Oil, which<br />

seems to have a piece <strong>of</strong> many <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> big<br />

stories <strong>of</strong> <strong>California</strong> oil. Union wanted<br />

Lake View’s land for a tank farm, not to drill<br />

for oil. <strong>The</strong> deal gave Union 51 percent <strong>of</strong><br />

Lake View’s stock <strong>in</strong> exchange for drill<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong><br />

well when <strong>the</strong>ir crews were not busy drill<strong>in</strong>g<br />

<strong>the</strong>ir own wells. Union put one <strong>of</strong> its drillers,<br />

Charles Woods, whose unfortunate nickname<br />

was “Dry Hole Charlie,” on <strong>the</strong> job. Charlie<br />

had more than a dozen dry holes for Union,<br />

but when he hit one, he really hit it. <strong>The</strong> well<br />

gushed 125,000 barrels <strong>the</strong> first day. This<br />

was more than <strong>the</strong> whole rest <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> field<br />

Top: In <strong>the</strong> early days gushers were signs <strong>of</strong><br />

success (not mistakes) and were great draws<br />

for spectators. Here, <strong>the</strong> San Francisco<br />

Stock Exchange is visit<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong> Lake View<br />

gusher <strong>in</strong> its dy<strong>in</strong>g days. <strong>The</strong>y brought <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

flag and carefully posed for <strong>the</strong> occasion.<br />

Hopefully <strong>the</strong>y did not get those white shirts<br />

and coats dirty.<br />

LIBRARY OF CONGRESS.<br />

Above: Stock certificate for Grace M. Off,<br />

dated <strong>in</strong> 1916. This was six years after <strong>the</strong><br />

Lake View gusher, when <strong>the</strong> company was<br />

controlled by Union Oil. Union’s geologist,<br />

W. W. Orcutt signed <strong>the</strong> certificate as<br />

president <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> company.<br />

COURTESY OF THE OFF FAMILY/OJAI OIL COMPANY.<br />

Right: Crater left by <strong>the</strong> Lake View gusher. A<br />

small amount <strong>of</strong> oil is still com<strong>in</strong>g out. Men<br />

work<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> crater are soaked with oil.<br />

PHOTO FROM BILL RINTOUL COURTESY OF<br />

GENERAL PRODUCTION SERVICES.<br />

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produced. A month later it was still mak<strong>in</strong>g<br />

90,000 a day. <strong>The</strong>y had to build ear<strong>the</strong>n levees<br />

to conta<strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> flow. As it turned out less than<br />

half <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> oil was saved. As for Dry Hole,<br />

he went on to drill ano<strong>the</strong>r dozen dusters.<br />

Although <strong>the</strong>se great gushers and <strong>the</strong> oil<br />

fields <strong>the</strong>y bir<strong>the</strong>d were <strong>of</strong>ten discovered as<br />

<strong>the</strong> result <strong>of</strong> seeps, or perhaps ideas about red<br />

grass, <strong>the</strong>y became <strong>the</strong> prov<strong>in</strong>g grounds for<br />

solid geological pr<strong>in</strong>ciples that would make<br />

for still greater discoveries. Data from well<br />

logs and records housed at <strong>the</strong> Department<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>Petroleum</strong> and Gas made it possible to<br />

map <strong>the</strong> anticl<strong>in</strong>es <strong>in</strong> west San Joaqu<strong>in</strong> Valley.<br />

<strong>The</strong> anticl<strong>in</strong>es are more or less parallel to <strong>the</strong><br />

San Andreas Fault, which runs just to <strong>the</strong> west,<br />

close to <strong>the</strong> boundary between <strong>the</strong> Valley<br />

and <strong>the</strong> Coast Ranges. <strong>The</strong> association <strong>of</strong><br />

anticl<strong>in</strong>es with a fault is someth<strong>in</strong>g that has<br />

been repeated time and aga<strong>in</strong> <strong>in</strong> <strong>California</strong>.<br />

That <strong>the</strong> movement <strong>of</strong> a fault can cause fold<strong>in</strong>g<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> crust <strong>in</strong>to an anticl<strong>in</strong>al oil trap is<br />

a scientific explanation that can lead to very<br />

sophisticated ways <strong>of</strong> look<strong>in</strong>g for oil. For<br />

example, knowledge <strong>of</strong> when <strong>in</strong> geologic time<br />

a fault moved can imply when an oil trap<br />

formed, and whe<strong>the</strong>r oil was available at that<br />

time to migrate <strong>in</strong>to <strong>the</strong> trap.<br />

Los Angeles Bas<strong>in</strong> was to become <strong>the</strong> stage<br />

where <strong>the</strong> new ideas succeeded spectacularly.<br />

Two <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> largest pre-1900 discoveries <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

bas<strong>in</strong>, <strong>the</strong> Brea-Ol<strong>in</strong>da and Whittier Fields,<br />

are <strong>in</strong> a range <strong>of</strong> prom<strong>in</strong>ent hills. Although<br />

<strong>the</strong>se fields had been discovered by drill<strong>in</strong>g<br />

near seeps, development <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> fields revealed<br />

that <strong>the</strong>y were conta<strong>in</strong>ed <strong>in</strong> an anticl<strong>in</strong>e that<br />

ran along <strong>the</strong> range <strong>of</strong> hills. Ano<strong>the</strong>r range<br />

with smaller hills, <strong>in</strong>clud<strong>in</strong>g Coyote Hills, lay<br />

to <strong>the</strong> southwest <strong>of</strong> and parallel to <strong>the</strong> larger<br />

range. Several more fields were discovered<br />

Below: Oil fields <strong>in</strong> Los Angeles Bas<strong>in</strong><br />

discovered between 1900 and 1919<br />

(labeled). Most <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>se fields are <strong>in</strong> a range<br />

<strong>of</strong> low hills parallel to and about five miles<br />

southwest <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> range where <strong>the</strong> earlier<br />

discoveries were made.<br />

CHAPTER TWO<br />

45


Right: Santa Fe Spr<strong>in</strong>gs Field <strong>in</strong> 1929.<br />

COURTESY OF CALIFORNIA OIL MUSEUM,<br />

SANTA PAULA, CALIFORNIA.<br />

Below: Beverly Hills Field, discovered by<br />

W. W. Orcutt <strong>in</strong> 1900 by drill<strong>in</strong>g on a<br />

slight ridge or spur extend<strong>in</strong>g from <strong>the</strong><br />

Santa Monica Mounta<strong>in</strong>s to <strong>the</strong> north.<br />

<strong>The</strong> La Brea Tar Pits are located about a<br />

mile to <strong>the</strong> west. This view is look<strong>in</strong>g west<br />

from Highland Avenue just south <strong>of</strong> Sixth<br />

Street. Unlike <strong>the</strong> Los Angeles City Field,<br />

this area was mostly rural at <strong>the</strong> time.<br />

Wells cont<strong>in</strong>ued to be drilled <strong>in</strong> this field,<br />

right up to <strong>the</strong> present, as <strong>the</strong> city grew up<br />

over it.<br />

COURTESY OF CALIFORNIA OIL MUSEUM,<br />

SANTA PAULA, CALIFORNIA.<br />

<strong>the</strong>re between 1900 and 1919 us<strong>in</strong>g geological<br />

ideas about anticl<strong>in</strong>es ra<strong>the</strong>r than simply<br />

drill<strong>in</strong>g near seeps. <strong>The</strong> West Coyote Field<br />

was discovered <strong>in</strong> 1909 by drill<strong>in</strong>g on a<br />

broad, 300-foot high hill. Geologist William<br />

Plotts <strong>of</strong> Murphy Oil predicted oil would<br />

be <strong>the</strong>re, perhaps because a local water well<br />

had a show <strong>of</strong> oil, but <strong>the</strong> anticl<strong>in</strong>e idea<br />

<strong>in</strong>spired drill<strong>in</strong>g on <strong>the</strong> hill.<br />

Early development at West Coyote<br />

revealed <strong>the</strong> outl<strong>in</strong>e <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> anticl<strong>in</strong>e, which<br />

led to <strong>the</strong> discovery <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> o<strong>the</strong>r fields <strong>in</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> trend. First came East Coyote <strong>in</strong> 1909.<br />

Next were Richfield and <strong>the</strong> giant Santa Fe<br />

Spr<strong>in</strong>gs Field, <strong>the</strong> latter six miles to <strong>the</strong><br />

northwest <strong>of</strong> West Coyote. Santa Fe Spr<strong>in</strong>gs<br />

was <strong>in</strong> a seem<strong>in</strong>gly flat area. Never<strong>the</strong>less it is<br />

said that J. Paul Getty’s fa<strong>the</strong>r George F.<br />

noticed a freight tra<strong>in</strong> stra<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g as it traveled<br />

<strong>the</strong> apparently flat land, <strong>the</strong>n suddenly beg<strong>in</strong><br />

to speed up even as it ceased to labor, <strong>in</strong>dicat<strong>in</strong>g<br />

it had reached <strong>the</strong> top <strong>of</strong> an almost<br />

imperceptible hill. <strong>The</strong> Gettys leased four<br />

small lots and proceeded to drill <strong>the</strong><br />

Nordstrom No. 1, which was a 2,300 barrel<br />

a day producer. Although this was not <strong>the</strong><br />

BLACK GOLD IN CALIFORNIA: <strong>The</strong> <strong>Story</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>California</strong> <strong>Petroleum</strong> <strong>Industry</strong><br />

46


field’s discovery well it highlighted <strong>the</strong><br />

importance <strong>of</strong> geologic structures that sometimes<br />

show <strong>the</strong> m<strong>in</strong>utest possible surface<br />

manifestations. Ano<strong>the</strong>r discovery was <strong>the</strong><br />

Montebello Field <strong>in</strong> 1917, which was on <strong>the</strong><br />

Whittier-Brea-Ol<strong>in</strong>da trend. <strong>The</strong>se fields,<br />

with <strong>the</strong>ir anticl<strong>in</strong>es and surface expressions,<br />

spurred wildcatters to look for similar surface<br />

structural expressions without reference to<br />

seeps, lead<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> early 1920s to a quick<br />

succession <strong>of</strong> discoveries on yet ano<strong>the</strong>r<br />

trend that added more than 3 billion barrels<br />

<strong>of</strong> oil to <strong>California</strong>’s reserves.<br />

FROM CABLE TO ROTARY<br />

Until after 1920 virtually all wells <strong>in</strong><br />

<strong>California</strong> were drilled us<strong>in</strong>g cable tools. In<br />

this method a heavy bit was suspended on<br />

a rope (usually hemp <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> early, shallow<br />

wells and wire rope for deeper wells) that<br />

was raised and lowered, caus<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong> bit to<br />

repeatedly pound at <strong>the</strong> bottom <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> hole.<br />

Periodically <strong>the</strong> bit was removed and a bailer,<br />

a long, heavy pipe, was sent to <strong>the</strong> bottom to<br />

remove <strong>the</strong> cutt<strong>in</strong>gs and o<strong>the</strong>r debris from <strong>the</strong><br />

hole. <strong>The</strong> bailer had a door on <strong>the</strong> lower end<br />

Below: Cable tool drill<strong>in</strong>g rig.<br />

A steam eng<strong>in</strong>e provided power to <strong>the</strong> band<br />

wheel via a belt. <strong>The</strong> band wheel caused <strong>the</strong><br />

walk<strong>in</strong>g beam to rock up and down on <strong>the</strong><br />

appropriately named Samson post. This<br />

imparted <strong>the</strong> up and down strokes to <strong>the</strong><br />

drill str<strong>in</strong>g.<br />

COURTESY OF STEVE MULQUEEN.<br />

CHAPTER TWO<br />

47


BLACK GOLD IN CALIFORNIA: <strong>The</strong> <strong>Story</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>California</strong> <strong>Petroleum</strong> <strong>Industry</strong><br />

48


Opposite, clockwise start<strong>in</strong>g from <strong>the</strong> top:<br />

Hopper hoist mounted on a Caterpillar<br />

tractor be<strong>in</strong>g used to run cable down a hole.<br />

COURTESY OF CALIFORNIA OIL MUSEUM,<br />

SANTA PAULA, CALIFORNIA.<br />

A driller and his tooly work<strong>in</strong>g on a cable<br />

tool rig. <strong>The</strong> cable is shown clamped <strong>in</strong><br />

place leav<strong>in</strong>g slack so that it can be moved<br />

<strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> up and down strokes.<br />

COURTESY OF CALIFORNIA OIL MUSEUM,<br />

SANTA PAULA, CALIFORNIA.<br />

A steam boiler, typical <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> type used to<br />

supply power for drill<strong>in</strong>g rigs.<br />

COURTESY OF CALIFORNIA OIL MUSEUM,<br />

SANTA PAULA, CALIFORNIA.<br />

Left: Men atop a derrick <strong>in</strong> 1916.<br />

COURTESY OF CALIFORNIA OIL MUSEUM,<br />

SANTA PAULA, CALIFORNIA.<br />

CHAPTER TWO<br />

49


Right: Cable tools. Bits were shaped like a<br />

chisel or <strong>the</strong> end <strong>of</strong> a fish’s tail. Jars were<br />

jo<strong>in</strong>ts <strong>in</strong> which <strong>the</strong> upper part could be lifted<br />

up to thirteen <strong>in</strong>ches without lift<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong><br />

lower part; this was used to cause a sudden,<br />

sharp blow on <strong>the</strong> upstroke to dislodge a<br />

stuck set <strong>of</strong> tools. <strong>The</strong> auger stem was a<br />

very heavy bar, thirty feet long and<br />

weigh<strong>in</strong>g half a ton. This weight provided<br />

<strong>the</strong> <strong>in</strong>ertia for <strong>the</strong> downstroke <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> bit.<br />

A spear was just one <strong>of</strong> hundreds <strong>of</strong> tools<br />

for “fish<strong>in</strong>g,” <strong>the</strong> process <strong>of</strong> recover<strong>in</strong>g tools,<br />

cas<strong>in</strong>g, or o<strong>the</strong>r objects that dropped or were<br />

stuck <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> hole. Fish<strong>in</strong>g tools were <strong>of</strong>ten<br />

improvised by <strong>the</strong> crew to solve a particular<br />

problem. Successful fish<strong>in</strong>g tools, with<br />

names like alligator grab, collar grab and<br />

rope knife, made it <strong>in</strong>to supply catalogues.<br />

COURTESY OF STEVE MULQUEEN.<br />

Opposite, top: Rotary rig. <strong>The</strong> drive cha<strong>in</strong>,<br />

gear set and rotary table can be seen.<br />

This rig seems to be coated with mud.<br />

COURTESY OF CALIFORNIA OIL MUSEUM,<br />

SANTA PAULA, CALIFORNIA.<br />

Opposite, bottom: Base <strong>of</strong> a wooden derrick<br />

with its crew. <strong>The</strong> massive block is visible.<br />

O<strong>the</strong>r derricks, two beh<strong>in</strong>d and one to <strong>the</strong><br />

left, are quite nearby, <strong>in</strong>dicat<strong>in</strong>g that this<br />

is probably town lot drill<strong>in</strong>g. <strong>The</strong> men are<br />

paus<strong>in</strong>g from <strong>the</strong>ir hard labor, with gloves<br />

<strong>in</strong> hand and tools close by, to pose for this<br />

picture. Presumably <strong>the</strong> slighter-built man<br />

at left <strong>in</strong> cleaner cloth<strong>in</strong>g is <strong>the</strong> boss.<br />

Shifts, or “tours” <strong>in</strong> those days lasted for<br />

twelve hours <strong>of</strong> relentless, dangerous work.<br />

No hard hats back <strong>the</strong>n. <strong>The</strong>se n<strong>in</strong>e men<br />

represent <strong>the</strong> backbone <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> petroleum<br />

<strong>in</strong>dustry. Without <strong>the</strong>m it would be noth<strong>in</strong>g.<br />

COURTESY OF HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF LONG BEACH.<br />

that would open to accept <strong>the</strong> cutt<strong>in</strong>gs, and<br />

<strong>the</strong>n close as <strong>the</strong> bailer was pulled back up.<br />

<strong>The</strong> wooden derricks were about 50 feet high,<br />

and power was usually provided by a steam<br />

eng<strong>in</strong>e. A small crew <strong>of</strong> only two was needed,<br />

<strong>the</strong> driller and a tool dresser. <strong>The</strong> tool dresser<br />

kept <strong>the</strong> bits and o<strong>the</strong>r equipment <strong>in</strong> repair<br />

us<strong>in</strong>g a forge next to <strong>the</strong> derrick. Tool dressers<br />

were expert blacksmiths, and were <strong>of</strong>ten<br />

<strong>in</strong>genious <strong>in</strong>ventors <strong>of</strong> whatever tools were<br />

needed <strong>in</strong> any situation, such as “fish<strong>in</strong>g” out<br />

a stuck drill str<strong>in</strong>g from <strong>the</strong> hole.<br />

Rotary drill<strong>in</strong>g is a much more complex<br />

operation than cable tool drill<strong>in</strong>g, although <strong>in</strong><br />

pr<strong>in</strong>ciple it is no more complicated than a<br />

household electric drill. <strong>The</strong> cable is replaced<br />

by a str<strong>in</strong>g <strong>of</strong> pipe with <strong>the</strong> bit at <strong>the</strong> end.<br />

Mud circulat<strong>in</strong>g down <strong>the</strong> pipe and up via <strong>the</strong><br />

annulus carries <strong>the</strong> cutt<strong>in</strong>gs out <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> hole. A<br />

mud cake aga<strong>in</strong>st <strong>the</strong> wall <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> hole keeps<br />

<strong>the</strong> mud from disappear<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong>to <strong>the</strong> rock and<br />

helps to prevent <strong>the</strong> hole from cav<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong>.<br />

“Tripp<strong>in</strong>g out” is a time-consum<strong>in</strong>g operation<br />

<strong>in</strong> which <strong>the</strong> pipe is stacked up <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> derrick,<br />

<strong>of</strong>ten three jo<strong>in</strong>ts at a time, mean<strong>in</strong>g that <strong>the</strong><br />

derrick has to be about 100 feet high. Crews<br />

consist <strong>of</strong> five men, <strong>the</strong> driller, three roughnecks<br />

on <strong>the</strong> derrick floor, and <strong>the</strong> derrick<br />

BLACK GOLD IN CALIFORNIA: <strong>The</strong> <strong>Story</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>California</strong> <strong>Petroleum</strong> <strong>Industry</strong><br />

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CHAPTER TWO<br />

51


man who goes up to <strong>the</strong> top <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> derrick to<br />

handle <strong>the</strong> stands <strong>of</strong> pipe.<br />

Rotary drill<strong>in</strong>g became popular along<br />

<strong>the</strong> Gulf Coast <strong>of</strong> Texas after 1895. By <strong>the</strong><br />

Sp<strong>in</strong>dletop discovery <strong>in</strong> 1901, more than 100<br />

wells had been drilled with rotary tools <strong>the</strong>re.<br />

Although rotary drill<strong>in</strong>g was tried <strong>in</strong> <strong>California</strong><br />

<strong>in</strong> 1889 at Pico Canyon, as we have seen, <strong>the</strong><br />

experiment was less than successful because <strong>the</strong><br />

rotat<strong>in</strong>g bit could not gr<strong>in</strong>d through hard cobbles.<br />

In 1902 M. K. Oil Company drilled a<br />

2,400 foot hole <strong>in</strong> Coal<strong>in</strong>ga with rotary tools,<br />

but <strong>the</strong> hole was so crooked that <strong>the</strong>y could not<br />

run cas<strong>in</strong>g. Amalgamated Oil rotary drilled a<br />

2,357 dry hole near <strong>the</strong> Salt Lake Field <strong>in</strong><br />

Los Angeles at about <strong>the</strong> same time. In 1908<br />

Standard Oil <strong>of</strong> <strong>California</strong> decided to import<br />

some rotary rigs and crew from Louisiana to<br />

drill wells <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> San Joaqu<strong>in</strong> Valley. <strong>The</strong> same<br />

problem with cobbles kept com<strong>in</strong>g up. While<br />

a cable tool could pound its way through a<br />

cobble, a rotary bit would turn on top <strong>of</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> cobble while f<strong>in</strong>e material was scoured out<br />

by <strong>the</strong> circulat<strong>in</strong>g mud. <strong>The</strong> cavity so formed<br />

would <strong>the</strong>n fill with o<strong>the</strong>r cobbles, creat<strong>in</strong>g a<br />

barrier that <strong>the</strong> bit could not penetrate. This<br />

cobble problem was quite severe <strong>in</strong> many<br />

<strong>California</strong> oil fields, while on <strong>the</strong> Gulf Coast<br />

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52


sands and shales could easily be drilled with<br />

rotary tools.<br />

O<strong>the</strong>r problems were less real and may have<br />

existed ma<strong>in</strong>ly <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> m<strong>in</strong>ds <strong>of</strong> those who resisted<br />

change. One <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>se was <strong>the</strong> idea that <strong>the</strong><br />

mud cake would seal <strong>of</strong>f an oil sand, prevent<strong>in</strong>g<br />

oil from enter<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong> bore hole. Because <strong>of</strong><br />

this some operators started a hole with rotary<br />

tools and switched to cable just before reach<strong>in</strong>g<br />

<strong>the</strong> projected oil sand. <strong>The</strong>re was also prejudice<br />

and rivalry <strong>in</strong> cable tool crews, who called <strong>the</strong><br />

rotary crews “swivel necks.”<br />

In 1910 <strong>the</strong> first gusher drilled with a rotary<br />

rig <strong>in</strong> <strong>California</strong> came <strong>in</strong> at 1,500 barrels a day<br />

at 2,432 feet (Standard Oil). After that <strong>the</strong><br />

technology slowly improved and adapted to<br />

<strong>California</strong> conditions. By 1911 Union Tool<br />

Company (one <strong>of</strong> Lyman Stewart’s bra<strong>in</strong> children)<br />

was manufactur<strong>in</strong>g rotary rigs so <strong>the</strong>y no<br />

longer needed to be brought <strong>in</strong> from out <strong>of</strong><br />

state. Union Tool also came up with a tw<strong>in</strong><br />

steam eng<strong>in</strong>e <strong>in</strong> which <strong>the</strong> two pistons were<br />

attached to <strong>the</strong> crankshaft a quarter turn out<br />

<strong>of</strong> phase so that <strong>the</strong> eng<strong>in</strong>e could be restarted<br />

easily from any stopped position. Guards were<br />

put over <strong>the</strong> rotary tables’ power cha<strong>in</strong>s, which<br />

were extremely dangerous if <strong>the</strong>y broke. In <strong>the</strong><br />

1920s a driller <strong>in</strong> Louisiana got <strong>the</strong> idea <strong>of</strong><br />

mix<strong>in</strong>g dense m<strong>in</strong>erals with <strong>the</strong> mud to make<br />

it heavier <strong>in</strong> order to avoid blowouts. Soon<br />

barite was be<strong>in</strong>g used everywhere, <strong>in</strong>clud<strong>in</strong>g<br />

<strong>in</strong> <strong>California</strong>. <strong>The</strong> wooden derricks were gradually<br />

replaced with steel ones <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> 1930s.<br />

Also <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> 1920s <strong>the</strong> grip r<strong>in</strong>g assembly, by<br />

which <strong>the</strong> pipe was gripped by <strong>the</strong> rotary<br />

table, was replaced by <strong>the</strong> kelly, a square crosssection<br />

length <strong>of</strong> pipe that fit <strong>in</strong>to <strong>the</strong> kelly<br />

bush<strong>in</strong>g set <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> table. <strong>The</strong> fish-tail drill bit,<br />

a leftover from cable days, was f<strong>in</strong>ally replaced<br />

by <strong>the</strong> new roll<strong>in</strong>g-cutter bits.<br />

Rotary drill<strong>in</strong>g goes a long way toward<br />

solv<strong>in</strong>g a major problem <strong>of</strong> cable tool drill<strong>in</strong>g:<br />

gushers. Although gushers were heralded as<br />

signs <strong>of</strong> success <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> early days, <strong>the</strong>y resulted<br />

<strong>in</strong> wastage <strong>of</strong> much <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> produced oil<br />

and <strong>in</strong> a loss <strong>of</strong> formation pressure, so that<br />

most <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> oil <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> reservoir could never be<br />

produced. When a cable tool penetrates a<br />

pressured formation <strong>the</strong>re is noth<strong>in</strong>g to<br />

prevent <strong>the</strong> fluids from “blow<strong>in</strong>g out.” On<br />

<strong>the</strong> o<strong>the</strong>r hand, <strong>the</strong> drill<strong>in</strong>g mud used with<br />

rotary drill<strong>in</strong>g can be made heavy enough to<br />

prevent this, if <strong>the</strong> overpressured formation<br />

is anticipated.<br />

Opposite page, rotary rig floors and <strong>the</strong><br />

crews who man <strong>the</strong>m:<br />

Top, left: <strong>The</strong> man who is lean<strong>in</strong>g with his<br />

hand just below <strong>the</strong> rotary swivel looks like<br />

he is <strong>in</strong> charge; at least that is what he<br />

wants you to th<strong>in</strong>k. Below <strong>the</strong> swivel is <strong>the</strong><br />

kelly, which is square <strong>in</strong> cross section and<br />

fits <strong>in</strong>to <strong>the</strong> kelly bush<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> round<br />

table below.<br />

Top, right: This picture clearly shows <strong>the</strong><br />

square kelly. This same picture shows <strong>the</strong><br />

cha<strong>in</strong> that drives <strong>the</strong> rotary table, with a<br />

safety cover. <strong>The</strong> roughneck lean<strong>in</strong>g over <strong>the</strong><br />

safety cover seems to be say<strong>in</strong>g “It can’t get<br />

me now.”<br />

Bottom, left: A cha<strong>in</strong> <strong>in</strong> ano<strong>the</strong>r probably<br />

earlier picture is exposed. Most <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> five<br />

men are smil<strong>in</strong>g but <strong>the</strong> younger man<br />

closest to <strong>the</strong> cha<strong>in</strong> looks a little dubious.<br />

<strong>The</strong>se cha<strong>in</strong>s could easily take an arm <strong>of</strong>f,<br />

and <strong>the</strong> safety cover was added for<br />

good reason.<br />

Bottom, right: Six o<strong>the</strong>r men are ga<strong>the</strong>red<br />

around two drill<strong>in</strong>g bits, enjoy<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

cigars. <strong>The</strong> cross-shaped bit could have been<br />

used <strong>in</strong> a cable tool rig. <strong>The</strong> o<strong>the</strong>r bit is a<br />

roller type designed for rotary drill<strong>in</strong>g.<br />

THE FOUR PHOTOGRAPHS ARE COURTESY OF THE<br />

HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF LONG BEACH.<br />

Left: Jack l<strong>in</strong>e cables runn<strong>in</strong>g from <strong>of</strong>fset<br />

wheel. As this wheel rotates <strong>the</strong> cables are<br />

pulled back and forth, each runn<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong><br />

pumpjack on a well. Thus several wells<br />

could be pumped us<strong>in</strong>g a s<strong>in</strong>gle steam or<br />

hit-and-miss eng<strong>in</strong>e.<br />

COURTESY OF CALIFORNIA OIL MUSEUM,<br />

SANTA PAULA, CALIFORNIA.<br />

CHAPTER TWO<br />

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Opposite: Transition. A steel and a wooden<br />

derrick side by side. Taken from Signal Hill.<br />

<strong>The</strong> sun is sett<strong>in</strong>g over Palos Verdes Hills.<br />

COURTESY OF THE HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF LONG BEACH.<br />

Left: Steel derrick <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> Brea-Ol<strong>in</strong>da Field.<br />

<strong>The</strong>se replaced <strong>the</strong> old wooden derricks,<br />

but <strong>the</strong>y <strong>in</strong> turn have been replaced by<br />

portable rigs. Nearly all <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> thousands<br />

that once dotted <strong>the</strong> landscape <strong>of</strong> sou<strong>the</strong>rn<br />

<strong>California</strong> have been removed. This is one<br />

<strong>of</strong> a mere handful left stand<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong> 2015.<br />

At least one o<strong>the</strong>r has been repurposed as a<br />

cell phone tower.<br />

PHOTO BY AUTHOR.<br />

CHAPTER TWO<br />

55


Above: Newspaper advertisement for<br />

Red Crown Gasol<strong>in</strong>e, about 1917. Purity<br />

<strong>of</strong> gasol<strong>in</strong>e was an important advertis<strong>in</strong>g<br />

po<strong>in</strong>t. Standard claimed that <strong>the</strong>ir “straight<br />

distilled” gasol<strong>in</strong>e, not a mixture, gives easy<br />

start<strong>in</strong>g, quick acceleration, and good<br />

mileage. <strong>The</strong> ad uses a teakettle as an<br />

analogy for <strong>the</strong> “cont<strong>in</strong>uous range <strong>of</strong> boil<strong>in</strong>g<br />

po<strong>in</strong>ts” <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>ir fuel.<br />

Below: Delivery truck <strong>in</strong> Oakland.<br />

COURTESY OF CHEVRON USA.<br />

THE AUTOMOTIVE<br />

AGE ARRIVES<br />

In <strong>the</strong> first two decades <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> twentieth<br />

century <strong>the</strong> uses <strong>of</strong> petroleum changed<br />

dramatically. Previously, kerosene for illum<strong>in</strong>ation,<br />

fuel oil, and lubricants were <strong>the</strong><br />

ma<strong>in</strong>stays. However, <strong>the</strong> new era <strong>of</strong> transportation<br />

brought gasol<strong>in</strong>e to <strong>the</strong> forefront.<br />

By 1910 <strong>the</strong> amount <strong>of</strong> gasol<strong>in</strong>e manufactured<br />

exceeded that <strong>of</strong> kerosene. By 1920 <strong>the</strong><br />

little town <strong>of</strong> Los Angeles had become a<br />

metropolis <strong>of</strong> 577,000, and many o<strong>the</strong>r cities<br />

dotted <strong>the</strong> landscape <strong>of</strong> sou<strong>the</strong>rn <strong>California</strong>,<br />

l<strong>in</strong>ked by <strong>the</strong> rails <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Pacific Electric and<br />

by a cont<strong>in</strong>ually improv<strong>in</strong>g network <strong>of</strong> roads.<br />

Unlike cities back east, <strong>the</strong>se towns grew<br />

dur<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong> dawn<strong>in</strong>g age <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> automobile,<br />

and <strong>the</strong>y spread out. From 1910 to 1920<br />

automobile ownership went from 1 for every<br />

75 people to 1 for every 7. <strong>The</strong> sou<strong>the</strong>rn<br />

<strong>California</strong> car craze was on, and it needed<br />

one th<strong>in</strong>g more than anyth<strong>in</strong>g else—gasol<strong>in</strong>e.<br />

Market<strong>in</strong>g operations <strong>of</strong> most major oil<br />

companies before 1910 were mostly wholesale.<br />

For example, Standard <strong>of</strong> <strong>California</strong>,<br />

which dom<strong>in</strong>ated <strong>the</strong> market for all products<br />

except fuel oil, had “stations” (really district<br />

warehouses) that used horse-drawn wagons<br />

and later trucks to deliver products <strong>in</strong> tanks<br />

and barrels to retailers. Distillate, a fuel heavier<br />

than gasol<strong>in</strong>e, was delivered to factories<br />

for use <strong>in</strong> stationary eng<strong>in</strong>es. Kerosene, and<br />

later gasol<strong>in</strong>e, were usually sold to consumers<br />

<strong>in</strong> t<strong>in</strong>s. Before about 1913 a motorist would<br />

go to a hardware store or even a grocery store<br />

and purchase gasol<strong>in</strong>e <strong>in</strong> five-gallon t<strong>in</strong>s to<br />

store at home for later use. At Union Oil’s yard<br />

at Sixth and Santa Fe <strong>in</strong> Los Angeles, a row <strong>of</strong><br />

fifty-gallon tanks was set up, each with <strong>the</strong><br />

name <strong>of</strong> an <strong>in</strong>dividual motorist. When <strong>the</strong> car<br />

owner wanted some gas he simply drove to<br />

<strong>the</strong> yard and filled up himself. On a trip one<br />

would seek out a garage, a car dealership, or<br />

even a bicycle shop that might be sell<strong>in</strong>g<br />

gasol<strong>in</strong>e as a side bus<strong>in</strong>ess. <strong>The</strong> gas would be<br />

poured from a barrel <strong>in</strong>to a measur<strong>in</strong>g conta<strong>in</strong>er<br />

and <strong>the</strong>n <strong>in</strong>to <strong>the</strong> car’s tank. Sometimes<br />

a small buggy with a tank and a hose was used<br />

to gas up a car pulled to <strong>the</strong> curb <strong>of</strong> a street,<br />

but this caused traffic problems. Quality<br />

varied, and merchants sometimes adulterated<br />

<strong>the</strong> gas with <strong>the</strong> cheaper and less desirable<br />

distillate. As <strong>the</strong> Model Ts and Chevies proliferated,<br />

this had to change.<br />

In 1907 a Standard Oil warehouseman <strong>in</strong><br />

Seattle repurposed a water tank, fitt<strong>in</strong>g it<br />

with a hose and a valve, and sold gasol<strong>in</strong>e to<br />

customers who would come to <strong>the</strong> ma<strong>in</strong><br />

plant. Thus Standard lays claim to hav<strong>in</strong>g<br />

<strong>the</strong> first “service station” anywhere. <strong>The</strong> next<br />

move was to have <strong>the</strong> service station by itself,<br />

away from <strong>the</strong> warehouse and <strong>in</strong> every<br />

neighborhood. Such stations began to appear<br />

<strong>in</strong> Seattle and elsewhere. In 1912, Standard<br />

tried to build four neighborhood stations <strong>in</strong><br />

Los Angeles. Citizens, perhaps encouraged by<br />

garage owners, objected on grounds <strong>of</strong> fire<br />

hazard and possible damage to <strong>the</strong>ir property<br />

values, and got <strong>the</strong> city council to deny <strong>the</strong><br />

permits. In <strong>the</strong> follow<strong>in</strong>g year several auto<br />

dealers <strong>in</strong>clud<strong>in</strong>g Earl C. Anthony, later owner<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> famous KFI radio station, formed<br />

National Supply Stations, Inc. <strong>The</strong>y built a<br />

little one-pump gas station with a 12 by 15<br />

foot wooden build<strong>in</strong>g whose ro<strong>of</strong> extended<br />

over <strong>the</strong> pump. <strong>The</strong>y sold Standard’s Red<br />

Crown gasol<strong>in</strong>e, and had a sign with <strong>the</strong> red,<br />

white, and blue colors still used by Chevron<br />

today. In a few months <strong>the</strong>y had n<strong>in</strong>e stations<br />

<strong>in</strong> Los Angeles and Pasadena, and <strong>in</strong> January<br />

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1914 accounted for 22 percent <strong>of</strong> Los Angeles<br />

gasol<strong>in</strong>e sales.<br />

Not to be outdone by Standard, o<strong>the</strong>r<br />

companies were gett<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong>to <strong>the</strong> act. Union<br />

Oil opened its first station <strong>in</strong> downtown<br />

Los Angeles <strong>in</strong> 1913. By 1914 stations were<br />

beg<strong>in</strong>n<strong>in</strong>g to appear <strong>in</strong> places like San<br />

Francisco, San Diego, Berkeley, Santa Ana,<br />

Oakland, and Anaheim. By <strong>the</strong> end <strong>of</strong> 1914<br />

<strong>the</strong>re were fifty stations <strong>in</strong> Los Angeles.<br />

Stations appeared <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> Sacramento and San<br />

Joaqu<strong>in</strong> Valleys, and <strong>California</strong> oil companies<br />

supplied stations <strong>in</strong> Oregon and Wash<strong>in</strong>gton.<br />

<strong>The</strong> “gas pumps,” with glass bowls at <strong>the</strong> top<br />

graduated <strong>in</strong> gallons to accurately and conveniently<br />

dispense <strong>the</strong> fuel, were a big advance.<br />

Companies touted <strong>the</strong>ir brands, such as Red<br />

Crown, P<strong>in</strong>al Dome’s Pennant brand, Motor<br />

Maid, Owl, and o<strong>the</strong>rs. Purity and consistency<br />

were ma<strong>in</strong> sell<strong>in</strong>g po<strong>in</strong>ts. Garage men and<br />

o<strong>the</strong>rs competed desperately, but <strong>the</strong> convenience<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> gas stations and <strong>the</strong> efficiency<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>ir operation meant that gas stations<br />

would take over <strong>the</strong> market. Eventually<br />

service stations <strong>of</strong>fered lubricants and conveniences<br />

like compressed air for tires, and<br />

even promotional items like road maps.<br />

Ano<strong>the</strong>r well-known feature <strong>of</strong> service<br />

station retail<strong>in</strong>g emerged <strong>in</strong> 1914: <strong>the</strong> gas war.<br />

An oversupply <strong>of</strong> crude oil and ref<strong>in</strong>ed stocks<br />

led to prices be<strong>in</strong>g cut from about 19 cents a<br />

gallon <strong>in</strong> 1912 to as low as 10 cents <strong>in</strong> 1915.<br />

Above: Garage sell<strong>in</strong>g gasol<strong>in</strong>e. <strong>The</strong> brand<br />

is “Aeroplane.” <strong>The</strong> garage also repairs<br />

batteries, sells tires, has a mach<strong>in</strong>e shop,<br />

services both cars and tractors, and<br />

advertises a ladies’ rest room. Two doors<br />

down is a horse shoe<strong>in</strong>g establishment.<br />

COURTESY HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF LONG BEACH.<br />

Below: Hardware store sell<strong>in</strong>g gasol<strong>in</strong>e.<br />

COURTESY OF CHEVRON USA.<br />

CHAPTER TWO<br />

57


Early gas station operators (pages 58-61)<br />

experimented with different ways to market<br />

<strong>the</strong>ir products. Some sold only one brand<br />

<strong>of</strong> gasol<strong>in</strong>e, o<strong>the</strong>rs sold as many as four or<br />

five. One photo shows a station with five<br />

pumps l<strong>in</strong>ed up, each pa<strong>in</strong>ted differently<br />

to represent a brand. Stations <strong>of</strong>fered<br />

restrooms, tires, oil, and S&H Green<br />

Stamps (opposite, bottom). Uniformed<br />

attendants wear<strong>in</strong>g bow ties (opposite, top)<br />

would stand by ready to serve. Some<br />

stations had six or more islands. By <strong>the</strong> ’40s<br />

<strong>the</strong> glass bowl pumps(opposite, bottom)<br />

were mostly gone. A Richfield gas station <strong>in</strong><br />

Long Beach (below) was also an Oldsmobile<br />

Dealer. <strong>The</strong> pumps, where an attendant is<br />

shown air<strong>in</strong>g up a customer’s tire, are just<br />

outside <strong>the</strong> showroom. While gett<strong>in</strong>g gas for<br />

his beat-up old car <strong>the</strong> customer could look<br />

long<strong>in</strong>gly through <strong>the</strong> w<strong>in</strong>dow ten feet away<br />

at <strong>the</strong> spiffy new Oldsmobile <strong>of</strong> his dreams.<br />

ALL PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF<br />

HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF LONG BEACH.<br />

F<strong>in</strong>ally prices began to stabilize <strong>in</strong> late 1915,<br />

end<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong> first <strong>of</strong> many gas wars to come.<br />

Suppliers <strong>of</strong>ten gave 2 percent discounts to<br />

gas stations that paid <strong>in</strong> cash, and also lent<br />

equipment like tanks. Ra<strong>the</strong>r than discount<strong>in</strong>g,<br />

Standard <strong>in</strong>stead chose to market its Red<br />

Crown as be<strong>in</strong>g superior to o<strong>the</strong>r gasol<strong>in</strong>es <strong>in</strong><br />

start<strong>in</strong>g, acceleration, and fuel economy.<br />

Late <strong>in</strong> 1914, Standard purchased National<br />

Supply and its 31 stations. New stations were<br />

built <strong>of</strong> steel and were landscaped with flower<br />

beds. Attendants wore white uniforms and<br />

were expected to take care <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> shrubbery<br />

when <strong>the</strong>y were not busy with customers.<br />

By 1919 Standard led <strong>the</strong> field by far with<br />

218 stations. Associated had 85, Shell, a new<br />

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58


entrant <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>California</strong> petroleum <strong>in</strong>dustry,<br />

had 77, and Union had 32.<br />

Union Oil did not <strong>in</strong>itially get <strong>in</strong>to service<br />

stations <strong>in</strong> a big way like Standard, but <strong>the</strong>y<br />

soon made up for lost time. Union had a<br />

much larger market share <strong>of</strong> fuel oil than<br />

Standard and lagged <strong>in</strong> ref<strong>in</strong>ed products.<br />

<strong>The</strong>ir first gas station at Sixth and Mateo <strong>in</strong><br />

Los Angeles was set up only because motorists<br />

l<strong>in</strong>ed up around <strong>the</strong> block at <strong>the</strong>ir yard.<br />

Union’s entry <strong>in</strong>to <strong>the</strong> retail market was still<br />

quite meager until it acquired <strong>the</strong> P<strong>in</strong>al-Dome<br />

Oil Company. P<strong>in</strong>al-Dome was a small concern<br />

that produced ma<strong>in</strong>ly <strong>in</strong> Santa Maria<br />

Valley and had 20 service stations mostly <strong>in</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> Los Angeles area. P<strong>in</strong>al-Dome had been<br />

CHAPTER TWO<br />

59


forced <strong>in</strong>to <strong>the</strong> retail market earlier as a means<br />

<strong>of</strong> dispens<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong>ir production. With a less<br />

aggressive exploration program than Union’s,<br />

P<strong>in</strong>al-Dome saw its production fall to <strong>the</strong><br />

po<strong>in</strong>t that it could no longer fully supply its<br />

retail outlets. Union needed more outlets for<br />

its production and <strong>the</strong> merger was thus a<br />

perfect fit.<br />

Almost at <strong>the</strong> same time that Union got<br />

P<strong>in</strong>al-Dome’s 20 gas stations, its newly built<br />

Wilm<strong>in</strong>gton Ref<strong>in</strong>ery began churn<strong>in</strong>g out<br />

gasol<strong>in</strong>e. Union quickly built more gas stations,<br />

putt<strong>in</strong>g on a contest among architects<br />

to come up with a functional, attractive<br />

design. Bus<strong>in</strong>ess skyrocketed as <strong>the</strong> auto<br />

boom really got under way. By <strong>the</strong> early<br />

1920s Union was issu<strong>in</strong>g credit cards to its<br />

customers. Union eventually developed a system<br />

<strong>of</strong> leas<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong> stations out to <strong>in</strong>dependent<br />

small bus<strong>in</strong>ess people, keep<strong>in</strong>g only a handful<br />

<strong>in</strong> company ownership for tra<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g and to<br />

try out new ideas. <strong>The</strong> <strong>in</strong>dependent operators<br />

and <strong>the</strong>ir employees were tra<strong>in</strong>ed to provide<br />

a consistent type <strong>of</strong> service and to ma<strong>in</strong>ta<strong>in</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> stations <strong>in</strong> a clean, attractive condition.<br />

Union needed a name to market its highoctane<br />

anti-knock gasol<strong>in</strong>e as a counter to <strong>the</strong><br />

gas wars, which became potentially more<br />

ru<strong>in</strong>ous <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> depression years <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> 1930s.<br />

Robert D. Mat<strong>the</strong>ws, a vice president specializ<strong>in</strong>g<br />

<strong>in</strong> account<strong>in</strong>g and f<strong>in</strong>ance, was a Welsh<br />

immigrant who was study<strong>in</strong>g for his citizenship<br />

exam. He proposed <strong>the</strong> patriotic symbol<br />

“76,” which fortuitously was also <strong>the</strong> octane<br />

value <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> anti-knock gasol<strong>in</strong>e com<strong>in</strong>g out<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Union ref<strong>in</strong>eries. <strong>The</strong> name stuck, and<br />

it is still here today even though Union Oil<br />

no longer exists and <strong>the</strong> gasol<strong>in</strong>e is now<br />

be<strong>in</strong>g sold by Tosco (Phillips <strong>Petroleum</strong>).<br />

Gas stations grew <strong>in</strong> size and complexity.<br />

Most <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>m added service bays where major<br />

repair work could be done, thus ironically<br />

recall<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong> early days <strong>of</strong> garages which had<br />

lost <strong>the</strong>ir gasol<strong>in</strong>e bus<strong>in</strong>ess to <strong>the</strong> stations.<br />

Multiple islands served many cars at once.<br />

Some <strong>of</strong> us can recall when we could drive<br />

<strong>in</strong>to a gas station and just sit <strong>the</strong>re while <strong>the</strong><br />

white-attired attendant would check our oil<br />

and wash our w<strong>in</strong>dows with those blue<br />

towels while we listened to <strong>the</strong> “d<strong>in</strong>g-d<strong>in</strong>g”<br />

<strong>of</strong> our tank be<strong>in</strong>g effortlessly filled. We could<br />

get enough complimentary cups and plates<br />

to fill a whole table if we kept com<strong>in</strong>g back.<br />

For a while <strong>the</strong>re were “full-serve islands”<br />

and “self-serve islands,” or just “full” and<br />

“self.” Not any more, except <strong>in</strong> a few places<br />

like Oregon. Now <strong>the</strong> service bays are<br />

mostly gone. Today we can get anyth<strong>in</strong>g we<br />

want for our stomachs and our cupholders.<br />

One th<strong>in</strong>g is still <strong>the</strong> same: we have a delivery<br />

system for fuel for our vehicles that is so<br />

efficient and effortless that we completely<br />

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take it for granted. Of course, once <strong>in</strong> a<br />

while that is not <strong>the</strong> case, as <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> early<br />

1970s when <strong>the</strong>re was gas ration<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong><br />

response to <strong>the</strong> OPEC oil embargo, or <strong>the</strong><br />

now forgotten episode <strong>in</strong> 1920 when an<br />

acute shortage forced Union and o<strong>the</strong>r companies<br />

to order special tra<strong>in</strong>s <strong>of</strong> gasol<strong>in</strong>efilled<br />

tank cars to come from Texas. Such<br />

events, however, are <strong>the</strong> exception and not<br />

<strong>the</strong> rule.<br />

CHAPTER TWO<br />

61


CHAPTER<br />

THREE<br />

BETWEEN THE WARS<br />

FROM SHORTAGE TO GLUT: 1920 TO 1930<br />

Above: Ventura Field, discovered <strong>in</strong> 1919.<br />

This photograph was taken <strong>in</strong> 1926.<br />

COURTESY OF CALIFORNIA OIL MUSEUM,<br />

SANTA PAULA, CALIFORNIA.<br />

Opposite, middle: Third trend <strong>of</strong> hills, with<br />

fields from Hunt<strong>in</strong>gton Beach to Inglewood,<br />

discovered <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> 1920s. Beverly Hills,<br />

discovered <strong>in</strong> 1900, is on <strong>the</strong> same trend.<br />

Opposite, bottom: Map <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Hunt<strong>in</strong>gton<br />

Beach Field. <strong>Black</strong> dots are all wells up<br />

to <strong>the</strong> present. <strong>The</strong> star <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> center is<br />

<strong>the</strong> 1920 discovery well. Many different<br />

methods have been used to develop this field<br />

over <strong>the</strong> years, from <strong>the</strong> <strong>in</strong>efficient town lot<br />

drill<strong>in</strong>g to <strong>the</strong> more orderly development at<br />

Bolsa Chica. Directional wells were drilled<br />

under <strong>the</strong> ocean from a skid parallel to<br />

Pacific Coast Highway. Later <strong>of</strong>fshore<br />

development was from moveable rigs and<br />

<strong>the</strong>n platforms.<br />

MAP MODIFIED FROM THE CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT<br />

OF OIL, GAS, AND GEOTHERMAL RESOURCES (DOGGR).<br />

<strong>The</strong> American petroleum <strong>in</strong>dustry produced 80 percent <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> oil used by <strong>the</strong> Allies <strong>in</strong> World<br />

War I. As Lord Curzon said, <strong>the</strong>y “floated to victory on a wave <strong>of</strong> oil.” <strong>The</strong> war was followed by a<br />

shortage that was made worse by <strong>the</strong> cont<strong>in</strong>u<strong>in</strong>g proliferation <strong>of</strong> automobiles, from 150,000 <strong>in</strong><br />

1915 to 500,000 by 1920. An especially severe gasol<strong>in</strong>e shortage developed <strong>in</strong> sou<strong>the</strong>rn <strong>California</strong>.<br />

At <strong>the</strong> same time <strong>the</strong>re was pessimism <strong>in</strong> some quarters about <strong>the</strong> prospects <strong>of</strong> f<strong>in</strong>d<strong>in</strong>g more oil.<br />

<strong>The</strong> chief geologist <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> U.S. Geological Survey, David White, said <strong>in</strong> 1920:<br />

…<strong>the</strong> production <strong>of</strong> natural petroleum <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> United States must pass its peak at an early date,<br />

probably with<strong>in</strong> five years and possibly with<strong>in</strong> three years, due to <strong>the</strong> exhaustion <strong>of</strong> our reserves.<br />

White was an em<strong>in</strong>ent scientist and probably most experts at <strong>the</strong> time agreed with him.<br />

<strong>The</strong> problem with this statement, however, was that <strong>the</strong> experts did not anticipate new ideas and<br />

technology that would <strong>in</strong>crease <strong>the</strong> reserves many fold. Such predictions <strong>of</strong> doom have been<br />

repeated many times s<strong>in</strong>ce, always to be refuted by new methods and <strong>in</strong>ventions that led to waves<br />

<strong>of</strong> discoveries. <strong>The</strong> situation would be summed up thirty-two years later <strong>in</strong> a famous statement<br />

by ano<strong>the</strong>r petroleum geologist, Wallace E. Pratt, “Where oil is first found, <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> f<strong>in</strong>al analysis,<br />

is <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> m<strong>in</strong>ds <strong>of</strong> men.”<br />

<strong>The</strong> “Roar<strong>in</strong>g Twenties” proved Pratt’s po<strong>in</strong>t even before he said it, and it did so most<br />

conv<strong>in</strong>c<strong>in</strong>gly <strong>in</strong> <strong>California</strong>. <strong>The</strong> total United States reserves figure <strong>of</strong> 7 billion barrels cited by<br />

White was more than doubled <strong>in</strong> a few years <strong>in</strong> Los Angeles Bas<strong>in</strong> alone. Annual production<br />

for <strong>California</strong>, which had been steadily <strong>in</strong>creas<strong>in</strong>g for about twenty-five years, suddenly went<br />

from 100 million barrels to 250 million between 1921 and 1923. Much <strong>of</strong> this was from<br />

development <strong>of</strong> previously discovered fields such as Montebello, Santa Fe Spr<strong>in</strong>gs, Midway-<br />

Sunset, Ventura, and o<strong>the</strong>rs. <strong>The</strong> early 1920s also saw <strong>the</strong> discovery <strong>of</strong> new giant fields, and<br />

eventually billions <strong>of</strong> barrels <strong>of</strong> reserves, that were located without benefit <strong>of</strong> any nearby seeps or<br />

asphaltum outcrops.<br />

Discoveries <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> previous decade along <strong>the</strong> Coyotes Hills-Santa Fe Spr<strong>in</strong>gs trend focused<br />

attention on ano<strong>the</strong>r long range <strong>of</strong> narrow, low hills and mesas that stretched from Newport Beach<br />

on <strong>the</strong> south to near <strong>the</strong> Beverly Hills Field, discovered <strong>in</strong> 1900, on <strong>the</strong> north. To be sure, shallow<br />

wells had been drilled on this trend as far back as 1889, but <strong>the</strong>y were ei<strong>the</strong>r dry or yielded only<br />

small amounts <strong>of</strong> oil or gas. In one case <strong>the</strong>re was just enough gas to supply a man’s house.<br />

Ano<strong>the</strong>r well ran a small asbestos factory. <strong>The</strong>n <strong>in</strong> 1920-1921, two giant fields, Hunt<strong>in</strong>gton Beach<br />

BLACK GOLD IN CALIFORNIA: <strong>The</strong> <strong>Story</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>California</strong> <strong>Petroleum</strong> <strong>Industry</strong><br />

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and Long Beach (Signal Hill) were brought <strong>in</strong><br />

almost simultaneously. By 1924, fields were<br />

found at Dom<strong>in</strong>guez, Seal Beach, Rosecrans,<br />

and Inglewood. Toge<strong>the</strong>r <strong>the</strong>se six fields have<br />

produced over 3 billion barrels, and <strong>the</strong>y are<br />

still produc<strong>in</strong>g.<br />

<strong>The</strong> discovery well <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Hunt<strong>in</strong>gton<br />

Beach Field was completed by Standard Oil<br />

on May 24, 1920. Located on top <strong>of</strong> a mesa<br />

near <strong>the</strong> coastl<strong>in</strong>e, it flowed 45 barrels a day<br />

from 2,199 feet. While this did not stir much<br />

excitement, <strong>the</strong> nearby Bolsa Chica No. 1<br />

came <strong>in</strong> at 2,000 barrels a day <strong>in</strong> November.<br />

<strong>The</strong>se wells established <strong>the</strong> Old Field, which<br />

lies <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> anticl<strong>in</strong>e parallel to <strong>the</strong> ma<strong>in</strong> trace<br />

<strong>of</strong> what is now known as <strong>the</strong> Newport-<br />

Inglewood Fault. O<strong>the</strong>r pools were opened<br />

up later <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> 1920s, <strong>the</strong> Surf Area, <strong>the</strong><br />

Townsite Tideland Area, and <strong>the</strong> Ma<strong>in</strong> Street<br />

Field. <strong>The</strong> Townsite Tideland Area was townlots<br />

along <strong>the</strong> coast between <strong>Gold</strong>enwest<br />

Street and First Street. Wells were close<br />

toge<strong>the</strong>r on very small lots, with all <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

difficulties that came with a multitude <strong>of</strong><br />

small compet<strong>in</strong>g operators. O<strong>the</strong>r parts <strong>of</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> field, such as Bolsa Chica, were under<br />

one operator so that <strong>the</strong> coverage <strong>of</strong> wells<br />

and development <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> field <strong>the</strong>re was more<br />

orderly. A str<strong>in</strong>g <strong>of</strong> wells spudded right on<br />

<strong>the</strong> coastl<strong>in</strong>e, almost on <strong>the</strong> beach, were<br />

whipstocked, or directionally drilled, under<br />

<strong>the</strong> ocean <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> early 1930s.<br />

One part <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Old Field presented a<br />

special problem to <strong>the</strong> operators. This was<br />

<strong>the</strong> “Encyclopedia Section” ma<strong>in</strong>ly along Ellis<br />

Avenue from Edwards to Gothard Streets.<br />

It turns out that many years previously sets<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Encyclopedia Americana were sold to<br />

people <strong>in</strong> New England for <strong>the</strong> ra<strong>the</strong>r steep<br />

price <strong>of</strong> $125. To sweeten <strong>the</strong> deal each set <strong>of</strong><br />

volumes was accompanied by a deed to a<br />

“seaside lot” <strong>in</strong> sunny <strong>California</strong>. Never m<strong>in</strong>d<br />

that <strong>the</strong> lots were a couple <strong>of</strong> miles from <strong>the</strong><br />

beach. <strong>The</strong> map showed streets that did not<br />

exist (and still do not today). Probably most<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> owners put <strong>the</strong>ir deed <strong>in</strong> a drawer<br />

and forgot about it. When oil was discovered<br />

under <strong>the</strong>ir property <strong>the</strong> landmen came<br />

CHAPTER THREE<br />

63


Above: Wells along <strong>the</strong> beach,<br />

Hunt<strong>in</strong>gton Beach.<br />

COURTESY OF CHEVRON USA.<br />

Right: Inland part <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Hunt<strong>in</strong>gton Beach<br />

Field. Downtown Hunt<strong>in</strong>gton Beach and <strong>the</strong><br />

pier are <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> foreground.<br />

LOS ANGELES PUBLIC LIBRARY.<br />

Below: Signal Hill, part <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

Long Beach Field.<br />

COURTESY OF CALIFORNIA OIL MUSEUM,<br />

SANTA PAULA, CALIFORNIA.<br />

Opposite, top: Long Beach Field skyl<strong>in</strong>e<br />

show<strong>in</strong>g a seem<strong>in</strong>gly impenetrable curta<strong>in</strong><br />

<strong>of</strong> derricks. Signal Hill is on <strong>the</strong> left.<br />

Photograph probably taken <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> 1920s<br />

or 1930s.<br />

COURTESY OF HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF LONG BEACH.<br />

knock<strong>in</strong>g, <strong>of</strong>fer<strong>in</strong>g small amounts <strong>of</strong> money<br />

to buy <strong>the</strong>ir lots. While most sold, one or<br />

two paid <strong>the</strong>ir back taxes and reclaimed <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

lots so that <strong>the</strong>y could collect royalties on<br />

<strong>the</strong>ir new-found oil. <strong>The</strong>re was also money<br />

for lawyers who fought over who owned<br />

<strong>the</strong> land where <strong>the</strong> phantom streets were<br />

supposed to be. Today <strong>the</strong> lots are largely<br />

undeveloped scrubland used for horseback<br />

rid<strong>in</strong>g. Some <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> wells are still produc<strong>in</strong>g.<br />

<strong>The</strong> next giant field along <strong>the</strong> trend was <strong>the</strong><br />

Long Beach Field, which <strong>in</strong>cludes Signal Hill.<br />

Although exploration <strong>the</strong>re started as early<br />

as 1916, oil was not discovered until 1921,<br />

slightly after <strong>the</strong> Hunt<strong>in</strong>gton Beach <strong>in</strong>itial<br />

f<strong>in</strong>d. Before <strong>the</strong> U.S. ga<strong>in</strong>ed ownership <strong>of</strong><br />

<strong>California</strong>, Signal Hill, north <strong>of</strong> what is now<br />

Long Beach, was known as El Cerrito, or<br />

“Little Hill.” Used as a lookout and signal<br />

post probably for centuries, it acquired <strong>the</strong><br />

moniker “Signal Hill” after a triangulation<br />

marker was placed on <strong>the</strong> summit <strong>in</strong> 1889.<br />

<strong>The</strong> orig<strong>in</strong>al ranchos on Signal Hill, Los<br />

Alamitos and Los Cerritos, were subdivided<br />

<strong>in</strong>to town lots before oil was found.<br />

In 1916 Union Oil drilled a well at<br />

Wardlow Road and Long Beach Boulevard,<br />

just northwest <strong>of</strong> Signal Hill. <strong>The</strong>y abandoned<br />

<strong>the</strong> hole at 3,449 feet, not know<strong>in</strong>g that <strong>the</strong><br />

rich oil-bear<strong>in</strong>g sands <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Signal Hill reservoir<br />

lie slightly deeper. Had <strong>the</strong>y cont<strong>in</strong>ued<br />

drill<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong> story <strong>of</strong> Signal Hill might have<br />

been very different. In 1919 geologists with<br />

Standard <strong>of</strong> <strong>California</strong> reported Signal Hill<br />

as “reflect<strong>in</strong>g an anticl<strong>in</strong>al fold<strong>in</strong>g or dome<br />

Opposite bottom, left: Union L. B. C.<br />

No. 11 gusher. <strong>The</strong> spectacle has drawn<br />

a crowd.<br />

COURTESY OF HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF LONG BEACH.<br />

Opposite bottom, right: Shell-Mart<strong>in</strong> No. 1<br />

gasser, November 17, 1921. Men <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

far right foreground are prepar<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

equipment <strong>in</strong> an effort to stop <strong>the</strong> flow.<br />

COURTESY OF HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF LONG BEACH.<br />

BLACK GOLD IN CALIFORNIA: <strong>The</strong> <strong>Story</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>California</strong> <strong>Petroleum</strong> <strong>Industry</strong><br />

64


CHAPTER THREE<br />

65


Long Beach Field <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> 1920s. Sign <strong>in</strong> front<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> tent says “Parkford’s Signal Hill Oil<br />

Syndicate No.1.” Benches are piled up<br />

outside <strong>the</strong> tent. A group <strong>of</strong> well-dressed<br />

men and women is stand<strong>in</strong>g at <strong>the</strong> entrance<br />

to <strong>the</strong> tent. Several cars are parked nearby.<br />

It appears that some k<strong>in</strong>d <strong>of</strong> meet<strong>in</strong>g for<br />

potential <strong>in</strong>vestors has just concluded.<br />

<strong>The</strong> field is crowded with wooden derricks,<br />

tanks, steam boilers, stockpiled supplies,<br />

a welder’s shop and o<strong>the</strong>r oil drill<strong>in</strong>g<br />

paraphernalia. Note <strong>the</strong> stand <strong>of</strong> pipe <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

derrick beh<strong>in</strong>d <strong>the</strong> tent.<br />

COURTESY OF HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF LONG BEACH.<br />

which gives favorable <strong>in</strong>dications <strong>of</strong> oil production.”<br />

This statement shows <strong>the</strong> new<br />

th<strong>in</strong>k<strong>in</strong>g that placed geological structures<br />

over seeps as <strong>in</strong>dicators <strong>of</strong> oil. Although<br />

Standard, now <strong>in</strong>dependent <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> old<br />

Rockefeller comb<strong>in</strong>e, was one <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> more<br />

forward-th<strong>in</strong>k<strong>in</strong>g companies, it did noth<strong>in</strong>g<br />

with <strong>the</strong> recommendation because it had a<br />

policy <strong>of</strong> avoid<strong>in</strong>g town lot plays.<br />

In 1918, Frank Hayes, a geologist with<br />

Royal Dutch Shell, recommended that <strong>the</strong><br />

company explore <strong>in</strong> Signal Hill. Company<br />

management, say<strong>in</strong>g that several dry holes<br />

had been drilled on <strong>the</strong> similar Dom<strong>in</strong>guez<br />

structure to <strong>the</strong> northwest, rejected <strong>the</strong> idea.<br />

Changes <strong>in</strong> management led to this decision<br />

be<strong>in</strong>g reversed two years later, and Shell<br />

leased 240 acres on <strong>the</strong> east slope <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> hill<br />

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66


that were deemed unsuitable for homes. Shell<br />

did not obta<strong>in</strong> all <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> available leases on <strong>the</strong><br />

top <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> hill, and o<strong>the</strong>r companies passed on<br />

<strong>the</strong> opportunity. An executive with Union Oil,<br />

reflect<strong>in</strong>g his company’s earlier failure, said he<br />

would “dr<strong>in</strong>k every drop <strong>of</strong> oil” that Shell<br />

would f<strong>in</strong>d at Signal Hill. As it turned out it<br />

was a good th<strong>in</strong>g he did not shake hands on<br />

this deal.<br />

<strong>The</strong> Alamitos No. 1, at <strong>the</strong> <strong>in</strong>tersection <strong>of</strong><br />

Hill and Temple Streets, was spudded by Shell<br />

on March 23, 1921. Drill<strong>in</strong>g with a rotary rig<br />

to 2,765 feet, <strong>the</strong>y cored an oil sand. Shell<br />

leased more land. <strong>The</strong> word was gett<strong>in</strong>g out<br />

that someth<strong>in</strong>g was up. Sett<strong>in</strong>g cas<strong>in</strong>g, <strong>the</strong>y<br />

switched to a cable rig because <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>the</strong>n<br />

common fear that <strong>the</strong> rotary mud cake would<br />

seal <strong>of</strong>f <strong>the</strong> produc<strong>in</strong>g formation. At 3,114 feet<br />

CHAPTER THREE<br />

67


Top: Long Beach Field, with a wooden derrick under construction. A group <strong>of</strong> men are convers<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong> front <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> derrick. <strong>The</strong> lot next to <strong>the</strong> derrick is for sale.<br />

What appears to be a gas plant for extract<strong>in</strong>g cas<strong>in</strong>ghead gasol<strong>in</strong>e is <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> left background. All <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> derricks <strong>in</strong> this scene are wooden, probably plac<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong> picture <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> 1920s.<br />

COURTESY OF HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF LONG BEACH.<br />

Middle: Long Beach Field, flat area north <strong>of</strong> Signal Hill. A few steel derricks appear <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> forest <strong>of</strong> wood. This picture was taken a bit later.<br />

COURTESY OF HERLEY FAMILY.<br />

Bottom: Field <strong>of</strong>fice <strong>of</strong> Shell, which drilled <strong>the</strong> discovery well at Signal Hill. This photograph was taken <strong>in</strong> 1925, four years after <strong>the</strong> discovery.<br />

COURTESY OF CALIFORNIA OIL MUSEUM, SANTA PAULA, CALIFORNIA.<br />

BLACK GOLD IN CALIFORNIA: <strong>The</strong> <strong>Story</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>California</strong> <strong>Petroleum</strong> <strong>Industry</strong><br />

68


Top: Hancock ref<strong>in</strong>ery fire. Tires and<br />

anyth<strong>in</strong>g else combustible have been<br />

destroyed <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> park<strong>in</strong>g lot.<br />

COURTESY OF HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF LONG BEACH.<br />

Left: Aerial view <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Dom<strong>in</strong>guez Field.<br />

Note <strong>the</strong> orderly spac<strong>in</strong>g <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> wells.<br />

LOS ANGELES PUBLIC LIBRARY.<br />

on June 23, a gusher <strong>of</strong> oil blew over <strong>the</strong><br />

crown block and up to 114 feet <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> air. <strong>The</strong><br />

well quickly sanded up, and after clean<strong>in</strong>g up,<br />

oil started flow<strong>in</strong>g to tanks. By now <strong>the</strong>re<br />

were 500 spectators on hand to witness <strong>the</strong><br />

sight. Shell had to erect a barricade around<br />

<strong>the</strong> well, which soon was produc<strong>in</strong>g 1,200<br />

barrels a day.<br />

<strong>The</strong> great Signal Hill boom was on. No<br />

s<strong>in</strong>gle company, <strong>in</strong>clud<strong>in</strong>g Shell, possessed<br />

more than a small fraction <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> land, which<br />

was mostly <strong>in</strong> town lots. Derricks were<br />

sprout<strong>in</strong>g like weeds, sometimes so close<br />

toge<strong>the</strong>r that <strong>the</strong>ir legs supposedly <strong>in</strong>terlaced.<br />

It was much like <strong>the</strong> Los Angeles City Field <strong>of</strong><br />

thirty years before. It is said that one drill<strong>in</strong>g<br />

crew fish<strong>in</strong>g for a lost tool str<strong>in</strong>g snagged<br />

that <strong>of</strong> a neighbor whose hole had wandered<br />

over <strong>the</strong> property l<strong>in</strong>e. Automobiles bear<strong>in</strong>g<br />

curious onlookers jammed <strong>the</strong> roads. Tents were<br />

set up where gullible <strong>in</strong>vestors were pitched<br />

while <strong>the</strong>y ate chicken drumsticks. Some people’s<br />

<strong>in</strong>terest<strong>in</strong>g concepts <strong>of</strong> arithmetic got <strong>in</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> way. One lot owner, <strong>of</strong>fered a 1/10 royalty,<br />

refused th<strong>in</strong>k<strong>in</strong>g he could hold out for 1/20.<br />

Some hucksters erected fake derricks to make<br />

people th<strong>in</strong>k <strong>the</strong>y were actually produc<strong>in</strong>g oil.<br />

Bottom, left: Fire! This photograph was<br />

taken at <strong>the</strong> moment when a fireball was<br />

beg<strong>in</strong>n<strong>in</strong>g to rise. Some <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> onlookers<br />

appear to be try<strong>in</strong>g to beat a hasty retreat<br />

while o<strong>the</strong>rs are ra<strong>the</strong>r nonchalant about<br />

<strong>the</strong> scene, as if this has happened before.<br />

COURTESY OF HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF LONG BEACH.<br />

Bottom, right: Aerial view <strong>of</strong> Long Beach<br />

Field look<strong>in</strong>g south, with a mixture <strong>of</strong><br />

wooden and steel derricks, tanks, and<br />

pumpjacks. Some <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> derricks almost<br />

touch each o<strong>the</strong>r. Signal Hill is <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> middle<br />

ground, with Cherry Street cutt<strong>in</strong>g across<br />

<strong>the</strong> west flank <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> hill. Orange County<br />

and part <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> coastl<strong>in</strong>e to <strong>the</strong> sou<strong>the</strong>ast is<br />

<strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> far background. This photograph<br />

appears to have been taken <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> 1940s.<br />

COURTESY OF HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF LONG BEACH.<br />

CHAPTER THREE<br />

69


SIGNAL OIL AND GAS— THROUGH THE LOOKBOX<br />

While Signal Hill was boom<strong>in</strong>g a lemon and avocado grower<br />

named Samuel B. Mosher was quietly runn<strong>in</strong>g his farm <strong>in</strong> Pico<br />

Rivera, about ten miles north <strong>of</strong> Signal Hill. <strong>The</strong> Alamitos No.1<br />

gusher would have been pla<strong>in</strong>ly visible from <strong>the</strong> w<strong>in</strong>dows <strong>of</strong> his<br />

farm house, as would <strong>the</strong> apocalyptic vision <strong>of</strong> dozens <strong>of</strong> pipes<br />

flar<strong>in</strong>g gas every night, <strong>the</strong>ir glow perhaps giv<strong>in</strong>g Signal Hill <strong>the</strong><br />

appearance <strong>of</strong> a man-made volcano. But Mosher had no time to<br />

play <strong>the</strong> tourist. <strong>The</strong> twenty-eight year-old was busy try<strong>in</strong>g to feed<br />

his young wife and baby, <strong>of</strong>ten putt<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong> twelve hour days on his<br />

tractor. Mosher’s dream was to be a farmer. After graduat<strong>in</strong>g from<br />

UC Berkeley with a degree <strong>in</strong> agriculture <strong>in</strong> 1916, he spent five<br />

years develop<strong>in</strong>g his seventeen acre lemon farm, never earn<strong>in</strong>g<br />

more than $50 a month <strong>in</strong> his first two years. F<strong>in</strong>ally, <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> w<strong>in</strong>ter<br />

<strong>of</strong> 1922 he had his first big crop <strong>of</strong> lemons ready to harvest,<br />

br<strong>in</strong>g<strong>in</strong>g him hope <strong>of</strong> pay<strong>in</strong>g <strong>of</strong>f part <strong>of</strong> his heavy mortgage.<br />

Mosher had a fraternity bro<strong>the</strong>r named Robert Ber<strong>in</strong>g, who<br />

had gone on to become a geologist’s assistant with an oil company.<br />

Ber<strong>in</strong>g told his friend what was go<strong>in</strong>g on at Signal Hill, arous<strong>in</strong>g<br />

<strong>the</strong> curiosity <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> young farmer, and perhaps <strong>in</strong>fect<strong>in</strong>g him<br />

with that “oil bug.” F<strong>in</strong>ally, on his twenty-n<strong>in</strong>th birthday, Mosher<br />

decided to take a day <strong>of</strong>f and go f<strong>in</strong>d out what <strong>the</strong> commotion<br />

was all about. He drove his battered old Buick up to <strong>the</strong> lower<br />

end <strong>of</strong> Hill Street and walked up to <strong>the</strong> Alamitos No. 1 Well.<br />

Com<strong>in</strong>g from <strong>the</strong> quiet <strong>of</strong> Pico Rivera, <strong>the</strong> noise <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> oil field<br />

must have been deafen<strong>in</strong>g, especially with <strong>the</strong> roar <strong>of</strong> cas<strong>in</strong>ghead<br />

gas escap<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong>to <strong>the</strong> atmosphere at high pressure from every<br />

well. This gas was regarded as a waste product at Signal Hill, not<br />

worth bo<strong>the</strong>r<strong>in</strong>g with when <strong>the</strong> most important objective was to<br />

produce oil as quickly as possible.<br />

<strong>The</strong> wet gas at Signal Hill conta<strong>in</strong>ed a fraction that if separated<br />

from <strong>the</strong> rest <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> gas would be a liquid, gasol<strong>in</strong>e. Called natural,<br />

or cas<strong>in</strong>ghead gasol<strong>in</strong>e to differentiate it from gasol<strong>in</strong>e produced<br />

from oil at a ref<strong>in</strong>ery, this liquid could be blended with <strong>the</strong> ref<strong>in</strong>ery<br />

gasol<strong>in</strong>e to create a high-test, or “ethyl” fuel suitable for highperformance<br />

eng<strong>in</strong>es. Mosher and Ber<strong>in</strong>g thought that if <strong>the</strong>y<br />

could build a small plant to extract <strong>the</strong> natural gasol<strong>in</strong>e, <strong>the</strong>y<br />

could create a marketable product from <strong>the</strong> Signal Hill producers’<br />

waste gas. <strong>The</strong>y made an <strong>in</strong>formal agreement that Ber<strong>in</strong>g would<br />

set about secur<strong>in</strong>g leases for gas at Signal Hill while Mosher came<br />

up with <strong>the</strong> funds to build a plant. Mosher thought that his<br />

bumper crop <strong>of</strong> lemons, <strong>the</strong> first <strong>in</strong> his five years on <strong>the</strong> farm,<br />

would provide <strong>the</strong> capital to move <strong>the</strong> project forward.<br />

<strong>The</strong>n disaster struck, <strong>the</strong> k<strong>in</strong>d <strong>of</strong> disaster that sets <strong>in</strong> motion a<br />

series <strong>of</strong> events lead<strong>in</strong>g to someth<strong>in</strong>g far bigger and better than<br />

what was orig<strong>in</strong>ally hoped for. <strong>The</strong> ma<strong>in</strong> enemy <strong>of</strong> citrus growers<br />

<strong>in</strong> sou<strong>the</strong>rn <strong>California</strong> is freez<strong>in</strong>g wea<strong>the</strong>r. On January 19, 1922,<br />

a rare freeze brought <strong>the</strong> temperature at Mosher’s farm down to<br />

n<strong>in</strong>eteen degrees. Work<strong>in</strong>g all night sett<strong>in</strong>g out smudge pots, he<br />

saved his trees. However <strong>the</strong> entire crop <strong>of</strong> lemons and avocados<br />

was lost. Suddenly Mosher had no money for a natural gasol<strong>in</strong>e<br />

plant, and worse, he had no money to pay his mortgage or buy<br />

groceries. After such a calamity many people would give up, but<br />

not Sam Mosher. He decided to forge ahead with <strong>the</strong> natural<br />

gasol<strong>in</strong>e project, come what may. He sent <strong>of</strong>f a penny postcard to<br />

request a free publication <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Department <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Interior,<br />

<strong>Petroleum</strong> Technology Pamphlet No. 176. This pamphlet showed,<br />

with diagrams, how to build for $4,000 a small plant us<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong><br />

absorption process to remove gasol<strong>in</strong>e from natural gas.<br />

Mosher <strong>in</strong> his optimism thought that all he needed to go <strong>in</strong>to<br />

<strong>the</strong> gasol<strong>in</strong>e bus<strong>in</strong>ess was $4,000. How was he go<strong>in</strong>g to get it?<br />

He decided to do <strong>the</strong> only th<strong>in</strong>g he could th<strong>in</strong>k <strong>of</strong>, swallow his<br />

pride and ask his fa<strong>the</strong>r for a loan. Henry M. Mosher was not<br />

predisposed to loan money for an oil venture, even to his son.<br />

Some twenty years earlier, he and o<strong>the</strong>r <strong>in</strong>vestors formed a<br />

company that drilled several producers <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> Santa Maria Bas<strong>in</strong>.<br />

Unfortunately <strong>the</strong> price <strong>of</strong> oil dropped, and <strong>the</strong>y shut <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

wells. When <strong>the</strong> price <strong>in</strong>creased <strong>the</strong>y opened <strong>the</strong>ir wells aga<strong>in</strong>,<br />

only to f<strong>in</strong>d <strong>the</strong>y had gone to water. A neighbor<strong>in</strong>g, much larger<br />

company with tankage to store oil had <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> meantime used<br />

<strong>of</strong>fset wells to dra<strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> oil from <strong>the</strong> reservoir. Sam expla<strong>in</strong>ed<br />

<strong>in</strong> detail what he and Ber<strong>in</strong>g were plann<strong>in</strong>g to do and why it<br />

would be successful. However, Dad was not believ<strong>in</strong>g. Although<br />

Mrs. Mosher was sitt<strong>in</strong>g nearby apparently engrossed <strong>in</strong> a book,<br />

she was actually listen<strong>in</strong>g to every word pass<strong>in</strong>g between fa<strong>the</strong>r<br />

and son. F<strong>in</strong>ally, when H. M. flatly refused to loan <strong>the</strong> money,<br />

she said, “Dad, Sam will be gett<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong> money after we’re<br />

gone anyway. But he needs it now. If you don’t lend him that<br />

$4,000, I will.” Dad knew when he was beaten, and reached for<br />

his checkbook.<br />

It turned out to be more difficult than <strong>the</strong>y thought. For one<br />

th<strong>in</strong>g, it was almost impossible to get producers to sign gas leases.<br />

Even though <strong>the</strong>y would be turn<strong>in</strong>g over a waste product and<br />

would receive <strong>in</strong> return <strong>the</strong> residue gas for free for <strong>the</strong>ir boilers,<br />

and a 1/3 royalty on <strong>the</strong> gasol<strong>in</strong>e, <strong>the</strong>y did not want to sign<br />

life-<strong>of</strong>-<strong>the</strong>-field leases. After all, Mosher and Ber<strong>in</strong>g were unknown<br />

farm boys who as yet had no plant. Maybe <strong>the</strong> ref<strong>in</strong>ers would not<br />

buy <strong>the</strong> natural gasol<strong>in</strong>e. F<strong>in</strong>ally Ber<strong>in</strong>g said he had a contract<br />

with San Mart<strong>in</strong>ez Oil Company, his former employer. Based on<br />

this <strong>the</strong>y got a surface lease on two acres for <strong>the</strong>ir plant. Mosher<br />

started look<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong>to components that he would need to build <strong>the</strong><br />

plant. <strong>The</strong>se were <strong>in</strong> short supply, and much more expensive than<br />

orig<strong>in</strong>ally thought. <strong>The</strong> government’s three-year-old estimate <strong>of</strong><br />

$4,000 was barely one tenth <strong>of</strong> what was actually needed.<br />

Fortunately for Mosher, <strong>the</strong> giddy success <strong>of</strong> Signal Hill and<br />

<strong>the</strong> onset <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> automobile age resulted <strong>in</strong> a climate <strong>of</strong> almost<br />

unlimited credit for oil ventures. He purchased equipment and<br />

supplies us<strong>in</strong>g m<strong>in</strong>iscule down payments and easy terms such as<br />

no payments for n<strong>in</strong>ety days, by which time Mosher and Ber<strong>in</strong>g<br />

BLACK GOLD IN CALIFORNIA: <strong>The</strong> <strong>Story</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>California</strong> <strong>Petroleum</strong> <strong>Industry</strong><br />

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Opposite: <strong>The</strong> Signal sign, which was familiar to <strong>California</strong>ns for decades.<br />

Above: Samuel Mosher purchased Hancock Oil <strong>in</strong> order to obta<strong>in</strong> its ref<strong>in</strong>ery and<br />

gas stations.<br />

COURTESY OF HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF LONG BEACH.<br />

were sure <strong>the</strong>ir little plant would be putt<strong>in</strong>g out gasol<strong>in</strong>e. Us<strong>in</strong>g<br />

old wood and second hand pipe, Mosher built a cool<strong>in</strong>g tower.<br />

Instead <strong>of</strong> purchas<strong>in</strong>g a dehydrator for $975, Mosher used a<br />

discarded boiler he found beh<strong>in</strong>d a laundry. Unable to f<strong>in</strong>d a<br />

distillation unit, which would have been $2,000, Mosher used<br />

an old gasol<strong>in</strong>e truck with a 1,000 gallon tank that sat rust<strong>in</strong>g<br />

<strong>in</strong> a yard <strong>in</strong> Vernon. Some <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> laborers that Mosher hired were<br />

to be paid later out <strong>of</strong> earn<strong>in</strong>gs when <strong>the</strong> plant was on l<strong>in</strong>e.<br />

Meanwhile, Mosher was gett<strong>in</strong>g precious little sleep as he had to<br />

keep work<strong>in</strong>g on his farm as well as on <strong>the</strong> gasol<strong>in</strong>e plant.<br />

<strong>The</strong> optimistically named Plant No. 1 was almost f<strong>in</strong>ished<br />

when Mosher and Ber<strong>in</strong>g found out that none <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> wells on <strong>the</strong><br />

San Mart<strong>in</strong>ez Lease would be produc<strong>in</strong>g. <strong>The</strong>y had a plant but<br />

noth<strong>in</strong>g to feed <strong>in</strong>to it. Mosher, who had never tried to get a gas<br />

contract before, decided <strong>in</strong> desperation to ask <strong>the</strong> production<br />

boss <strong>of</strong> Shell’s Alamitos No. 1, a few blocks from <strong>the</strong> gas plant.<br />

Look<strong>in</strong>g at <strong>the</strong> makeshift plant, <strong>the</strong> boss said he could “knock as<br />

much gasol<strong>in</strong>e out <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> gas with a stick” as Mosher could with<br />

his plant. He wasn’t go<strong>in</strong>g to go for it until Mosher rem<strong>in</strong>ded<br />

him about <strong>the</strong> competitor who had said he would dr<strong>in</strong>k all <strong>the</strong><br />

oil Shell could f<strong>in</strong>d, and added, “If he could be wrong, maybe<br />

you are too.” <strong>The</strong> boss laughed and said that Mosher could tap<br />

<strong>in</strong>to Alamitos No. 1.<br />

This was <strong>the</strong> break <strong>the</strong>y needed. By <strong>the</strong> end <strong>of</strong> May, just four<br />

months after <strong>the</strong> disastrous freeze destroyed his lemons, Mosher’s<br />

gas plant was ready to test. Mosher had <strong>in</strong>stalled a small iron box<br />

with glass w<strong>in</strong>dows <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> l<strong>in</strong>e where <strong>the</strong> newly distilled gasol<strong>in</strong>e<br />

flowed. In this <strong>the</strong> first few dribbles <strong>of</strong> natural gasol<strong>in</strong>e were<br />

seen, prov<strong>in</strong>g that <strong>the</strong> plant worked. This soon became a steady<br />

stream, and it was a good market<strong>in</strong>g tool. Many a producer on<br />

Signal Hill was conv<strong>in</strong>ced by this “lookbox” to sign gas contracts<br />

with Mosher.<br />

Plant No. 1 could process only 250 gallons <strong>of</strong> natural gasol<strong>in</strong>e<br />

a day. Out <strong>of</strong> this t<strong>in</strong>y start a great oil company, Signal Oil and<br />

Gas, was born. H. M. Mosher became a believer, partly by see<strong>in</strong>g<br />

<strong>the</strong> stream <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> lookbox, and jo<strong>in</strong>ed Signal’s Board <strong>in</strong> 1924. For<br />

some time <strong>the</strong> company hung by a thread and was beset by<br />

controversies such as a stock fight for ownership between Mosher<br />

and Ber<strong>in</strong>g. In 1930 Standard cancelled its contract to buy natural<br />

gasol<strong>in</strong>e from Signal, depriv<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong> company <strong>of</strong> its largest customer.<br />

Mosher took <strong>the</strong> characteristically bold step, over <strong>the</strong> objections<br />

<strong>of</strong> many <strong>of</strong> his Board members, <strong>of</strong> acquir<strong>in</strong>g a ref<strong>in</strong>ery and service<br />

stations, so that Signal could retail gasol<strong>in</strong>e on its own. Eventually<br />

<strong>the</strong> company became stable with as many as twenty gasol<strong>in</strong>e<br />

process<strong>in</strong>g plants. <strong>The</strong> company branched out <strong>in</strong>to exploration<br />

and production <strong>of</strong> oil. Portable drill<strong>in</strong>g rigs, directional drill<strong>in</strong>g,<br />

and treat<strong>in</strong>g sour gas were pioneered by this dynamic company.<br />

Signal ventured <strong>in</strong>to o<strong>the</strong>r states and even countries. Signal was<br />

one <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>in</strong>dependents beh<strong>in</strong>d Am<strong>in</strong>oil (American Independent<br />

Oil Company), which secured drill<strong>in</strong>g rights <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> neutral zone<br />

between Kuwait and Saudi Arabia <strong>in</strong> 1948. Signal purchased<br />

several o<strong>the</strong>r small oil companies <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> 1950s and 1960s to<br />

become a fully <strong>in</strong>tegrated oil company. It also diversified <strong>in</strong>to<br />

o<strong>the</strong>r <strong>in</strong>dustries such as shipp<strong>in</strong>g (American President L<strong>in</strong>es),<br />

snacks (Laura Scudders), and aviation technology (Garrett).<br />

F<strong>in</strong>ally, <strong>the</strong>se o<strong>the</strong>r enterprises became so successful that<br />

Signal ended up sell<strong>in</strong>g its entire petroleum operations to a<br />

Scottish Oil Company, Burmah, <strong>in</strong> 1974. Ironically, Burmah sold<br />

everyth<strong>in</strong>g two years later to Am<strong>in</strong>oil.<br />

Thus, Signal Oil and Gas is no longer on <strong>the</strong> roster <strong>of</strong> players<br />

<strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> oil and gas <strong>in</strong>dustry, but <strong>the</strong> legacy <strong>of</strong> Samuel Mosher and<br />

o<strong>the</strong>r pioneer<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong>novators lives on. <strong>The</strong> will<strong>in</strong>gness <strong>of</strong> a lemon<br />

grower to risk everyth<strong>in</strong>g, and to completely change his life,<br />

made all <strong>the</strong> difference.<br />

CHAPTER THREE<br />

71


Above: Red Crown gasol<strong>in</strong>e be<strong>in</strong>g put <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

Spirit <strong>of</strong> St. Louis for L<strong>in</strong>dberg’s historic<br />

flight, one 5 gallon can at a time. <strong>The</strong> plane<br />

carried 500 gallons. L<strong>in</strong>dberg said he used<br />

Red Crown because it would give him more<br />

fly<strong>in</strong>g range.<br />

COURTESY OF CHEVRON USA.<br />

Below: Airplane fuel<strong>in</strong>g with a hose.<br />

COURTESY OF CHEVRON USA.<br />

O<strong>the</strong>rs sold over 100 percent <strong>in</strong>terest <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

wells. Gushers, fires and o<strong>the</strong>r mishaps were<br />

ra<strong>the</strong>r common <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> early, ra<strong>the</strong>r chaotic<br />

days <strong>of</strong> this field.<br />

<strong>The</strong> Dom<strong>in</strong>guez Field, discovered <strong>in</strong> 1923,<br />

was developed <strong>in</strong> a much more orderly fashion<br />

than Signal Hill, primarily because all <strong>of</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> acreage was controlled by just three companies,<br />

Union, Shell, and Associated. Wells<br />

were drilled on a 600 foot spac<strong>in</strong>g ra<strong>the</strong>r than<br />

haphazardly on small lots. Injection <strong>of</strong> produced<br />

gas to ma<strong>in</strong>ta<strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> reservoir pressure<br />

was commenced with<strong>in</strong> two years, and by<br />

1926 virtually all <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> gas be<strong>in</strong>g produced<br />

was ei<strong>the</strong>r re<strong>in</strong>jected or utilized. In contrast,<br />

out <strong>of</strong> 290 million cubic feet <strong>of</strong> gas produced<br />

daily at Signal Hill, all but about 70 million<br />

was released <strong>in</strong>to <strong>the</strong> atmosphere.<br />

O<strong>the</strong>r discoveries <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> 1920s <strong>in</strong>clude<br />

<strong>the</strong> Mount Posos, Edison and Kettleman Hills<br />

Fields <strong>in</strong> San Joaqu<strong>in</strong> Valley (1926, 1928, and<br />

1928, respectively), R<strong>in</strong>con <strong>in</strong> Ventura County<br />

(1927), and Elwood <strong>in</strong> Santa Barbara County<br />

(1928). Production from all <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>se fields led<br />

to an oversupply <strong>in</strong> <strong>California</strong> by <strong>the</strong> late ’20s.<br />

By 1929 <strong>California</strong> produced 801,120 barrels<br />

a day (292 million annually). Production <strong>of</strong> a<br />

potential additional 190,985 per day was shut<br />

<strong>in</strong>. <strong>The</strong> glut <strong>in</strong> <strong>California</strong> led some companies<br />

to beg<strong>in</strong> look<strong>in</strong>g abroad for oil and markets.<br />

Standard <strong>of</strong> <strong>California</strong> explored <strong>in</strong> Mexico,<br />

Central America, Sou<strong>the</strong>ast Asia, and <strong>the</strong><br />

Philipp<strong>in</strong>es to supply <strong>the</strong> Pacific Bas<strong>in</strong> market.<br />

By <strong>the</strong> late 1920s Standard was more <strong>in</strong>terested<br />

<strong>in</strong> sell<strong>in</strong>g oil abroad than import<strong>in</strong>g oil<br />

for its <strong>California</strong> ref<strong>in</strong>eries. Standard was also<br />

explor<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> Permian Bas<strong>in</strong> <strong>in</strong> Texas <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

’20s, and built a pipel<strong>in</strong>e <strong>the</strong>re <strong>in</strong> 1928. Union<br />

Oil had six produc<strong>in</strong>g wells <strong>in</strong> Wyom<strong>in</strong>g and<br />

Texas <strong>in</strong> 1922, set up Union Oil <strong>of</strong> Canada,<br />

Ltd., to run a ref<strong>in</strong>ery <strong>in</strong> Vancouver, and was<br />

explor<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong> Venezuela <strong>in</strong> 1926.<br />

<strong>The</strong> 1920s saw important advances <strong>in</strong><br />

ref<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g and <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> products <strong>of</strong>fered to consumers.<br />

Oil companies started add<strong>in</strong>g<br />

tetraethyl lead to gasol<strong>in</strong>e to reduce eng<strong>in</strong>e<br />

knock<strong>in</strong>g. High-octane aviation gasol<strong>in</strong>e was<br />

promoted through air races, especially after<br />

<strong>the</strong> L<strong>in</strong>dberg flight <strong>in</strong> 1927 popularized aviation.<br />

Standard was quick to publicize that<br />

<strong>the</strong>y had provided Red Crown gasol<strong>in</strong>e for<br />

<strong>the</strong> Spirit <strong>of</strong> Sa<strong>in</strong>t Louis. Union promoted<br />

Aristo Motor Oil, <strong>the</strong> “aristocrat <strong>of</strong> motor<br />

BLACK GOLD IN CALIFORNIA: <strong>The</strong> <strong>Story</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>California</strong> <strong>Petroleum</strong> <strong>Industry</strong><br />

72


oils,” which <strong>the</strong>y said was free<br />

<strong>of</strong> asphalt. Standard began market<strong>in</strong>g<br />

an asphalt emulsion for<br />

roads and ro<strong>of</strong><strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong> 1925.<br />

In 1929 <strong>the</strong> first test <strong>of</strong> electrical<br />

well logg<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> U.S. was<br />

done for Shell <strong>in</strong> Kern County.<br />

Electrical logg<strong>in</strong>g was <strong>in</strong>vented<br />

by <strong>the</strong> French bro<strong>the</strong>rs Conrad<br />

and Marcel Schlumberger, whose<br />

company ran this first U.S. test.<br />

Electrical logg<strong>in</strong>g utilizes a sonde<br />

or tool that is lowered on a cable<br />

<strong>in</strong>to a well. Sens<strong>in</strong>g electrical or<br />

o<strong>the</strong>r physical properties, electrical<br />

logg<strong>in</strong>g can among o<strong>the</strong>r th<strong>in</strong>gs<br />

provide <strong>the</strong> depths <strong>of</strong> rock formations cut<br />

by a well. From this beg<strong>in</strong>n<strong>in</strong>g logg<strong>in</strong>g has<br />

become a major method throughout <strong>the</strong><br />

world, now be<strong>in</strong>g done as a rout<strong>in</strong>e <strong>in</strong> every<br />

well when it is drilled. Logg<strong>in</strong>g is used by<br />

geologists to correlate formations between<br />

adjacent wells, much as Pacific Coast Oil<br />

Company tried to do us<strong>in</strong>g well cores at Pico<br />

Canyon <strong>in</strong> 1889.<br />

TOWARD A NEW WAY TO<br />

PROBE THE EARTH<br />

By 1930 <strong>the</strong> old ways <strong>of</strong> drill<strong>in</strong>g seeps were<br />

<strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> distant past. Search<strong>in</strong>g for geologic<br />

traps led to giant discoveries where geologic<br />

structures such as anticl<strong>in</strong>es could be<br />

observed at <strong>the</strong> surface, generally as outcrops<br />

or topography. However, <strong>the</strong>re are vast flat<br />

areas with buried anticl<strong>in</strong>es that cannot be<br />

seen at <strong>the</strong> surface. <strong>The</strong>re are also oil-bear<strong>in</strong>g<br />

strata <strong>in</strong> coastal areas that extend <strong>of</strong>fshore, as<br />

at Summerland. Early geophysical methods<br />

showed some promise <strong>of</strong> provid<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong>formation<br />

about geological structures beneath <strong>the</strong><br />

surface. Gravity or magnetic measurements<br />

made at various locations gave <strong>in</strong>dications <strong>of</strong><br />

different k<strong>in</strong>ds <strong>of</strong> rocks. Pass<strong>in</strong>g sound waves<br />

through salt domes on <strong>the</strong> Gulf Coast (seismic<br />

refraction) could provide drill<strong>in</strong>g locations for<br />

oil trapped around <strong>the</strong> domes. Unfortunately<br />

all <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>se methods were ra<strong>the</strong>r specialized<br />

and worked only <strong>in</strong> certa<strong>in</strong> places. A more<br />

universal method <strong>of</strong> imag<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong> earth’s <strong>in</strong>terior<br />

was needed.<br />

In 1921 a new <strong>in</strong>vention called reflection<br />

seismology, or <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> oil <strong>in</strong>dustry simply<br />

“seismic,” was tested successfully for <strong>the</strong> first<br />

time <strong>in</strong> Oklahoma. Seismic methods <strong>in</strong> those<br />

early days were primitive compared to today.<br />

Sound (seismic) waves were generated us<strong>in</strong>g<br />

explosive charges <strong>in</strong> shot holes about 100<br />

feet deep drilled by small rigs. Seismographs<br />

were <strong>of</strong> an early heavy, cumbersome type. <strong>The</strong><br />

record<strong>in</strong>g device used a light source, a mirror<br />

that was moved by <strong>the</strong> <strong>in</strong>com<strong>in</strong>g electric<br />

signal, and photographic paper.<br />

About four seismographs were deployed <strong>in</strong><br />

a l<strong>in</strong>e a few hundred feet long <strong>in</strong> l<strong>in</strong>e with <strong>the</strong><br />

shot po<strong>in</strong>t. Or, two such l<strong>in</strong>es were “crossed”<br />

perpendicular to each o<strong>the</strong>r go<strong>in</strong>g away from<br />

<strong>the</strong> shot. Such cross-spreads would allow<br />

determ<strong>in</strong>ation <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> dip direction <strong>of</strong> strata.<br />

Shots were spaced from several thousand feet<br />

to a mile apart depend<strong>in</strong>g on <strong>the</strong> geology. In<br />

<strong>the</strong> ra<strong>the</strong>r simple geologic situation <strong>in</strong><br />

Oklahoma or Texas, <strong>in</strong>dividual layers <strong>of</strong> rock<br />

persisted over long distances, and such a bed<br />

caused similar seismic reflections from shots<br />

over a large area. All <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>se arrival times <strong>of</strong><br />

similar waves could be correlated to make a<br />

map show<strong>in</strong>g anticl<strong>in</strong>es and o<strong>the</strong>r structures<br />

that might conta<strong>in</strong> oil.<br />

In 1928 and aga<strong>in</strong> <strong>in</strong> 1931, seismic was<br />

tried <strong>in</strong> <strong>California</strong>, but <strong>the</strong>se <strong>in</strong>itial results<br />

were unsatisfactory. In <strong>California</strong> beds <strong>of</strong><br />

sandstone and o<strong>the</strong>r rock are <strong>of</strong>ten lenslike<br />

and persist only for short distances.<br />

<strong>The</strong> seismic correlation method that worked<br />

so well elsewhere mostly failed <strong>in</strong> <strong>California</strong><br />

Schlumberger early logg<strong>in</strong>g truck, about<br />

1932. <strong>The</strong> cable goes <strong>of</strong>f frame to <strong>the</strong> right,<br />

and down a well. <strong>The</strong> two men at left are<br />

operat<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong> record<strong>in</strong>g equipment.<br />

COURTESY OF HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF LONG BEACH.<br />

CHAPTER THREE<br />

73


ecause <strong>the</strong> reflected seismic waves <strong>in</strong> different<br />

places bore no resemblance to one ano<strong>the</strong>r.<br />

In spite <strong>of</strong> disappo<strong>in</strong>t<strong>in</strong>g results, experimental<br />

work cont<strong>in</strong>ued. F<strong>in</strong>ally, some reasonable<br />

data were obta<strong>in</strong>ed that led to <strong>the</strong> discovery<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Chowchilla Gas Field near Merced <strong>in</strong><br />

1934. Although this field turned out to have<br />

little commercial importance at <strong>the</strong> time,<br />

<strong>the</strong> way <strong>in</strong> which it was discovered was a<br />

promis<strong>in</strong>g development.<br />

Gradually it became clear that ano<strong>the</strong>r<br />

method was needed <strong>in</strong> <strong>California</strong>. In what<br />

came to be called <strong>the</strong> dip method, reflections<br />

at different shot locations were compared based<br />

on <strong>the</strong>ir dips, not on whe<strong>the</strong>r <strong>the</strong> reflections<br />

look similar. If a geologically reasonable<br />

“hypo<strong>the</strong>tical” bed could be drawn on a<br />

cross-section between reflections at two shot<br />

locations us<strong>in</strong>g only <strong>the</strong> dip <strong>in</strong>formation at<br />

<strong>the</strong> two locations, <strong>the</strong>n <strong>the</strong> two reflections<br />

could be considered to be from <strong>the</strong> same<br />

geologic layer even though <strong>the</strong>y looked<br />

different. A map could be prepared <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

hypo<strong>the</strong>tical bed from shots distributed over<br />

BLACK GOLD IN CALIFORNIA: <strong>The</strong> <strong>Story</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>California</strong> <strong>Petroleum</strong> <strong>Industry</strong><br />

74


a survey area. If such a map showed closure<br />

such as a dome or anticl<strong>in</strong>e, a prospective<br />

target was <strong>in</strong>dicated. This method was used<br />

successfully to discover several more gas<br />

fields <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> San Joaqu<strong>in</strong> and Sacramento<br />

Valleys. One <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> biggest successes, however,<br />

was <strong>the</strong> discovery <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> giant Wilm<strong>in</strong>gton<br />

Oil Field <strong>in</strong> 1936.<br />

We now know that <strong>the</strong> Wilm<strong>in</strong>gton Field<br />

and <strong>the</strong> nearby Torrance Field lie along a<br />

geological structure similar to three o<strong>the</strong>r<br />

trends so successfully explored earlier, <strong>the</strong><br />

Brea-Ol<strong>in</strong>da-Whittier, Coyotes Hills, and<br />

Newport-Inglewood trends. Unlike <strong>the</strong> fields<br />

<strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong>se o<strong>the</strong>r trends, <strong>the</strong> Wilm<strong>in</strong>gton anticl<strong>in</strong>e<br />

shows no <strong>in</strong>dication at <strong>the</strong> surface that it<br />

exists. It occurs <strong>in</strong> a very flat, low-ly<strong>in</strong>g area<br />

that now makes up most <strong>of</strong> Los Angeles—<br />

Long Beach Harbor. After <strong>the</strong> Torrance Field<br />

was discovered <strong>in</strong> 1922 many wells were<br />

drilled to extend <strong>the</strong> produc<strong>in</strong>g trend to <strong>the</strong><br />

sou<strong>the</strong>ast. A well drilled <strong>in</strong> 1932 was later<br />

proven to be beyond <strong>the</strong> saddle that separates<br />

<strong>the</strong> Torrance structure from <strong>the</strong> Wilm<strong>in</strong>gton<br />

structure. Although this is sometimes cited as<br />

<strong>the</strong> discovery well, at <strong>the</strong> time it gave no <strong>in</strong>dication<br />

<strong>of</strong> ano<strong>the</strong>r field.<br />

<strong>The</strong> real Wilm<strong>in</strong>gton discovery four years<br />

later was made on <strong>the</strong> basis <strong>of</strong> a seismic survey.<br />

About twenty shot locations an average<br />

distance apart <strong>of</strong> 3,200 feet, with crossspreads<br />

<strong>of</strong> seismographs about 450 feet long<br />

at each, were used. <strong>The</strong>se locations were more<br />

or less evenly distributed, although not <strong>in</strong> a<br />

strict grid pattern because <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> presence <strong>of</strong><br />

build<strong>in</strong>gs, shipp<strong>in</strong>g channels, and <strong>in</strong>dustrial<br />

plants. <strong>The</strong> depth and dip <strong>of</strong> a hypo<strong>the</strong>tical<br />

bed 2,000 to 4,000 feet deep was determ<strong>in</strong>ed<br />

at each shot po<strong>in</strong>t, and a map was made from<br />

<strong>the</strong>se data show<strong>in</strong>g a domal structure. Based<br />

on this map <strong>the</strong> General <strong>Petroleum</strong> No. 1 well<br />

was drilled <strong>in</strong> 1936. It came <strong>in</strong> at 1,500<br />

barrels a day at 3,625 feet. In 1942 a map was<br />

made based on over 1,000 wells that by <strong>the</strong>n<br />

had been drilled, which is remarkably similar<br />

to <strong>the</strong> orig<strong>in</strong>al seismic map. Production at<br />

Wilm<strong>in</strong>gton is now near <strong>the</strong> 3 billion barrel<br />

mark; <strong>the</strong> size <strong>of</strong> this field and <strong>the</strong> way it was<br />

discovered make it one <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> most important<br />

milestones <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> history <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> entire petroleum<br />

<strong>in</strong>dustry, not just <strong>California</strong>’s.<br />

Encouraged by this and o<strong>the</strong>r successes,<br />

seismic grew <strong>in</strong>to an <strong>in</strong>dustry <strong>in</strong> its own right.<br />

Some seismic work was done by <strong>the</strong> oil companies<br />

<strong>the</strong>mselves, but numerous contractors<br />

also appeared <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> 1930s. One <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>se was<br />

Western Geophysical, founded <strong>in</strong> 1933 by<br />

<strong>California</strong>n Henry Salvatori, who did <strong>the</strong> seismic<br />

survey at Wilm<strong>in</strong>gton. <strong>The</strong>se companies<br />

and o<strong>the</strong>rs cont<strong>in</strong>ually improved <strong>the</strong>ir product,<br />

mak<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong> geophones (seismographs) smaller<br />

and lighter, develop<strong>in</strong>g analog magnetic tape<br />

record<strong>in</strong>g devices (1954), and creat<strong>in</strong>g “swamp<br />

buggies.” For use <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> ocean <strong>the</strong>y <strong>in</strong>vented<br />

energy sources, hydrophone arrays (1947),<br />

and navigation systems.<br />

Eventually correlation and dip shoot<strong>in</strong>g<br />

became obsolete. Cont<strong>in</strong>uous pr<strong>of</strong>il<strong>in</strong>g, which<br />

used a series <strong>of</strong> shot po<strong>in</strong>ts and overlapp<strong>in</strong>g or<br />

adjo<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g spreads <strong>of</strong> geophones along a l<strong>in</strong>e,<br />

became <strong>the</strong> <strong>in</strong>dustry standard. This provided<br />

an actual “image” or picture, although distorted,<br />

<strong>of</strong> geologic structure along a cross section.<br />

<strong>The</strong> next big advance was multichannel seismic,<br />

<strong>in</strong> which reflections from a s<strong>in</strong>gle po<strong>in</strong>t<br />

<strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> subsurface to numerous geophones<br />

were summed or “stacked.” Vibroseis on land<br />

replaced explosives. Three-dimentional seismic<br />

allows imag<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong> a volume <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> subsurface<br />

ra<strong>the</strong>r than only along a 2D cross section. All <strong>of</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong>se advances made possible detailed imag<strong>in</strong>g<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> subsurface. Such imag<strong>in</strong>g has for many<br />

years been considered essential for <strong>the</strong> development<br />

<strong>of</strong> a viable petroleum prospect.<br />

DEPRESSION AND<br />

PROGRESS<br />

<strong>The</strong> stock market crash <strong>of</strong> 1929 and ensu<strong>in</strong>g<br />

depression affected <strong>the</strong> <strong>California</strong> petroleum<br />

<strong>in</strong>dustry severely. Annual production<br />

plummeted from a high <strong>of</strong> 290 million barrels<br />

<strong>in</strong> 1929 to around 170 million <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> early<br />

1930s. New well notices decl<strong>in</strong>ed steadily<br />

from a high <strong>of</strong> 1,256 <strong>in</strong> 1929 to 279 <strong>in</strong> 1932<br />

before ris<strong>in</strong>g to 596 <strong>in</strong> 1934. <strong>The</strong> Federal<br />

Government began controll<strong>in</strong>g production<br />

rates <strong>in</strong> 1933. Recovery was slow until <strong>the</strong><br />

onset <strong>of</strong> World War II. <strong>The</strong> 1929 production<br />

level was not reached aga<strong>in</strong> until 1943. New<br />

well notices <strong>in</strong>creased dur<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong> war years,<br />

reach<strong>in</strong>g 2,252 by 1944.<br />

Opposite, top: Map show<strong>in</strong>g Torrance and<br />

Wilm<strong>in</strong>gton Fields. Included <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> latter is<br />

<strong>the</strong> sou<strong>the</strong>ast extension <strong>in</strong>to downtown<br />

Long Beach and <strong>the</strong> adjacent harbor.<br />

Both fields are located <strong>in</strong> a long anticl<strong>in</strong>e<br />

that has a saddle between <strong>the</strong> two fields.<br />

Opposite, bottom: Seismic map (top, left)<br />

made us<strong>in</strong>g shot locations <strong>in</strong>dicated by<br />

ovals. Similar map <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> structure (top,<br />

right) used data from 1,000 wells drilled<br />

after 1936. A typical 1930s seismic record<br />

with traces from six seismographs is also<br />

shown. <strong>The</strong> trace at <strong>the</strong> bottom is from <strong>the</strong><br />

seismograph far<strong>the</strong>st from <strong>the</strong> shot location.<br />

Adapted from Salvatori, H., 1944<br />

“Early reflection seismograph<br />

exploration <strong>in</strong> <strong>California</strong>.”<br />

CHAPTER THREE<br />

75


Above: Discovery well <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Ten Section<br />

Field, San Joaqu<strong>in</strong> Valley. This discovery <strong>in</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> flat part <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> valley was made<br />

with seismic.<br />

PHOTO FROM BILL RINTOUL COURTESY OF<br />

GENERAL PRODUCTION SERVICES.<br />

Life among <strong>the</strong> derricks, four photographs<br />

below and entire opposite page: <strong>The</strong>y were<br />

ubiquitous along streets and waterways<br />

<strong>of</strong> Sou<strong>the</strong>rn <strong>California</strong> for most <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

twentieth century. In all k<strong>in</strong>ds <strong>of</strong> street<br />

scenes, pictures <strong>of</strong> children (or adults)<br />

play<strong>in</strong>g with boats, an orchard, someone’s<br />

laundry, or a merchant display<strong>in</strong>g his<br />

wares, a derrick or two crop up and no one<br />

seems to m<strong>in</strong>d. <strong>The</strong>y could sometimes be<br />

useful, as dur<strong>in</strong>g a row<strong>in</strong>g event <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> 1932<br />

Olympics when people climbed high onto<br />

derricks to get a good view.<br />

PHOTOGRAPH ON BOTTOM, LEFT IS FROM THE<br />

CALIFORNIA STATE LIBRARY. THREE PHOTOGRAPHS<br />

STACKED ON RIGHT ARE FROM THE LOS ANGELES<br />

PUBLIC LIBRARY. ALL PHOTOGRAPHS ON OPPOSITE PAGE<br />

COURTESY OF THE HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF LONG BEACH.<br />

Despite <strong>the</strong> depression <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>in</strong>dustry,<br />

remarkable accomplishments were made <strong>in</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> 1930s. <strong>The</strong> use <strong>of</strong> seismic to discover<br />

Wilm<strong>in</strong>gton <strong>in</strong> 1936 has already been mentioned.<br />

Fields <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> flat part <strong>of</strong> San Joaqu<strong>in</strong><br />

Valley were discovered with seismic <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

same year, <strong>in</strong>clud<strong>in</strong>g Ten Section. Several<br />

o<strong>the</strong>r fields followed <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> next few years.<br />

<strong>The</strong> first large commercial gas fields were<br />

discovered <strong>in</strong> Sacramento Valley <strong>in</strong> 1935,<br />

followed by more discoveries <strong>in</strong> 1936 and<br />

beyond. Records for <strong>the</strong> deepest well <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

world were set and rapidly broken. Often<br />

<strong>the</strong> record-hold<strong>in</strong>g well was <strong>in</strong> <strong>California</strong>.<br />

In 1934 it was 11,377 feet at South Belridge.<br />

In 1938 a well was drilled to 15,004 feet <strong>in</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> Wasco Field. Four billion barrels were<br />

added to <strong>California</strong>’s reserves <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> 1930s.<br />

By 1930 <strong>the</strong> petroleum <strong>in</strong>dustry was a<br />

ubiquitous part <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> urban scene <strong>of</strong> Sou<strong>the</strong>rn<br />

<strong>California</strong>. Wooden and steel derricks made<br />

a new k<strong>in</strong>d <strong>of</strong> “forest” all over Los Angeles<br />

Bas<strong>in</strong>. Derricks could be seen on hilltops,<br />

<strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> centers <strong>of</strong> busy streets with traffic<br />

stream<strong>in</strong>g around <strong>the</strong>m, <strong>in</strong> parks and o<strong>the</strong>r<br />

places where people went for recreation.<br />

Photographs <strong>of</strong> sport<strong>in</strong>g events, family picnics,<br />

or sailboats <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> harbor <strong>of</strong>ten had derricks<br />

<strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> background. It was as if <strong>the</strong> derricks and<br />

pumpjacks were a normal part <strong>of</strong> Los Angeles<br />

scenery, to be paid no more attention than<br />

power poles, build<strong>in</strong>gs or o<strong>the</strong>r structures.<br />

Dur<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong> 1932 Olympic Games, when Los<br />

Angeles proudly displayed itself to <strong>the</strong> world,<br />

oil fields were visible next to some <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

venues, such as where <strong>the</strong> row<strong>in</strong>g events were<br />

held. Ref<strong>in</strong>eries were ano<strong>the</strong>r visible manifestation<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>in</strong>dustry, and <strong>of</strong> course gas stations<br />

were by <strong>the</strong>n everywhere. In <strong>the</strong> 1930s<br />

many people were still alive who remembered<br />

<strong>the</strong> horse and buggy days. It seems likely that<br />

people <strong>in</strong> general appreciated <strong>the</strong> way <strong>in</strong><br />

which petroleum had improved <strong>the</strong>ir lives.<br />

Larger <strong>California</strong> companies, such as<br />

Union and Standard <strong>of</strong> <strong>California</strong>, expanded<br />

<strong>the</strong> out-<strong>of</strong>-state and foreign operations that<br />

<strong>the</strong>y had begun before 1930. Standard participated<br />

<strong>in</strong> Aramco, which discovered <strong>the</strong><br />

BLACK GOLD IN CALIFORNIA: <strong>The</strong> <strong>Story</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>California</strong> <strong>Petroleum</strong> <strong>Industry</strong><br />

76


CHAPTER THREE<br />

77


Sale <strong>of</strong> Victory Bonds dur<strong>in</strong>g World War II<br />

at Standard’s El Segundo Ref<strong>in</strong>ery.<br />

COURTESY OF CHEVRON USA.<br />

supergiant Damman Field <strong>in</strong> Saudi Arabia<br />

<strong>in</strong> 1938. Union explored <strong>in</strong> Texas, Alaska<br />

and Colombia <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> late ’30s. Out-<strong>of</strong>-state<br />

companies like Shell cont<strong>in</strong>ued to work <strong>in</strong><br />

<strong>California</strong>. Thus <strong>the</strong> <strong>California</strong> <strong>in</strong>dustry that<br />

had been ra<strong>the</strong>r <strong>in</strong>sular <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> 1800s and<br />

early 1900s became more <strong>in</strong>tegrated with <strong>the</strong><br />

world petroleum <strong>in</strong>dustry. <strong>The</strong> early isolation<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>California</strong>, its geology, and <strong>the</strong> peculiar<br />

nature <strong>of</strong> its oil forced explorers and ref<strong>in</strong>ers<br />

to <strong>in</strong>novate. Increas<strong>in</strong>gly, <strong>the</strong>se <strong>in</strong>novations<br />

would be applied around <strong>the</strong> world, benefit<strong>in</strong>g<br />

<strong>the</strong> <strong>in</strong>dustry generally.<br />

<strong>The</strong> heavy, sulfur-rich <strong>California</strong> oil posed<br />

problems for ref<strong>in</strong>ers, as we have seen. Just<br />

as it was difficult to manufacture highquality<br />

kerosene <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> 1800s, <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> 1900s<br />

lubricants, especially motor oil, suffered.<br />

<strong>The</strong>se difficulties stimulated companies <strong>in</strong><br />

<strong>California</strong> to develop new methods <strong>of</strong> ref<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g<br />

that would later be used <strong>in</strong>ternationally.<br />

In 1934 Union came up with a way <strong>of</strong> us<strong>in</strong>g<br />

liquid propane to remove asphalt from <strong>the</strong><br />

crude. This allowed <strong>the</strong>m to make a 100<br />

percent paraff<strong>in</strong>-based motor oil that was<br />

just as good as anyth<strong>in</strong>g that could be<br />

made from Pennsylvania oil. To promote<br />

<strong>the</strong>ir new oil, Union had a team <strong>of</strong> drivers<br />

run a Studebaker President 8 for 60,000<br />

miles <strong>in</strong> sixty days without chang<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong> new<br />

oil. That averages a little over forty miles per<br />

hour, 24-7. <strong>The</strong> eng<strong>in</strong>e showed remarkably<br />

little wear. Call<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong>ir new product Triton,<br />

Union quickly cut <strong>in</strong>to <strong>the</strong> 50 percent<br />

<strong>California</strong> market share that <strong>the</strong> eastern<br />

motor oils had. <strong>The</strong>y also began sell<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong><br />

oil back East.<br />

By 1940 Union had developed an alkylation<br />

plant that produced 100-octane aviation<br />

gasol<strong>in</strong>e. This obviously had implications for<br />

<strong>the</strong> impend<strong>in</strong>g war. By <strong>the</strong> end <strong>of</strong> World War<br />

II <strong>the</strong> production <strong>of</strong> aviation gasol<strong>in</strong>e had<br />

<strong>in</strong>creased seven fold.<br />

Chemical research, much <strong>of</strong> it stimulated<br />

by <strong>the</strong> obst<strong>in</strong>ate <strong>California</strong> crude, led to <strong>the</strong><br />

growth <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> petrochemical <strong>in</strong>dustry, which<br />

was to change <strong>the</strong> life <strong>of</strong> every human on <strong>the</strong><br />

planet. <strong>The</strong> mid-’30s saw <strong>the</strong> development <strong>of</strong><br />

nylon and syn<strong>the</strong>tic rubber. <strong>The</strong> war effort<br />

brought about large-scale production <strong>of</strong><br />

toluene for explosives and new ways <strong>of</strong><br />

mak<strong>in</strong>g lube oil for diesel eng<strong>in</strong>es.<br />

BLACK GOLD IN CALIFORNIA: <strong>The</strong> <strong>Story</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>California</strong> <strong>Petroleum</strong> <strong>Industry</strong><br />

78


WORLD WAR II<br />

On December 19, 1941, just twelve days<br />

after Pearl Harbor, General <strong>Petroleum</strong>’s tanker<br />

Emidio was torpedoed by <strong>the</strong> Japanese near<br />

Crescent City <strong>in</strong> nor<strong>the</strong>rn <strong>California</strong>. Two<br />

days later <strong>the</strong> Union tanker Montebello left<br />

Avila, on <strong>the</strong> central <strong>California</strong> Coast, with a<br />

load <strong>of</strong> oil bound for Vancouver. A few hours<br />

later <strong>the</strong> ship was torpedoed and sunk by a<br />

Japanese submar<strong>in</strong>e. All <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> crew survived.<br />

Two months later, on February 23, 1942,<br />

ano<strong>the</strong>r submar<strong>in</strong>e surfaced just <strong>of</strong>f <strong>the</strong><br />

Ellwood Oil Field and fired a number <strong>of</strong> five<br />

and a half <strong>in</strong>ch shells <strong>in</strong>to it, do<strong>in</strong>g $500<br />

worth <strong>of</strong> damage. This was <strong>the</strong> first attack by<br />

a foreign power on <strong>the</strong> cont<strong>in</strong>ental homeland<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> U.S. s<strong>in</strong>ce 1812, when <strong>the</strong> British<br />

sacked Wash<strong>in</strong>gton D.C. Thus <strong>the</strong> <strong>California</strong><br />

petroleum <strong>in</strong>dustry was directly <strong>in</strong>volved <strong>in</strong><br />

World War II from <strong>the</strong> very start. <strong>California</strong><br />

made a critical contribution to <strong>the</strong> war effort,<br />

produc<strong>in</strong>g one billion barrels <strong>of</strong> oil out <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

seven billion barrels used by <strong>the</strong> allies.<br />

World War II was to be a mechanized war<br />

like no o<strong>the</strong>r. Recent developments <strong>in</strong> eng<strong>in</strong>e<br />

technology, especially as applied to aviation,<br />

meant that high-test fuels and temperature-<br />

Above: Woman work<strong>in</strong>g at a Standard tank<br />

farm. Women were engaged <strong>in</strong> many oil<br />

<strong>in</strong>dustry jobs dur<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong> war.<br />

COURTESY OF CHEVRON USA.<br />

Below: General <strong>Petroleum</strong> tanker Emidio<br />

after be<strong>in</strong>g torpedoed <strong>in</strong> 1941.<br />

CALIFORNIA STATE LIBRARY.<br />

CHAPTER THREE<br />

79


esistant lubricants were needed quickly,<br />

and <strong>in</strong> large quantities. For example, a s<strong>in</strong>gle<br />

armored division required 60,000 gallons <strong>of</strong><br />

fuel a day to fight. In addition it soon became<br />

clear that <strong>the</strong> products were not just needed,<br />

but were needed <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> right place. Gett<strong>in</strong>g<br />

<strong>the</strong> fuel and oil to <strong>the</strong> far-flung islands and<br />

atolls <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Pacific, for example, would test<br />

<strong>the</strong> mettle <strong>of</strong> both <strong>the</strong> petroleum <strong>in</strong>dustry<br />

and <strong>the</strong> military. <strong>The</strong> <strong>California</strong> <strong>in</strong>dustry was<br />

well-equipped to assist <strong>in</strong> that part <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> war<br />

because it was positioned along <strong>the</strong> rim <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

Pacific <strong>The</strong>atre.<br />

<strong>Industry</strong> resources, <strong>in</strong>clud<strong>in</strong>g oil, tankers,<br />

and o<strong>the</strong>r facilities, were commandeered by<br />

<strong>the</strong> military for <strong>the</strong> duration <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> war.<br />

Tankers were taken over and reassigned to<br />

<strong>the</strong> companies that owned <strong>the</strong>m. A supply<br />

cha<strong>in</strong> was set up <strong>in</strong> which <strong>the</strong> big, slow<br />

company tankers filled <strong>the</strong> smaller, faster<br />

Navy supply ships which <strong>in</strong> turn fueled <strong>the</strong><br />

combat vessels. Supply<strong>in</strong>g island <strong>in</strong>vasions<br />

was more difficult, as oil drums had to be<br />

rolled ashore <strong>of</strong>f land<strong>in</strong>g craft <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> middle<br />

<strong>of</strong> a battle. A plant was set up by Union Oil at<br />

Pittsburg, <strong>California</strong> (near San Francisco Bay)<br />

to fill 4,800 barrels a day. A surge <strong>of</strong> activity<br />

at this plant could <strong>in</strong>dicate to <strong>the</strong> enemy an<br />

upcom<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong>vasion, so <strong>the</strong> plant was kept<br />

secret until <strong>the</strong> end <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> war, by which time<br />

862,000 barrels had been filled with 46 million<br />

gallons <strong>of</strong> fuel.<br />

<strong>The</strong> <strong>Petroleum</strong> Adm<strong>in</strong>istration for War<br />

was set up by <strong>the</strong> government, with <strong>in</strong>dustry<br />

representatives, to put <strong>the</strong> <strong>in</strong>dustry on a war<br />

foot<strong>in</strong>g. One committee was responsible for<br />

<strong>California</strong> and o<strong>the</strong>r Pacific states. It came<br />

up with <strong>the</strong> concept <strong>of</strong> maximum efficient<br />

rates (MER), which was def<strong>in</strong>ed as <strong>the</strong><br />

production rate for a field that if cont<strong>in</strong>ued<br />

for six months would not reduce <strong>the</strong> ultimate<br />

production <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> field.<br />

Catalytic crackers were <strong>in</strong>stalled <strong>in</strong> ref<strong>in</strong>eries<br />

to boost <strong>the</strong> production <strong>of</strong> high-test gasol<strong>in</strong>e.<br />

O<strong>the</strong>r products produced for <strong>the</strong> war <strong>in</strong>cluded<br />

plastics, syn<strong>the</strong>tic textiles, and chemicals for<br />

explosives and syn<strong>the</strong>tic rubber. <strong>The</strong>se new<br />

technologies provided <strong>the</strong> bases for new<br />

bus<strong>in</strong>esses after <strong>the</strong> war. When <strong>the</strong> war f<strong>in</strong>ally<br />

came to an end <strong>the</strong> petroleum <strong>in</strong>dustry was<br />

set to expand <strong>in</strong>to a new era <strong>of</strong> opportunity.<br />

NATURAL GAS<br />

IN CALIFORNIA<br />

Most <strong>of</strong> <strong>California</strong>’s oil fields produce<br />

natural gas <strong>in</strong> addition to oil. As we have<br />

seen, <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> early days gas was allowed to<br />

vent <strong>in</strong>to <strong>the</strong> atmosphere <strong>in</strong> places like<br />

Signal Hill, where town lot drill<strong>in</strong>g and<br />

competition with neighbors meant that one’s<br />

ma<strong>in</strong> motivation was to produce as much<br />

oil as possible before someone else got it.<br />

Cas<strong>in</strong>ghead gasol<strong>in</strong>e was sometimes extracted<br />

from natural gas, and <strong>the</strong> residue could be<br />

used as a fuel <strong>in</strong> oil field eng<strong>in</strong>es.<br />

Natural gas as an <strong>in</strong>dustry <strong>in</strong> its own right<br />

did not really get under way <strong>in</strong> <strong>California</strong><br />

until about 1910, and did not reach its stride<br />

until <strong>the</strong> 1930s when seismic exploration<br />

came to <strong>the</strong> fore. Prior to 1910 gas was<br />

sometimes collected from seeps or from<br />

shallow wells that had been drilled for water.<br />

In 1854 <strong>the</strong> courthouse <strong>in</strong> Stockton was<br />

provided enough gas for light<strong>in</strong>g by a water<br />

well nearby. This hydrocarbon-produc<strong>in</strong>g<br />

well was drilled at least five years before<br />

<strong>the</strong> famous Drake Well <strong>in</strong> Titusville,<br />

Pennsylvania. Gas and oil seeps were be<strong>in</strong>g<br />

found along <strong>the</strong> tributary rivers <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

Sacramento River that were <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> range <strong>of</strong><br />

hills west <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> valley. Unsuccessful wells<br />

were drilled near seeps <strong>in</strong> Colusa and Glenn<br />

Counties <strong>in</strong> 1865-1866. A gas seep was<br />

found next to Sutter Buttes, a volcanic plug<br />

<strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> middle <strong>of</strong> Sacramento Valley. A m<strong>in</strong>e<br />

shaft was dug to f<strong>in</strong>d out where <strong>the</strong> gas came<br />

from; <strong>the</strong>y thought <strong>the</strong> source would be oil or<br />

coal. Unfortunately, an explosion <strong>in</strong>jured two<br />

m<strong>in</strong>ers and <strong>the</strong>y had to stop. By 1890 many<br />

water wells from Tehama County south to <strong>the</strong><br />

lower part <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Sacramento River Bas<strong>in</strong><br />

were supply<strong>in</strong>g gas as well as water to<br />

farmhouses. In 1890-1891 companies were<br />

drill<strong>in</strong>g wells <strong>in</strong> Stockton and Sacramento.<br />

Some water/gas wells <strong>in</strong> Stockton reached<br />

depths <strong>of</strong> 1,000 to 2,000 feet.<br />

In 1909, large amounts <strong>of</strong> dry gas were<br />

found <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> Buena Vista Oil Field, which<br />

was <strong>in</strong> an anticl<strong>in</strong>e parallel to and nor<strong>the</strong>ast<br />

<strong>of</strong> that <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Midway-Sunset Oil Field <strong>in</strong><br />

San Joaqu<strong>in</strong> Valley. By 1913 pipel<strong>in</strong>es<br />

were supply<strong>in</strong>g this gas to Bakersfield and<br />

BLACK GOLD IN CALIFORNIA: <strong>The</strong> <strong>Story</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>California</strong> <strong>Petroleum</strong> <strong>Industry</strong><br />

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Los Angeles. Gas was discovered <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> Elk<br />

Hills Oil Field <strong>in</strong> 1919. At Buttonwillow <strong>the</strong><br />

first large accumulation <strong>of</strong> gas that was not<br />

associated with oil was found <strong>in</strong> 1927. More<br />

gas found <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> Kettleman Hills Oil Field<br />

brought about <strong>the</strong> construction <strong>of</strong> a pipel<strong>in</strong>e<br />

to San Francisco. By this time an oversupply<br />

<strong>of</strong> gas caused many producers to flare or vent<br />

<strong>the</strong>ir gas. This was a factor <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> legislature’s<br />

pass<strong>in</strong>g <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Gas Act <strong>in</strong> 1929, which<br />

required producers to utilize <strong>the</strong>ir gas or<br />

<strong>in</strong>ject it back <strong>in</strong>to <strong>the</strong> formation. Re<strong>in</strong>jection,<br />

as <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> Dom<strong>in</strong>guez Oil Field, helped to<br />

ma<strong>in</strong>ta<strong>in</strong> formation pressure, mak<strong>in</strong>g it<br />

possible to recover a greater percentage <strong>of</strong> a<br />

field’s oil reserves.<br />

A dry gas field was discovered <strong>in</strong> 1934 at<br />

Trico, about forty miles north <strong>of</strong> Bakersfield,<br />

on <strong>the</strong> basis <strong>of</strong> gas <strong>in</strong> water wells and a slight<br />

topographic rise. This field is <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> central,<br />

almost flat part <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> valley. Us<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong> new<br />

tool <strong>of</strong> seismic, and adapt<strong>in</strong>g it to <strong>California</strong>’s<br />

conditions, explorationists began f<strong>in</strong>d<strong>in</strong>g<br />

fields <strong>in</strong> new places. In 1933 seismic helped<br />

discover gas near Sutter Buttes <strong>in</strong> Sacramento<br />

Valley. <strong>The</strong> Tracy Field was found, followed<br />

by <strong>the</strong> Rio Vista Field, <strong>the</strong> largest gas field <strong>in</strong><br />

<strong>California</strong>, <strong>in</strong> 1936. Smaller gas fields were<br />

discovered <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> nor<strong>the</strong>rn part <strong>of</strong> San<br />

Joaqu<strong>in</strong> Valley. <strong>The</strong> Santa Barbara—Ventura<br />

area is also home to gas fields, as is Santa<br />

Maria Bas<strong>in</strong>. Gas <strong>in</strong> Los Angeles Bas<strong>in</strong> is<br />

associated with oil.<br />

Sacramento Valley is almost exclusively a<br />

gas prov<strong>in</strong>ce, with about eighty gas fields and<br />

only two small oil fields. About 10 trillion<br />

cubic feet (TCF) <strong>of</strong> gas, and just a few million<br />

barrels <strong>of</strong> oil, have been produced from a<br />

fairway about 200 miles long and 45 miles<br />

wide. <strong>The</strong> ma<strong>in</strong> reason for <strong>the</strong> lack <strong>of</strong> oil is<br />

that <strong>the</strong> Monterey Formation is conf<strong>in</strong>ed to<br />

central and sou<strong>the</strong>rn <strong>California</strong>. <strong>The</strong> habitat<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> gas <strong>in</strong> Sacramento Valley is quite<br />

different from that <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> oil <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> sou<strong>the</strong>rn<br />

part <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> state. <strong>The</strong> reservoir and source<br />

rocks are much older, ma<strong>in</strong>ly Upper<br />

Cretaceous through Eocene (38 million years<br />

old or older). Traps were formed by fold<strong>in</strong>g<br />

and fault<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong> Oligocene time (38 to 25<br />

million years), before deposition <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

Monterey Formation to <strong>the</strong> south even began.<br />

A formation called <strong>the</strong> Great Valley Sequence<br />

outcrops <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> hills west <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> valley.<br />

Consist<strong>in</strong>g <strong>of</strong> <strong>in</strong>terbedded sandstone and<br />

shale, <strong>the</strong> Great Valley Sequence houses both<br />

<strong>the</strong> source rocks and reservoir rocks. <strong>The</strong><br />

strata dip almost vertically west <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> valley,<br />

and “bottom out” deep under <strong>the</strong> middle <strong>of</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> valley, where <strong>the</strong>y are buried under<br />

thousands <strong>of</strong> feet <strong>of</strong> younger rocks. <strong>The</strong> seeps<br />

are found <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> hills where <strong>the</strong> Great Valley<br />

rocks are at <strong>the</strong> surface. In <strong>the</strong> valley <strong>the</strong><br />

deeply buried rocks have no effect on surface<br />

topography, and gas traps must be located<br />

with seismic methods.<br />

Out <strong>of</strong> 80 gas fields, only 6 have production<br />

<strong>of</strong> more than 250 billion cubic feet<br />

(BCF). <strong>The</strong> Rio Vista Field is by far <strong>the</strong><br />

largest. By 2010 it had produced more<br />

than 3.6 TCF, three times that <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> next<br />

largest field. Cover<strong>in</strong>g 29,000 acres <strong>in</strong><br />

two counties, <strong>the</strong> field is located <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

Sacramento Delta region about twenty miles<br />

northwest <strong>of</strong> Stockton. <strong>The</strong> confluence <strong>of</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> Sacramento and San Joaqu<strong>in</strong> Rivers is<br />

nearby. <strong>The</strong> Town <strong>of</strong> Rio Vista is completely<br />

surrounded by <strong>the</strong> field. <strong>The</strong> field also<br />

underlies several islands <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Sacramento<br />

River Delta. Much <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> area is below sea<br />

level and is protected by levees. Production<br />

significantly <strong>in</strong>creased dur<strong>in</strong>g World War II<br />

to meet demand as gas could no longer be<br />

shipped to San Francisco from Kettleman<br />

Hills. <strong>The</strong> Kettleman pipel<strong>in</strong>e had been<br />

converted from gas to oil for <strong>the</strong> war effort.<br />

Rio Vista was unitized <strong>in</strong> 1965, and <strong>in</strong> 1999,<br />

Amerada Hess sold <strong>the</strong> field.<br />

Many <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Sacramento Valley gas<br />

deposits are elusive. This is because anticl<strong>in</strong>es<br />

and o<strong>the</strong>r traps <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> reservoir rocks<br />

do not project upward <strong>in</strong>to <strong>the</strong> overly<strong>in</strong>g<br />

strata, at least <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> central part <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> valley.<br />

<strong>The</strong> result<strong>in</strong>g lack <strong>of</strong> surface expression<br />

has made Sacramento Valley a laboratory for<br />

development <strong>of</strong> better methods <strong>of</strong> imag<strong>in</strong>g<br />

<strong>the</strong> subsurface, especially seismic. Seismic<br />

methods such as bright spots and AVO<br />

(amplitude variation with <strong>of</strong>fset) were developed<br />

<strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> 1970s and 1980s us<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong> part<br />

data from Sacramento Valley to prove <strong>the</strong><br />

method. Today 3D seismic is used extensively<br />

to explore for new deposits <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> valley.<br />

CHAPTER THREE<br />

81


CHAPTER<br />

FOUR<br />

PEACE, PROSPERITY AND CHANGE<br />

OLD OIL, NEW IDEAS<br />

Above: Three major Los Angeles Bas<strong>in</strong><br />

Fields discovered s<strong>in</strong>ce World War II:<br />

Las Cienegas, Belmont Offshore, and Beta.<br />

Opposite, top: Fire hydrant <strong>in</strong> Wilm<strong>in</strong>gton<br />

Field area. Subsidence has taken <strong>the</strong> land<br />

surface, where <strong>the</strong> dog is sitt<strong>in</strong>g, well<br />

below sealevel. <strong>The</strong> bow, gun turret and<br />

superstructure <strong>of</strong> a navy ship are visible<br />

beh<strong>in</strong>d <strong>the</strong> levy <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> background.<br />

COURTESY OF HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF LONG BEACH.<br />

Opposite, bottom: Well heads that were<br />

raised dur<strong>in</strong>g a landfill operation carried<br />

out to compensate for subsidence. <strong>The</strong> land<br />

surface was subject to <strong>in</strong>undation before<br />

<strong>the</strong> landfill.<br />

COURTESY OF HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF LONG BEACH.<br />

With <strong>the</strong> close <strong>of</strong> World War II <strong>the</strong> military demand for fuel and o<strong>the</strong>r petroleum products<br />

decreased to a fraction <strong>of</strong> its former self. This was more than made up for by <strong>the</strong> baby boom<br />

and new prosperity <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> 1950s. New well notices <strong>in</strong> <strong>California</strong> climbed to 2,772 <strong>in</strong> 1948.<br />

Production was opened <strong>in</strong> Cuyama Valley <strong>in</strong> 1948-1949 and <strong>in</strong> Sal<strong>in</strong>as Valley <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> ’50s. <strong>The</strong><br />

natural gas prov<strong>in</strong>ce <strong>in</strong> Sacramento Valley was greatly expanded <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> ’50s and ’60s. <strong>California</strong>’s<br />

gas production, after slowly decl<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g through most <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> 1950s, went from about 450 billion<br />

cubic feet (BCF) annually <strong>in</strong> 1958 to 725 BCF ten years later. <strong>The</strong> Paloma Field <strong>in</strong> San Joaqu<strong>in</strong><br />

Valley was <strong>the</strong> scene <strong>of</strong> a new world drill<strong>in</strong>g record, 20,521 feet.<br />

On <strong>the</strong> o<strong>the</strong>r hand, mature areas saw a taper<strong>in</strong>g <strong>of</strong>f. Los Angeles Bas<strong>in</strong>, home <strong>of</strong> billion<br />

barrel giants, has seen only three substantial discoveries s<strong>in</strong>ce <strong>the</strong> war, Belmont Offshore <strong>in</strong> 1948<br />

(75 million barrels, actually an extension <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Wilm<strong>in</strong>gton Field), Las Cienegas <strong>in</strong> 1960<br />

(75 million), and Beta <strong>of</strong>fshore <strong>in</strong> 1976 (220 million). Total new field discoveries <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> bas<strong>in</strong><br />

<strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> last seventy years amount to only about half a billion barrels, a small fraction <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

10 billion or more barrels that have been produced.<br />

Far more has been added to <strong>California</strong>’s reserves s<strong>in</strong>ce <strong>the</strong> war by develop<strong>in</strong>g new enhanced<br />

recovery methods than by explor<strong>in</strong>g for new fields. U.S. Department <strong>of</strong> Energy data <strong>in</strong>dicate that<br />

only 3 percent <strong>of</strong> reserves additions <strong>in</strong> San Joaqu<strong>in</strong> Valley <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> 1980s came from new field<br />

discoveries. <strong>The</strong> rest was from enhanced recovery and development <strong>of</strong> new pools <strong>in</strong> exist<strong>in</strong>g<br />

fields. Giant fields discovered <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> early days, such as Kern River, Coal<strong>in</strong>ga, Midway-Sunset,<br />

South Belridge, and Elk Hills saw <strong>the</strong> biggest ga<strong>in</strong>s. For example, Midway Sunset went from<br />

an estimated ultimate recovery (EUR) <strong>of</strong> 1 billion barrels <strong>in</strong> 1950 to 3.5 billion <strong>in</strong> 2000, and<br />

BLACK GOLD IN CALIFORNIA: <strong>The</strong> <strong>Story</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>California</strong> <strong>Petroleum</strong> <strong>Industry</strong><br />

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Kern River went from 500 million to 2 billion<br />

<strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> same period. Similar <strong>in</strong>creases occurred<br />

at Hunt<strong>in</strong>gton Beach, Ventura, and San Ardo<br />

<strong>in</strong> Sal<strong>in</strong>as Valley. Wilm<strong>in</strong>gton has also benefited,<br />

although its major ga<strong>in</strong>s have been from<br />

field extensions to <strong>the</strong> sou<strong>the</strong>ast—Long Beach<br />

Harbor (THUMS) and Belmont Offshore.<br />

Sometimes producers got enhanced oil<br />

recovery as an additional benefit from oil field<br />

operations that were <strong>in</strong>tended for ano<strong>the</strong>r<br />

purpose. <strong>The</strong> Wilm<strong>in</strong>gton Field had been<br />

produc<strong>in</strong>g at top speed for <strong>the</strong> war effort.<br />

After <strong>the</strong> war strange events were occurr<strong>in</strong>g at<br />

<strong>the</strong> Naval Shipyard and o<strong>the</strong>r facilities <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

oil field area. Railroad tracks buckled. Sewer<br />

l<strong>in</strong>es broke. Walls cracked. Surveyors found<br />

that <strong>the</strong> land was subsid<strong>in</strong>g as much as two<br />

feet per year <strong>in</strong> some places by <strong>the</strong> early<br />

1950s. Dikes were built to keep <strong>the</strong> ocean<br />

away from <strong>the</strong> shipyard as well as from<br />

factories and warehouses employ<strong>in</strong>g 1,000<br />

people. Horizontal movement associated<br />

with <strong>the</strong> subsidence caused a large amount <strong>of</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> damage. <strong>The</strong> oil field itself was affected.<br />

Well cas<strong>in</strong>gs were crushed or sheared <strong>of</strong>f, and<br />

many produc<strong>in</strong>g wells had to be abandoned.<br />

CHAPTER FOUR<br />

83


Well on a long, narrow (about 100 feet<br />

wide) lease that <strong>in</strong>cluded <strong>the</strong> tracks <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

Sou<strong>the</strong>rn Pacific Railroad. <strong>The</strong> orig<strong>in</strong>al<br />

lease holder was Jack Herley Operations.<br />

Operations coexisted at close quarters for<br />

decades with both railroad<strong>in</strong>g<br />

and agriculture.<br />

BOTH PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF THE HERLEY FAMILY.<br />

By this time it was known that more reserves<br />

existed to <strong>the</strong> sou<strong>the</strong>ast under Downtown Long<br />

Beach and <strong>the</strong> adjacent harbor. If <strong>the</strong> subsidence<br />

problem could not be solved perhaps<br />

this rich resource would never be developed.<br />

Richfield and o<strong>the</strong>r operators realized that<br />

production <strong>of</strong> oil from <strong>the</strong> field’s shallow,<br />

thick, unconsolidated sands was <strong>the</strong> cause<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> problem. Reduction <strong>of</strong> formation<br />

pressure as <strong>the</strong> oil was produced allowed <strong>the</strong><br />

sands to compact. In 1955 <strong>the</strong> president <strong>of</strong><br />

Richfield, Charles Jones, proposed a solution<br />

<strong>in</strong> a speech at <strong>the</strong> Long Beach Rotary Club.<br />

He suggested that water be <strong>in</strong>jected <strong>in</strong>to<br />

<strong>the</strong> reservoir to <strong>in</strong>crease <strong>the</strong> pressure and<br />

arrest <strong>the</strong> subsidence. Because <strong>the</strong>re were a<br />

hundred operators and over 1,000 property<br />

owners, legislation was needed to unitize <strong>the</strong><br />

field. Agreements were made on how <strong>the</strong> City<br />

<strong>of</strong> Long Beach and <strong>the</strong> operators would work<br />

toge<strong>the</strong>r to make <strong>the</strong> biggest waterflood<strong>in</strong>g<br />

project <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> world work.<br />

F<strong>in</strong>ally, water <strong>in</strong>jection got underway <strong>in</strong><br />

October 1959. Not only did it arrest <strong>the</strong><br />

subsidence <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> land, <strong>the</strong> water also pushed<br />

oil ahead <strong>of</strong> it to produc<strong>in</strong>g wells, lead<strong>in</strong>g<br />

to <strong>the</strong> recovery <strong>of</strong> an ano<strong>the</strong>r 500 to 700<br />

million barrels. In addition <strong>the</strong> City <strong>of</strong> Long<br />

Beach opened bidd<strong>in</strong>g on <strong>the</strong> sou<strong>the</strong>astern<br />

extension <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> field when it was clear that<br />

<strong>the</strong> subsidence had stopped. This added<br />

ano<strong>the</strong>r 1 to 1.2 billion barrels to <strong>the</strong> total<br />

reserves <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> field.<br />

O<strong>the</strong>r ways <strong>of</strong> gett<strong>in</strong>g oil out <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> ground<br />

were tried <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>California</strong> oil fields, lead<strong>in</strong>g<br />

to enhanced oil recovery methods now<br />

used around <strong>the</strong> world. By 1950, as much as<br />

40 billion barrels <strong>of</strong> heavy, sulfur-rich crude<br />

had been discovered <strong>in</strong> <strong>California</strong>, but by<br />

some estimates only 10 percent <strong>of</strong> it had any<br />

chance <strong>of</strong> be<strong>in</strong>g recovered. One approach<br />

was to heat up <strong>the</strong> oil to reduce its viscosity.<br />

Several ways <strong>of</strong> do<strong>in</strong>g this were experimented<br />

on <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> laboratory, <strong>the</strong>n tried <strong>in</strong> small pilot<br />

projects <strong>in</strong> oil fields.<br />

One idea was to set <strong>the</strong> oil sand on fire.<br />

Called “fireflood<strong>in</strong>g,” this was done by pump<strong>in</strong>g<br />

air <strong>in</strong>to <strong>the</strong> formation. Oxidation <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

oil heated <strong>the</strong> formation enough to cause<br />

spontaneous ignition. It was hoped that about<br />

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10 percent <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> oil would burn (primarily<br />

<strong>the</strong> tarry, less desirable fraction) and heat <strong>the</strong><br />

rest so that it would flow more easily to <strong>the</strong><br />

produc<strong>in</strong>g wells. In 1956 General <strong>Petroleum</strong><br />

ran a test <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> South Belridge Field us<strong>in</strong>g<br />

an <strong>in</strong>jection well <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> center <strong>of</strong> a 330 foot<br />

square with a produc<strong>in</strong>g well on each corner.<br />

Ano<strong>the</strong>r test was done <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> same year<br />

by Standard <strong>of</strong> <strong>California</strong> at Midway-Sunset<br />

with an <strong>in</strong>jection well and three producers<br />

<strong>in</strong> a 200 foot circle around <strong>the</strong> <strong>in</strong>jector.<br />

Increases <strong>in</strong> production were observed but<br />

<strong>the</strong> method was expensive. It never really<br />

took <strong>of</strong>f, especially with smaller operators.<br />

Ano<strong>the</strong>r method was bottom hole heat<strong>in</strong>g,<br />

<strong>in</strong> which a fluid, ei<strong>the</strong>r oil or water, was<br />

heated at <strong>the</strong> surface and pumped via tubes<br />

<strong>in</strong>side <strong>the</strong> cas<strong>in</strong>g down to a heat exchanger<br />

unit at <strong>the</strong> bottom <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> hole. <strong>The</strong> surround<strong>in</strong>g<br />

formation was heated by conduction. This<br />

was much cheaper than fireflood<strong>in</strong>g as it<br />

used equipment that could be moved from<br />

well to well. New <strong>in</strong>jection wells did not have<br />

to be drilled. <strong>The</strong> problem was that it could<br />

heat <strong>the</strong> formation only up to a short distance<br />

from <strong>the</strong> borehole. A better way <strong>of</strong> heat<strong>in</strong>g<br />

large volumes <strong>of</strong> oil sand was needed.<br />

That idea was steamflood<strong>in</strong>g. It was tried<br />

first by Shell <strong>in</strong> 1960 <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> Yorba L<strong>in</strong>da<br />

Field. This field, <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> eastern part <strong>of</strong><br />

Los Angeles Bas<strong>in</strong>, was discovered <strong>in</strong> 1930<br />

with reserves <strong>of</strong> about 90 million barrels <strong>of</strong><br />

12 gravity oil. Shell’s pilot project, estimated<br />

to cost $150,000, <strong>in</strong>volved pump<strong>in</strong>g steam<br />

<strong>in</strong>to <strong>the</strong> shallow (600 foot) pay zone to heat<br />

<strong>the</strong> heavy oil. Shell kept <strong>the</strong> project secret,<br />

and began ano<strong>the</strong>r pilot on <strong>the</strong> 15 gravity oil<br />

at Coal<strong>in</strong>ga later <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> same year. This test<br />

called for an <strong>in</strong>jection well <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> 1,000 foot<br />

deep pay zone, four observation wells 90 feet<br />

away, and two producers on opposite sides<br />

180 feet from <strong>the</strong> <strong>in</strong>jector. Shell kept mum on<br />

this test too, but <strong>the</strong> cont<strong>in</strong>u<strong>in</strong>g steam<strong>in</strong>g<br />

operations at both sites could be observed<br />

by competitors.<br />

Meanwhile, Tidewater was experiment<strong>in</strong>g<br />

with hot water flood<strong>in</strong>g at Kern River. This<br />

method had a problem with channel<strong>in</strong>g, <strong>in</strong><br />

which <strong>the</strong> water created pathways that left much<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> surround<strong>in</strong>g sand unaffected. Tidewater<br />

began experiments with steamflood<strong>in</strong>g.<br />

Although Shell and Tidewater did<br />

<strong>the</strong>se tests <strong>in</strong> secret, o<strong>the</strong>rs eventually<br />

figured out what <strong>the</strong>y were do<strong>in</strong>g.<br />

What soon became obvious to everyone<br />

was that a large number <strong>of</strong> leases<br />

were suddenly be<strong>in</strong>g sold, and that <strong>the</strong><br />

buyer was usually Shell or Tidewater.<br />

Many leases were go<strong>in</strong>g for prices far<br />

above <strong>the</strong> value <strong>of</strong> current production<br />

from stripper wells. Clearly someth<strong>in</strong>g<br />

was up. O<strong>the</strong>r companies started buy<strong>in</strong>g<br />

leases. Steamflood<strong>in</strong>g was much<br />

cheaper than fireflood<strong>in</strong>g, and even a<br />

relatively small operator could do it.<br />

People talked about ten-fold <strong>in</strong>creases<br />

<strong>in</strong> production <strong>of</strong> stripper wells at<br />

Midway-Sunset and South Belridge.<br />

By 1964 <strong>the</strong> secrecy had melted away.<br />

Publications like <strong>California</strong> Oil World<br />

were talk<strong>in</strong>g about steamflood<strong>in</strong>g.<br />

<strong>The</strong> habitat <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> heavy <strong>California</strong> oil<br />

makes it especially suited for steamflood<strong>in</strong>g.<br />

For example, at Midway-Sunset most <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

pay sands are at 7,000 feet or less, and reservoir<br />

temperatures are relatively low, below<br />

100 degrees F. Porosity and permeability are<br />

very good. Under <strong>the</strong>se conditions <strong>the</strong> steam<br />

can substantially <strong>in</strong>crease <strong>the</strong> temperature <strong>of</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> cool, heavy crude. Waterflood<strong>in</strong>g and<br />

fireflood<strong>in</strong>g had been tried at Midway-Sunset<br />

as early as 1954 and 1960, respectively.<br />

Steamflood<strong>in</strong>g, which started <strong>in</strong> 1963, was<br />

expanded to five different pools by 1970. A<br />

rapid <strong>in</strong>crease <strong>in</strong> EUR <strong>of</strong> about 500 million<br />

barrels occurred <strong>in</strong> 1969-1970. Later stepwise<br />

<strong>in</strong>creases were due to discovery <strong>of</strong> new<br />

pools and fur<strong>the</strong>r enhanced recovery.<br />

PEOPLE- FRIENDLY<br />

DRILLING<br />

In <strong>the</strong> early town-lot days wells were<br />

drilled with little regard for <strong>the</strong> effects <strong>of</strong><br />

noise, fumes, runaway spills, fires, gushers,<br />

and o<strong>the</strong>r events that at <strong>the</strong> time were considered<br />

normal oil field occurrences. Derricks<br />

seem<strong>in</strong>gly appeared almost anywhere <strong>in</strong><br />

Los Angeles, <strong>of</strong>ten close to residences, parks<br />

or bus<strong>in</strong>esses. As <strong>the</strong> city grew it became<br />

apparent that oil field operations would have<br />

to adapt to an urban environment. This led to<br />

Steam <strong>in</strong>jection well, Kern County,<br />

<strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> 1960s.<br />

PHOTO FROM BILL RINTOUL COURTESY OF<br />

GENERAL PRODUCTION SERVICES.<br />

CHAPTER FOUR<br />

85


<strong>in</strong>novations <strong>in</strong> <strong>California</strong> that were eventually<br />

adopted <strong>in</strong> many o<strong>the</strong>r places <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> world.<br />

One <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> first times a well was drilled<br />

with special consideration for surround<strong>in</strong>g<br />

people and bus<strong>in</strong>esses was right <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

middle <strong>of</strong> World War II. In 1943 at First and<br />

Gardner Streets, fifty years and three miles<br />

removed from <strong>the</strong> boisterous Los Angeles City<br />

Field, Shell drilled <strong>the</strong> Verne Community No. 1<br />

Well <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> old Salt Lake Field. This deep<br />

test was appropriately named after <strong>the</strong> author<br />

<strong>of</strong> 20,000 Leagues Under <strong>the</strong> Sea. Shell used<br />

electric motors enclosed <strong>in</strong> a noise and fume<br />

pro<strong>of</strong> cover<strong>in</strong>g. <strong>The</strong> drill<strong>in</strong>g site was also<br />

surrounded by a high fence. Although <strong>the</strong><br />

7,924 foot test was a dry hole, it <strong>in</strong>troduced<br />

<strong>the</strong> idea <strong>of</strong> beautify<strong>in</strong>g and sound-pro<strong>of</strong><strong>in</strong>g<br />

an urban drill<strong>in</strong>g site.<br />

In 1949 Union Oil began develop<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong><br />

Sans<strong>in</strong>ena Field near La Habra, which had<br />

been discovered <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> clos<strong>in</strong>g days <strong>of</strong> World<br />

War II. M<strong>in</strong>eral rights for this 3,400 acre tract<br />

had been purchased by Lyman Stewart back<br />

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Opposite, top: Bolsa Chica section <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

Hunt<strong>in</strong>gton Beach Field, <strong>in</strong> close proximity<br />

to a hous<strong>in</strong>g development. Also visible is one<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>of</strong>fshore platforms, and beh<strong>in</strong>d it<br />

Santa Catal<strong>in</strong>a Island.<br />

PHOTO BY AUTHOR.<br />

<strong>in</strong> 1902 without tell<strong>in</strong>g his board <strong>of</strong> directors.<br />

Union had done little with <strong>the</strong> property<br />

even though it was on-trend between <strong>the</strong><br />

Brea-Ol<strong>in</strong>da and Whittier Fields. Years later<br />

<strong>the</strong> surface rights were sold <strong>of</strong>f and affluent<br />

residential areas developed. <strong>The</strong> homeowners<br />

were conv<strong>in</strong>ced to allow drill<strong>in</strong>g only when<br />

Union <strong>of</strong>fered to give <strong>the</strong>m royalties (even<br />

though it owned <strong>the</strong> m<strong>in</strong>eral rights) and<br />

pledged to drill directionally from “islands.”<br />

Us<strong>in</strong>g sites hidden <strong>in</strong> canyons, Union developed<br />

<strong>the</strong> field <strong>in</strong>to a 11,000 barrel per day<br />

producer by 1957. Derricks were covered<br />

with glass cloth and fiberglass sheet<strong>in</strong>g that<br />

was pa<strong>in</strong>ted green on <strong>the</strong> outside to blend<br />

<strong>in</strong> with <strong>the</strong> surround<strong>in</strong>gs. Exhausts were<br />

equipped with mufflers. Instead <strong>of</strong> us<strong>in</strong>g mud<br />

pits, drill<strong>in</strong>g fluids were stored <strong>in</strong> tanks and<br />

waste was hauled away <strong>in</strong> tank trucks.<br />

This successful development provided an<br />

example for fur<strong>the</strong>r drill<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> more<br />

densely populated Los Angeles. In 1950 <strong>the</strong><br />

Los Angeles City Council adopted rules<br />

permitt<strong>in</strong>g drill<strong>in</strong>g only from “islands.”<br />

Electric motors, soundpro<strong>of</strong>ed rigs, disposal<br />

<strong>of</strong> waste, and o<strong>the</strong>r practices used at<br />

Sans<strong>in</strong>ena were required. Some <strong>in</strong>terest<strong>in</strong>g<br />

Opposite, bottom left: Build<strong>in</strong>g to house<br />

derrick at Occidental’s oil island. Installed<br />

<strong>in</strong> 1966, <strong>the</strong> site is now operated by Pacific<br />

Coast Energy Company. Complete with a<br />

v<strong>in</strong>e-covered wall, shrubbery and trees,<br />

<strong>the</strong> site blends <strong>in</strong>to <strong>the</strong> o<strong>the</strong>rwise typical<br />

west Los Angeles street scene. <strong>The</strong> only<br />

sound emitted is a fa<strong>in</strong>t hum <strong>of</strong> mach<strong>in</strong>ery.<br />

Interest<strong>in</strong>gly, <strong>the</strong> three streets that converge<br />

here are all named after oil pioneers.<br />

PHOTO BY AUTHOR.<br />

Opposite, bottom right: A covered derrick.<br />

PHOTO FROM BILL RINTOUL COURTESY OF<br />

GENERAL PRODUCTION SERVICES.<br />

Above: Oil <strong>in</strong> Surf City. Covered rig along<br />

Pacific Coast Highway, Hunt<strong>in</strong>gton Beach.<br />

PHOTO BY AUTHOR.<br />

Left and below, three views <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> same<br />

build<strong>in</strong>g: Oil island at Pico Boulevard and<br />

Genesee Avenue built by Standard Oil.<br />

Now operated by Freeport-McMoRan,<br />

it can house two drill<strong>in</strong>g rigs at a time.<br />

<strong>The</strong> build<strong>in</strong>g appears to have a front<br />

entrance like an ord<strong>in</strong>ary <strong>of</strong>fice build<strong>in</strong>g.<br />

Landscap<strong>in</strong>g is meticulously ma<strong>in</strong>ta<strong>in</strong>ed.<br />

PHOTOGRAPHS BY AUTHOR.<br />

CHAPTER FOUR<br />

87


Right: R<strong>in</strong>g <strong>of</strong> boulders will form <strong>the</strong><br />

perimeter <strong>of</strong> a THUMS island. <strong>The</strong> dredge<br />

is beg<strong>in</strong>n<strong>in</strong>g to fill <strong>the</strong> <strong>in</strong>terior <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> island.<br />

Downtown Long Beach is <strong>in</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> background.<br />

COURTESY OF HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF LONG BEACH.<br />

Below: Map <strong>of</strong> part <strong>of</strong> west Los Angeles<br />

show<strong>in</strong>g trackl<strong>in</strong>es <strong>of</strong> wells drilled from<br />

Occidental’s oil island. Major streets are<br />

shown <strong>in</strong> orange. O<strong>the</strong>r oil islands are<br />

nearby, and toge<strong>the</strong>r <strong>the</strong>y provide coverage<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Beverly Hills Field. Wells to <strong>the</strong><br />

southwest were drilled from <strong>the</strong> Hillcrest<br />

Country Club, and wells along <strong>the</strong> east<br />

marg<strong>in</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> map were drilled from<br />

Standard’s oil island far<strong>the</strong>r east at<br />

Pico Boulevard and Genesee Avenue.<br />

MODIFIED FROM MAP BY ROBERT YEATS, OREGON<br />

STATE UNIVERSITY. COURTESY OF LOS ANGELES BASIN<br />

SUBSURFACE DATA CENTER, CALIFORNIA STATE<br />

UNIVERSITY LONG BEACH.<br />

drill<strong>in</strong>g sites were used, such as <strong>the</strong> Twentieth<br />

Century Fox Movie lot, which was <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> old<br />

Beverley Hills Field. This field, discovered<br />

<strong>in</strong> 1900, was fad<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> 1950s when <strong>the</strong><br />

Universal Consolidated Oil Company drilled<br />

5,000 feet deeper than <strong>the</strong> orig<strong>in</strong>al 2,500 pay<br />

zone. <strong>The</strong>y brought <strong>in</strong> a 525 barrel per day<br />

producer. Fifty-two wells were drilled from<br />

two islands on <strong>the</strong> studio lot. Concrete reta<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g<br />

walls and o<strong>the</strong>r soundpro<strong>of</strong><strong>in</strong>g were<br />

essential so as not to disturb nearby moviemak<strong>in</strong>g<br />

operations.<br />

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Ano<strong>the</strong>r drill<strong>in</strong>g site was <strong>the</strong> Hillcrest<br />

Country Club, whose membership list <strong>in</strong>cluded<br />

show bus<strong>in</strong>ess names and high f<strong>in</strong>ance<br />

people. Signal Oil and Gas wanted to drill<br />

directionally at a site 100 yards from <strong>the</strong><br />

clubhouse. <strong>The</strong> country club managers agreed<br />

to <strong>the</strong> deal as a means <strong>of</strong> cover<strong>in</strong>g ris<strong>in</strong>g<br />

expenses. Jack Benny, a member <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> club,<br />

found a way as usual to make a joke <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

situation, say<strong>in</strong>g, “Perhaps if we sign up with<br />

Signal, we will be as rich as Bob Hope and<br />

B<strong>in</strong>g Crosby someday.”<br />

Drill<strong>in</strong>g islands sprouted all over <strong>the</strong> city.<br />

Three such sites were built along Pico<br />

Boulevard, appropriately named after <strong>the</strong><br />

early oil pioneer. Two were made to look<br />

like multi-story <strong>of</strong>fice build<strong>in</strong>gs. Occidental<br />

<strong>Petroleum</strong>, which built one at a cost <strong>of</strong><br />

$1,000,000, called it <strong>the</strong> “world’s first architecturally<br />

designed oil derrick.” Ano<strong>the</strong>r site,<br />

owned by Standard <strong>of</strong> <strong>California</strong>, was so well<br />

disguised that a group <strong>of</strong> visit<strong>in</strong>g executives<br />

from ano<strong>the</strong>r company reportedly drove by<br />

it three times before a policeman conv<strong>in</strong>ced<br />

<strong>the</strong>m that <strong>the</strong> “<strong>of</strong>fice build<strong>in</strong>g” was really<br />

an oil island. <strong>The</strong> Las Cienegas Field was<br />

developed entirely from oil islands, <strong>in</strong>clud<strong>in</strong>g<br />

one <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> three on Pico Boulevard. Yet ano<strong>the</strong>r<br />

oil rig, built by Mobil at Venice Beach, looked<br />

like a lighthouse.<br />

One <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> best known, and most elaborately<br />

disguised, oil operations is <strong>the</strong> set <strong>of</strong><br />

four oil islands operated by THUMS <strong>in</strong> Long<br />

Beach Harbor. <strong>The</strong>se are islands <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> real<br />

sense <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> word, artificially made to develop<br />

<strong>the</strong> sou<strong>the</strong>ast extension <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Wilm<strong>in</strong>gton<br />

Field. When it was clear <strong>in</strong> 1964 that subsidence<br />

<strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> Wilm<strong>in</strong>gton Field was under<br />

control, <strong>the</strong> City <strong>of</strong> Long Beach and <strong>the</strong> state,<br />

co-owners <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> m<strong>in</strong>eral rights, opened <strong>the</strong><br />

extension to bidd<strong>in</strong>g. Five companies jo<strong>in</strong>ed<br />

toge<strong>the</strong>r to submit <strong>the</strong> w<strong>in</strong>n<strong>in</strong>g bid, which<br />

had a razor-th<strong>in</strong> pr<strong>of</strong>it marg<strong>in</strong>. <strong>The</strong> companies<br />

were will<strong>in</strong>g to take a small percentage<br />

because oil was already known to exist <strong>in</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> area where <strong>the</strong> Wilm<strong>in</strong>gton Anticl<strong>in</strong>e<br />

cont<strong>in</strong>ues to <strong>the</strong> sou<strong>the</strong>ast, and because transportation<br />

and ref<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g facilities existed close<br />

at hand. <strong>The</strong> five companies <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> orig<strong>in</strong>al<br />

consortium were Texaco, Humble, Union,<br />

Mobil, and Shell; hence <strong>the</strong> acronym THUMS.<br />

THUMS constructed four islands <strong>in</strong> Long<br />

Beach Harbor by mak<strong>in</strong>g r<strong>in</strong>gs <strong>of</strong> boulders<br />

quarried on Santa Catal<strong>in</strong>a Island, <strong>the</strong>n fill<strong>in</strong>g<br />

Piers. <strong>The</strong> first “platform” was a portion <strong>of</strong><br />

a pier like <strong>the</strong>se.<br />

COURTESY OF CALIFORNIA OIL MUSEUM,<br />

SANTA PAULA, CALIFORNIA.<br />

CHAPTER FOUR<br />

89


Top, left: THUMS island newly filled with<br />

dredged material.<br />

COURTESY OF HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF LONG BEACH.<br />

Top, right: Derricks and o<strong>the</strong>r facilities are<br />

be<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong>stalled. Palm trees that will make<br />

up part <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> landscap<strong>in</strong>g have been<br />

planted. <strong>The</strong> derricks are covered to vary<strong>in</strong>g<br />

degrees with structures to make <strong>the</strong>m look<br />

like condom<strong>in</strong>iums.<br />

COURTESY OF HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF LONG BEACH.<br />

Middle: Nearly completed THUMS island<br />

as it appears from ground level. More work<br />

is needed to completely extend <strong>the</strong> cosmetic<br />

r<strong>in</strong>g <strong>of</strong> trees and shrubs around <strong>the</strong> island.<br />

COURTESY OF HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF LONG BEACH.<br />

Bottom: THUMS Island Chaffey.<br />

<strong>The</strong> four islands have been named after<br />

U.S. astronauts who gave <strong>the</strong>ir lives <strong>in</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> early part <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> NASA space program.<br />

Tracks are visible on which <strong>the</strong> derrick can<br />

be moved to access well sites. Tanks and<br />

o<strong>the</strong>r support<strong>in</strong>g equipment are <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

<strong>in</strong>terior <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> island. Landscap<strong>in</strong>g and<br />

cosmetic structures can be seen on<br />

<strong>the</strong> perimeter.<br />

COURTESY OF BRUCE PERRY,<br />

CALIFORNIA STATE UNIVERSITY LONG BEACH.<br />

BLACK GOLD IN CALIFORNIA: <strong>The</strong> <strong>Story</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>California</strong> <strong>Petroleum</strong> <strong>Industry</strong><br />

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<strong>the</strong> <strong>in</strong>teriors with sand dredged from <strong>the</strong> harbor<br />

floor. <strong>The</strong> derricks were disguised with<br />

pa<strong>in</strong>ted balconies and light<strong>in</strong>g to look like<br />

luxury condom<strong>in</strong>iums. Only a few derricks<br />

were needed on each island as <strong>the</strong>y could be<br />

moved to any desired location on a set <strong>of</strong> rails.<br />

Directional wells were drilled from surface<br />

locations only six feet apart. <strong>The</strong> perimeter <strong>of</strong><br />

each island is decorated with palm trees,<br />

oleanders and o<strong>the</strong>r shrubs, and <strong>the</strong>re are<br />

waterfalls illum<strong>in</strong>ated at night. Although many<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> locals know that <strong>the</strong> towers are derricks,<br />

<strong>the</strong>y seem to be pleased with <strong>the</strong> es<strong>the</strong>tics,<br />

as are <strong>the</strong> many visitors and tourists. By <strong>the</strong><br />

end <strong>of</strong> 1967 THUMS was complet<strong>in</strong>g about<br />

one well a day, some <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>m bottom<strong>in</strong>g out<br />

under <strong>the</strong> streets <strong>of</strong> downtown Long Beach.<br />

Production was 50,000 barrels a day and ris<strong>in</strong>g.<br />

THE MARCH OFFSHORE<br />

As has already been mentioned, <strong>the</strong> U.S.<br />

<strong>of</strong>fshore petroleum <strong>in</strong>dustry started <strong>in</strong> 1897<br />

when <strong>the</strong> first <strong>of</strong> many wooden piers were<br />

built to support small derricks drill<strong>in</strong>g shallow<br />

wells <strong>of</strong>f <strong>of</strong> Summerland. Seeps seen at low<br />

tide <strong>in</strong>dicated that <strong>the</strong> produc<strong>in</strong>g beds on land<br />

cont<strong>in</strong>ued <strong>of</strong>fshore. <strong>The</strong>se were small wells<br />

produc<strong>in</strong>g an average <strong>of</strong> 1 barrel a day. <strong>The</strong>y<br />

were pr<strong>of</strong>itable because many <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>m could<br />

be operated cheaply with jackl<strong>in</strong>es and <strong>the</strong>re<br />

was a local market for <strong>the</strong> oil. Although storms<br />

destroyed many <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> wells, production<br />

cont<strong>in</strong>ued until <strong>the</strong> last well was lost <strong>in</strong> 1939.<br />

After a tideland leas<strong>in</strong>g act was passed by<br />

<strong>the</strong> legislature <strong>in</strong> 1921, drill<strong>in</strong>g was done at<br />

R<strong>in</strong>con and Elwood, near Ventura and Santa<br />

Barbara respectively. Steel and concrete were<br />

used <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> piers, which went as far as 2,300<br />

feet <strong>in</strong>to <strong>the</strong> ocean. In 1932 <strong>the</strong> first platform<br />

not connected to shore was built at R<strong>in</strong>con,<br />

actually a section <strong>of</strong> a pier. This structure<br />

survived until 1940, when it was brought<br />

down by a w<strong>in</strong>ter storm. All <strong>of</strong> this activity<br />

was extensions <strong>of</strong> known onshore fields. <strong>The</strong><br />

first discovery <strong>of</strong> an entirely <strong>of</strong>fshore field <strong>in</strong><br />

<strong>California</strong> was Summerland Offshore <strong>in</strong> 1957.<br />

A scene <strong>of</strong> much early <strong>of</strong>fshore development,<br />

and controversy, was Hunt<strong>in</strong>gton Beach.<br />

<strong>The</strong> earliest <strong>of</strong>fshore production was apparently<br />

known only to <strong>the</strong> operators and not to<br />

<strong>the</strong> <strong>in</strong>dustry generally. Two wells drilled <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

early ’30s <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> townlot section had unusually<br />

high production for townlot wells. <strong>The</strong> Superior<br />

Babbitt No. 1 at one po<strong>in</strong>t reached 1,450<br />

barrels a day, and <strong>the</strong> Wilshire H. B. No. 15<br />

came <strong>in</strong> at 4,815 barrels a day. It was found<br />

that this well had drifted 1,400 feet <strong>of</strong>fshore.<br />

It was suspected that o<strong>the</strong>r operators had<br />

trespassed <strong>in</strong>to <strong>of</strong>fshore state lands, so <strong>the</strong><br />

state got an <strong>in</strong>junction to force one <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>m to<br />

do a directional survey. An <strong>of</strong>fshore pool <strong>in</strong> an<br />

anticl<strong>in</strong>e extend<strong>in</strong>g obliquely <strong>in</strong>to <strong>the</strong> ocean<br />

from <strong>the</strong> ma<strong>in</strong> Hunt<strong>in</strong>gton Beach structure<br />

had been tapped. <strong>The</strong> Babbitt Well was determ<strong>in</strong>ed<br />

after <strong>the</strong> fact to be <strong>the</strong> discovery well.<br />

In 1934 <strong>the</strong> production rate <strong>in</strong> this pool was<br />

over 20,000 barrels a day, far greater than<br />

any previous <strong>of</strong>fshore <strong>California</strong> production.<br />

Eventually <strong>the</strong> state and operators reached<br />

a compromise <strong>in</strong> which <strong>the</strong> state received<br />

royalties on <strong>the</strong> oil. A state lands act passed <strong>in</strong><br />

1938 provided a more orderly way <strong>of</strong> leas<strong>in</strong>g<br />

and drill<strong>in</strong>g <strong>of</strong>fshore, sett<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong> stage for<br />

great expansion <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> post-war era.<br />

In <strong>the</strong> late 1940s, Mar<strong>in</strong>e Exploration<br />

Company (later Monterey Oil Company) had<br />

a state tidelands lease <strong>of</strong>f Seal Beach. Seal Beach<br />

had an ord<strong>in</strong>ance aga<strong>in</strong>st drill<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> city<br />

limits, so Mar<strong>in</strong>e Exploration had to drill a<br />

well from an onshore site <strong>in</strong> adjacent Long<br />

Beach. This remarkable well, drilled <strong>in</strong> 1948,<br />

was spudded one and a half miles <strong>in</strong>land<br />

and whipstocked 9,271 feet, almost two<br />

miles, toward <strong>the</strong> <strong>of</strong>fshore<br />

lease. <strong>The</strong> length <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

borehole was 12,180 feet<br />

and <strong>the</strong> true vertical<br />

depth was 5,700 feet.<br />

<strong>The</strong>y hit an oil sand and<br />

<strong>the</strong> well came <strong>in</strong> at 30<br />

barrels a day, not a barnburner,<br />

but encourag<strong>in</strong>g.<br />

<strong>The</strong> City <strong>of</strong> Seal Beach<br />

claimed jurisdiction out<br />

to three miles <strong>of</strong>fshore,<br />

a claim that Mar<strong>in</strong>e<br />

Exploration decided to<br />

test. <strong>The</strong>y built an island<br />

one and a half miles <strong>of</strong>fshore.<br />

<strong>The</strong> city filed a<br />

crim<strong>in</strong>al compla<strong>in</strong>t that<br />

Piers at Elwood, 1934.<br />

COURTESY OF CALIFORNIA OIL MUSEUM,<br />

SANTA PAULA, CALIFORNIA.<br />

CHAPTER FOUR<br />

91


<strong>The</strong> Pacific Driller, used by Chevron to<br />

prove up <strong>the</strong> first fully <strong>of</strong>fshore field<br />

<strong>in</strong> <strong>California</strong>.<br />

COURTESY CHEVRON USA.<br />

was rejected by <strong>the</strong> <strong>California</strong> Supreme Court,<br />

which said <strong>the</strong> city had no jurisdiction. Mar<strong>in</strong>e<br />

could go ahead. Monterey, or Belmont Island,<br />

built <strong>in</strong> 1954, was 75 feet <strong>in</strong> diameter, with a<br />

perimeter made <strong>of</strong> sheet steel pil<strong>in</strong>gs and an<br />

<strong>in</strong>terior filled with rocks and sand. <strong>The</strong><br />

drill<strong>in</strong>g contractor made a stag<strong>in</strong>g area<br />

onshore with <strong>the</strong> same dimensions, where a<br />

test well was drilled with <strong>the</strong> crew required to<br />

stay <strong>in</strong>side <strong>the</strong> circle. <strong>The</strong> discovery well <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

Belmont Offshore Field at <strong>the</strong> south end <strong>of</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> Wilm<strong>in</strong>gton anticl<strong>in</strong>e was drilled <strong>in</strong> 1954,<br />

produc<strong>in</strong>g 300 barrels a day from a reservoir<br />

at about 6,000 feet. <strong>The</strong> island was abandoned<br />

and removed <strong>in</strong> 2002. Ano<strong>the</strong>r <strong>of</strong>fshore<br />

island, built <strong>in</strong> 1958 to tap <strong>the</strong> R<strong>in</strong>con<br />

Offshore Field, has a causeway that connects<br />

it to <strong>the</strong> ma<strong>in</strong>land. It still exists today.<br />

Dur<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong> 1950s several companies experimented<br />

with <strong>of</strong>fshore seismic surveys. <strong>The</strong>y<br />

also began drill<strong>in</strong>g core holes <strong>in</strong> open water<br />

from ships modified for <strong>the</strong> purpose. <strong>The</strong>se<br />

were <strong>in</strong>tended to identify potential petroleum<br />

reservoirs, not actually produce oil. Some <strong>of</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong>se vessels were ex-Navy ships equipped<br />

with over-<strong>the</strong>-side drill<strong>in</strong>g rigs. <strong>The</strong>n <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

mid-’50s Standard and Richfield each modified<br />

a Navy land<strong>in</strong>g ship for center drill<strong>in</strong>g<br />

through a hole <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> hull. In 1956,<br />

Cont<strong>in</strong>ental, Union, Shell and Superior jo<strong>in</strong>ed<br />

forces to create <strong>the</strong> world’s largest drill<strong>in</strong>g vessel<br />

at <strong>the</strong> time, <strong>the</strong> CUSS I. This modified<br />

Navy freight ship could drill to 10,000 feet <strong>in</strong><br />

up to 400 feet <strong>of</strong> water. <strong>The</strong> vessel had some<br />

<strong>in</strong>novations that were used on subsequent<br />

drill<strong>in</strong>g ships. <strong>The</strong> travell<strong>in</strong>g block moved up<br />

and down on vertical rails to prevent it from<br />

sway<strong>in</strong>g as <strong>the</strong> vessel rocked. Stands <strong>of</strong> pipe<br />

or cas<strong>in</strong>g were stored horizontally on <strong>the</strong> deck<br />

ra<strong>the</strong>r than <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> derrick. When needed <strong>the</strong>y<br />

could be raised quickly to a vertical position<br />

by a specially designed pipe-handl<strong>in</strong>g system.<br />

CUSS I drilled dozens <strong>of</strong> holes up and down<br />

<strong>the</strong> <strong>California</strong> Coast.<br />

<strong>The</strong> first discovery <strong>of</strong> an <strong>of</strong>fshore <strong>California</strong><br />

oil field that was not an extension <strong>of</strong> an<br />

onshore field was made by Standard <strong>in</strong> 1957.<br />

<strong>The</strong>y used a jack-up rig called <strong>the</strong> Pacific<br />

Driller, which had two 195 foot stilts on<br />

each corner and was capable <strong>of</strong> drill<strong>in</strong>g a<br />

16,000 foot hole <strong>in</strong> 90 feet <strong>of</strong> water. A<br />

standard 136-foot derrick was mounted on<br />

<strong>the</strong> barge. Hopper tanks received waste mud<br />

which was <strong>the</strong>n transferred to barges for<br />

disposal ashore. Core holes drilled from this<br />

rig proved up <strong>the</strong> field, but <strong>the</strong>y were not<br />

<strong>in</strong>tended to produce oil.<br />

In 1958 <strong>the</strong> first modern <strong>of</strong>fshore platform<br />

<strong>in</strong> <strong>California</strong> was <strong>in</strong>stalled to develop <strong>the</strong> new<br />

field, designated <strong>the</strong> Summerland Offshore<br />

Field (although it has a trap separate from that<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Summerland Field onshore). <strong>The</strong> lower<br />

part <strong>of</strong> Platform Hazel was a tower 75 feet<br />

wide by 170 feet high. <strong>The</strong> tower’s four legs<br />

had caissons that were filled with water to<br />

s<strong>in</strong>k <strong>the</strong> tower at <strong>the</strong> job site. When <strong>the</strong> tower<br />

was on <strong>the</strong> bottom airjets were used to hose<br />

away sand so that <strong>the</strong> feet could rest on a<br />

more solid bottom. <strong>The</strong>n <strong>the</strong> caissons were<br />

filled with 6,000 tons <strong>of</strong> sand and concrete. A<br />

110 foot square deck was <strong>in</strong>stalled on <strong>the</strong><br />

tower, as well as a special 162 foot derrick<br />

BLACK GOLD IN CALIFORNIA: <strong>The</strong> <strong>Story</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>California</strong> <strong>Petroleum</strong> <strong>Industry</strong><br />

92


Left: Deck and derrick <strong>in</strong>stalled on <strong>the</strong><br />

lower part <strong>of</strong> Platform Hazel after <strong>the</strong> latter<br />

was sunk.<br />

COURTESY OF CHEVRON USA.<br />

Below: Lower part <strong>of</strong> Platform Hazel. <strong>The</strong><br />

tops <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> caissons are visible; <strong>the</strong>y were<br />

subsequently filled with water to s<strong>in</strong>k <strong>the</strong><br />

structure to <strong>the</strong> seafloor.<br />

COURTESY OF CHEVRON USA.<br />

that could drill two wells simultaneously. <strong>The</strong><br />

platform had liv<strong>in</strong>g and work<strong>in</strong>g quarters<br />

as well as a helipad and was designed to<br />

drill 25 directional wells. Later a second<br />

platform, Hilda, was added about one and a<br />

half miles to <strong>the</strong> west to complete development<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> field. Designed for <strong>the</strong> shallow,<br />

relatively placid waters <strong>of</strong> Santa Barbara<br />

Channel, <strong>the</strong>se platforms were <strong>the</strong> forerunners<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> mighty structures used today<br />

<strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> hostile waters <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> North Sea and<br />

deepwater Gulf <strong>of</strong> Mexico.<br />

In <strong>the</strong> next several years more fields<br />

were drilled from platforms <strong>in</strong> state waters,<br />

<strong>in</strong>clud<strong>in</strong>g Conception and Quarta west <strong>of</strong><br />

Santa Barbara, as well as <strong>of</strong>fshore Hunt<strong>in</strong>gton<br />

Beach and Seal Beach. N<strong>in</strong>e <strong>of</strong>fshore oil fields<br />

were developed <strong>in</strong> state waters between 1959<br />

and 1966. One <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>se fields, Carp<strong>in</strong>teria<br />

Offshore (1966), was near <strong>the</strong> 3-mile limit,<br />

rais<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong> possibility that it could dra<strong>in</strong> oil<br />

from federal waters. This motivated <strong>the</strong><br />

CHAPTER FOUR<br />

93


SEEPS, SPILLS, AND<br />

FINGERPRINTS<br />

Ever s<strong>in</strong>ce <strong>the</strong> 1969 <strong>of</strong>fshore spill, one <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> most politically<br />

and emotionally charged issues <strong>of</strong> our time has been how to<br />

balance <strong>the</strong> need to produce and import energy with hav<strong>in</strong>g a<br />

clean, safe coastl<strong>in</strong>e.<br />

Major sources <strong>of</strong> oil and natural gas <strong>in</strong> <strong>of</strong>fshore mar<strong>in</strong>e water are<br />

naturally occurr<strong>in</strong>g seeps. L<strong>in</strong>es <strong>of</strong> seeps are found <strong>in</strong> Santa Monica<br />

Bay and especially <strong>in</strong> Santa Barbara Channel. Isolated seeps have<br />

been found <strong>in</strong> San Pedro Bay and around <strong>the</strong> Channel Islands.<br />

L<strong>in</strong>es <strong>of</strong> seeps occur along <strong>the</strong> axes <strong>of</strong> two parallel anticl<strong>in</strong>es up to<br />

two miles <strong>of</strong>f Coal Oil Po<strong>in</strong>t west <strong>of</strong> Santa Barbara. Globules <strong>of</strong> tar<br />

are commonly found on nearly any beach <strong>in</strong> sou<strong>the</strong>rn <strong>California</strong>,<br />

and almost any resident who goes to <strong>the</strong> beach will step on it<br />

sooner or later. At Carp<strong>in</strong>teria State Beach, oil oozes from active<br />

seeps <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> beach bluffs, and great mounds <strong>of</strong> immobile tar,<br />

look<strong>in</strong>g much like lava flows, extend <strong>in</strong>to <strong>the</strong> surf zone.<br />

<strong>in</strong> 1989. Platform Holly is located on ano<strong>the</strong>r seep. Both platform<br />

and tents are right on <strong>the</strong> axis <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> South Elwood Anticl<strong>in</strong>e.<br />

<strong>The</strong> seeps can be mapped us<strong>in</strong>g sound waves <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> ocean.<br />

Echo sounders detect sound waves that reflect <strong>of</strong>f <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> column<br />

<strong>of</strong> bubbles <strong>of</strong> gas <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> water above a seep. Runn<strong>in</strong>g a small boat<br />

<strong>in</strong> a grid pattern allows one to build up a map. Comparison <strong>of</strong><br />

mapp<strong>in</strong>g surveys conducted from 1973 to 1995 showed that<br />

seepage with<strong>in</strong> two-thirds <strong>of</strong> a mile from Platform Holly had<br />

almost disappeared by 1995. In contrast, o<strong>the</strong>r seeps along <strong>the</strong><br />

south Elwood Anticl<strong>in</strong>e rema<strong>in</strong>ed about <strong>the</strong> same. Between 1967<br />

(when Holly began produc<strong>in</strong>g) and when <strong>the</strong> last seep survey was<br />

done <strong>in</strong> 1995, 50 million barrels <strong>of</strong> oil, an equal volume <strong>of</strong> water,<br />

and 30 BCF <strong>of</strong> gas were produced.Reservoir pressure decreased<br />

about 35 percent <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> same period. It seems likely that production<br />

<strong>of</strong> fluids from <strong>the</strong> reservoir caused a reduction <strong>in</strong> seepage.<br />

Sometimes it is possible to use<br />

chemical analysis to determ<strong>in</strong>e whe<strong>the</strong>r<br />

oil pollution on a beach comes from<br />

a spill or from natural seeps. On<br />

February 7, 1990, <strong>the</strong> American Trader<br />

ran aground about two and a half miles<br />

<strong>of</strong>f Hunt<strong>in</strong>gton Beach, spill<strong>in</strong>g 9,381<br />

barrels <strong>of</strong> Alaskan crude. Much <strong>of</strong> this<br />

oil washed ashore <strong>in</strong> a storm 7 and 8<br />

days after <strong>the</strong> accident. <strong>The</strong> last <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

oil came ashore on day 12. Skimm<strong>in</strong>g<br />

<strong>of</strong>fshore removed about 38 percent <strong>of</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> spilled oil before it reached shore or<br />

sank to <strong>the</strong> bottom. Ano<strong>the</strong>r 9 percent<br />

was removed by cleanup operations<br />

onshore. Chemical analysis <strong>of</strong> biological<br />

marker compounds, leftovers <strong>of</strong><br />

orig<strong>in</strong>al organic molecules that were<br />

<strong>the</strong> raw material that became oil, serves<br />

to “f<strong>in</strong>gerpr<strong>in</strong>t” or identify <strong>the</strong> oil.<br />

<strong>The</strong> Alaska oil has a f<strong>in</strong>gerpr<strong>in</strong>t quite<br />

dist<strong>in</strong>ct from that <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> local oil.<br />

This made it possible to show that<br />

<strong>the</strong> spilled oil had disappeared from<br />

<strong>the</strong> beach by day 20 after <strong>the</strong> spill.<br />

Platform Holly, <strong>in</strong> state waters <strong>of</strong>f Coal Oil Po<strong>in</strong>t, west <strong>of</strong> Santa Barbara. <strong>The</strong> platform is now operated by Veneco. Tar globules found after that were<br />

COURTESY OF VENECO.<br />

“background” seep oil that is virtually<br />

always present.<br />

Some <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>of</strong>fshore seeps are quite active, especially <strong>of</strong>f Coal <strong>The</strong>se examples show how modern technology—chemical<br />

Oil Po<strong>in</strong>t, discharg<strong>in</strong>g large amounts <strong>of</strong> natural gas and smaller analysis, mar<strong>in</strong>e acoustical survey<strong>in</strong>g, and o<strong>the</strong>r methods—can<br />

amounts <strong>of</strong> oil. In 1982 ARCO <strong>in</strong>stalled two seep tents, steel help us better understand how normal oil field operations,<br />

pyramids 20,400 square feet <strong>in</strong> area, on a seep about a mile sou<strong>the</strong>ast<br />

<strong>of</strong> Platform Holly. <strong>The</strong>se tents <strong>in</strong>itially collected about 1 MCF This could support rational plann<strong>in</strong>g for <strong>of</strong>fshore production and<br />

accidental spills, and natural seepage all affect coastal pollution.<br />

<strong>of</strong> gas per day. <strong>The</strong> rate doubled before beg<strong>in</strong>n<strong>in</strong>g a long decl<strong>in</strong>e coastal term<strong>in</strong>als.<br />

BLACK GOLD IN CALIFORNIA: <strong>The</strong> <strong>Story</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>California</strong> <strong>Petroleum</strong> <strong>Industry</strong><br />

94


Left: Map show<strong>in</strong>g track <strong>of</strong> seismic reflection<br />

pr<strong>of</strong>ile shot across <strong>the</strong> Palos Verdes Fault.<br />

BATHYMETRIC IMAGE FROM U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY.<br />

Below: Seismic pr<strong>of</strong>ile show<strong>in</strong>g prospective<br />

oil traps formed <strong>in</strong> part by <strong>the</strong> Palos Verdes<br />

Fault. This was developed as <strong>the</strong> Beta Field.<br />

SEISMIC DATA FROM NATIONAL ARCHIVE<br />

OF MARINE SEISMIC SURVEYS, (NAMSS).<br />

GEOLOGIC INTERPRETATION BY AUTHOR.<br />

CHAPTER FOUR<br />

95


Gas l<strong>in</strong>e at a Chevron station <strong>in</strong> Los Angeles<br />

dur<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong> 1973 oil embargo.<br />

COURTESY OF CHEVRON USA.<br />

federal government to hold a lease sale for a<br />

dra<strong>in</strong>age tract <strong>in</strong> 1966. In ano<strong>the</strong>r lease sale a<br />

little over a year later, it <strong>of</strong>fered 110 tracts <strong>of</strong><br />

outer cont<strong>in</strong>ental shelf (OCS) land <strong>in</strong> Santa<br />

Barbara Channel.This sale brought <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

highest bid for any <strong>of</strong>fshore sale up to that<br />

time. Interest <strong>in</strong> <strong>of</strong>fshore <strong>California</strong> was at<br />

a peak. By <strong>the</strong> late 1970s companies were<br />

drill<strong>in</strong>g test holes throughout <strong>the</strong> OCS.<br />

Thousands <strong>of</strong> miles <strong>of</strong> multi-channel seismic<br />

reflection pr<strong>of</strong>iles were acquired to map<br />

possible oil traps. Some wells and seismic<br />

were done as far <strong>of</strong>fshore as Cortes and<br />

Tanner Banks, 100 miles from <strong>the</strong> coast and<br />

45 miles from San Clemente Island, <strong>the</strong><br />

nearest land. This remote (for that time) area<br />

<strong>of</strong> violent seas, high risk, and enormous<br />

logistical challenge would probably have<br />

required a supergiant discovery larger than<br />

Wilm<strong>in</strong>gton to justify development.<br />

Explorationists made significant discoveries<br />

<strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> OCS <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> 1970s, <strong>in</strong>clud<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong><br />

Beta Field on <strong>the</strong> San Pedro Shelf. However<br />

<strong>the</strong> pace <strong>of</strong> development <strong>of</strong> platforms and<br />

o<strong>the</strong>r facilities slowed before pick<strong>in</strong>g up<br />

aga<strong>in</strong> <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> 1980s. Four platforms were<br />

<strong>in</strong>stalled <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> 1970s, compared to eighteen<br />

<strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> 1960s (<strong>in</strong>clud<strong>in</strong>g four islands) and<br />

fourteen <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> 1980s. <strong>The</strong> 1970s slowdown<br />

was <strong>in</strong> part due to <strong>the</strong> 1969 <strong>of</strong>fshore oil spill<br />

<strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> OCS Dos Quadras Field near Santa<br />

Barbara. Although <strong>the</strong> flow <strong>of</strong> oil was under<br />

control <strong>in</strong> about eleven days, heavy seas<br />

moved <strong>the</strong> oil slick onto <strong>the</strong> shore, where<br />

it was sprayed onto sea cliffs and homes<br />

by w<strong>in</strong>d and waves. Struggl<strong>in</strong>g wildlife and<br />

coastal damage received <strong>in</strong>tense media<br />

attention, and pockets <strong>of</strong> strong opposition to<br />

<strong>the</strong> petroleum <strong>in</strong>dustry <strong>in</strong> general developed.<br />

Litigation by environmental groups delayed<br />

until 1977 <strong>the</strong> <strong>in</strong>stallation <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> third<br />

platform <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> Dos Quadras Field. However,<br />

<strong>the</strong> <strong>of</strong>fshore <strong>in</strong>dustry recovered, and most<br />

platforms <strong>of</strong>f <strong>the</strong> <strong>California</strong> Coast were<br />

permitted and built after <strong>the</strong> 1969 spill<br />

with <strong>the</strong> most recent platform erected <strong>in</strong><br />

1989. Fur<strong>the</strong>rmore, drill<strong>in</strong>g from exist<strong>in</strong>g<br />

leases both <strong>in</strong> state and federal waters is<br />

allowed today.<br />

A NEW WAY OF REFINING<br />

Ref<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong> heavy, <strong>California</strong> oil had<br />

always been a problem. Simple distillation<br />

would separate out gasol<strong>in</strong>e or kerosene range<br />

compounds, but left a large amount <strong>of</strong> heavy<br />

fuel oil and a smaller amount <strong>of</strong> mostly<br />

useless tar. By <strong>the</strong> 1950s ref<strong>in</strong>eries at Union<br />

Oil were able to produce about 55 barrels<br />

<strong>of</strong> fuel from every 100 barrels <strong>of</strong> crude. This<br />

mix did not satisfy <strong>the</strong> demand, which was<br />

cont<strong>in</strong>u<strong>in</strong>g to shift to gasol<strong>in</strong>e and jet fuel. A<br />

method called “hydrocrack<strong>in</strong>g” could break<br />

down <strong>the</strong> large molecules <strong>of</strong> fuel oil and tar to<br />

smaller molecules that make up gasol<strong>in</strong>e and<br />

jet fuel. <strong>The</strong> problem was that hydrocrack<strong>in</strong>g<br />

had to be done at extremely high pressures,<br />

up to 10,000 pounds per square <strong>in</strong>ch. <strong>The</strong><br />

large vessels needed for a commercial process<br />

could not take this k<strong>in</strong>d <strong>of</strong> pressure. Some<br />

o<strong>the</strong>r solution was needed. Union’s researchers<br />

found a catalyst that would promote <strong>the</strong><br />

BLACK GOLD IN CALIFORNIA: <strong>The</strong> <strong>Story</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>California</strong> <strong>Petroleum</strong> <strong>Industry</strong><br />

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eaction at much lower pressures. <strong>The</strong>y<br />

named <strong>the</strong> new process “Unicrack<strong>in</strong>g.” It<br />

could actually produce 115 barrels <strong>of</strong> gasol<strong>in</strong>e<br />

from 100 barrels <strong>of</strong> crude, without leav<strong>in</strong>g a<br />

tarry residue. This “magic” resulted from <strong>the</strong><br />

fact that <strong>the</strong> gasol<strong>in</strong>e takes up more volume<br />

than <strong>the</strong> orig<strong>in</strong>al oil. At long last <strong>the</strong> old<br />

problem <strong>of</strong> ref<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g <strong>California</strong>’s oil was solved!<br />

<strong>The</strong>re was a problem however. <strong>The</strong><br />

researchers found, after a full size conta<strong>in</strong>ment<br />

unit for a crack<strong>in</strong>g unit had been<br />

ordered, that <strong>the</strong> catalyst breaks down <strong>in</strong>to a<br />

f<strong>in</strong>e powder. <strong>The</strong>y had to spend six months<br />

<strong>of</strong> non-stop work to f<strong>in</strong>d a bond<strong>in</strong>g agent that<br />

would hold <strong>the</strong> catalyst toge<strong>the</strong>r. <strong>The</strong>y f<strong>in</strong>ally<br />

found it <strong>in</strong> alum<strong>in</strong>um oxide, a very simple,<br />

common compound.<br />

It turned out that Standard <strong>of</strong> New Jersey<br />

was work<strong>in</strong>g on <strong>the</strong> same crack<strong>in</strong>g problem.<br />

<strong>The</strong> two companies decided to pool <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

patents and toge<strong>the</strong>r license <strong>the</strong> process to<br />

o<strong>the</strong>r companies. Soon after Unicrack<strong>in</strong>g<br />

came on l<strong>in</strong>e <strong>in</strong> 1964, ten o<strong>the</strong>r companies<br />

were build<strong>in</strong>g crack<strong>in</strong>g units.<br />

THE TURBULENT 1970S<br />

<strong>The</strong> 1970s were a difficult time for <strong>the</strong><br />

petroleum <strong>in</strong>dustry <strong>in</strong> <strong>California</strong> and elsewhere.<br />

In 1971 President Nixon announced a<br />

wage and price freeze. Although general wage<br />

and price controls were elim<strong>in</strong>ated <strong>in</strong> 1973,<br />

price controls were kept on crude oil until<br />

1981. <strong>The</strong> Arab oil embargo <strong>in</strong> 1973 caused<br />

extreme shortages <strong>of</strong> ref<strong>in</strong>ed products, and<br />

<strong>the</strong> well-known gas l<strong>in</strong>es. In March 1974 <strong>the</strong><br />

embargo ended, allow<strong>in</strong>g plentiful supplies <strong>of</strong><br />

fuel to return. Price controls on domestic oil<br />

discouraged exploration <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> U.S., <strong>in</strong>clud<strong>in</strong>g<br />

<strong>California</strong>. Imports <strong>of</strong> foreign oil <strong>in</strong>creased<br />

dramatically <strong>in</strong> order to satisfy demand.<br />

Ano<strong>the</strong>r shortage, with gas l<strong>in</strong>es <strong>in</strong> some<br />

places, occurred at <strong>the</strong> end <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> decade partly<br />

as a result <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> revolution <strong>in</strong> Iran. F<strong>in</strong>ally,<br />

<strong>in</strong> 1979 phased decontrol <strong>of</strong> prices began,<br />

although a “w<strong>in</strong>dfall pr<strong>of</strong>its” tax was proposed<br />

to compensate for <strong>the</strong> <strong>in</strong>creased <strong>in</strong>come oil<br />

companies would receive from <strong>the</strong> higher oil<br />

prices. Ultimately, price controls were completely<br />

and immediately lifted when President<br />

Reagan took <strong>of</strong>fice <strong>in</strong> January 1981.<br />

It would seem that <strong>the</strong> 1970s was an experiment<br />

<strong>in</strong> detailed government management<br />

and control <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> oil <strong>in</strong>dustry. It did not work<br />

out very well. <strong>The</strong> ma<strong>in</strong> th<strong>in</strong>gs it did were<br />

to discourage domestic exploration and production<br />

and <strong>in</strong>crease our consumption <strong>of</strong><br />

imported oil. A long last<strong>in</strong>g effect <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

decade was an <strong>in</strong>creas<strong>in</strong>g concern <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

public for environmental problems. Much <strong>of</strong><br />

this concern at <strong>the</strong> time had to do with air<br />

pollution, notably <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> Los Angeles Bas<strong>in</strong>.<br />

Clean Air Act amendments and <strong>the</strong> creation <strong>of</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> Environmental Protection Agency led to<br />

catalytic converters <strong>in</strong> vehicles and removal<br />

<strong>of</strong> lead from gasol<strong>in</strong>e. This required ref<strong>in</strong>ers to<br />

come up with new processes to manufacture<br />

gasol<strong>in</strong>e that would perform well with m<strong>in</strong>imal<br />

eng<strong>in</strong>e wear.<br />

<strong>California</strong> saw a decrease <strong>of</strong> about 15<br />

percent <strong>in</strong> its production over <strong>the</strong> first half <strong>of</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> 1970s. Production <strong>the</strong>n recovered to <strong>the</strong><br />

previous long-term rate <strong>of</strong> <strong>in</strong>crease that had<br />

prevailed for more than seventy years, ever<br />

s<strong>in</strong>ce <strong>the</strong> discovery <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Los Angeles City<br />

Field. However, change was com<strong>in</strong>g to<br />

<strong>California</strong>’s petroleum <strong>in</strong>dustry <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> next<br />

decade and beyond. Ris<strong>in</strong>g challenges <strong>in</strong><br />

this now mature petroleum prov<strong>in</strong>ce would<br />

br<strong>in</strong>g new players and <strong>in</strong>novations to <strong>the</strong><br />

fore. New environmental concerns and <strong>of</strong>ten<br />

vocal critics required companies to focus<br />

significant effort on how <strong>the</strong>ir projects affected<br />

surround<strong>in</strong>g communities. In spite <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

chang<strong>in</strong>g bus<strong>in</strong>ess climate <strong>the</strong> <strong>in</strong>dustry was<br />

able to cont<strong>in</strong>ue to be a critical part <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

state’s economy <strong>in</strong>to <strong>the</strong> 1980s and beyond.<br />

CHAPTER FOUR<br />

97


CHAPTER<br />

FIVE<br />

THE PATHTOTHEFUTURE:<br />

1980 TO PRESENT<br />

In 1980 a new era was about to beg<strong>in</strong> <strong>in</strong> <strong>California</strong>’s petroleum<br />

<strong>in</strong>dustry. Many <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> stalwarts such as Union, Getty, and Signal<br />

Oil had disappeared or would do so <strong>in</strong> time. New names would<br />

take <strong>the</strong> stage. Bus<strong>in</strong>esses <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> state and <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> whole world<br />

had been disrupted by embargoes, <strong>in</strong>flation, and shortages <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

1970s. <strong>The</strong> environment <strong>of</strong> government regulation and taxation<br />

was highly unpredictable, mak<strong>in</strong>g long-range plann<strong>in</strong>g difficult.<br />

<strong>California</strong>’s production rate reached its peak and began a longterm<br />

decl<strong>in</strong>e <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> mid-’80s. For more than twenty years, reserve<br />

<strong>in</strong>creases had been due largely to enhanced recovery methods ra<strong>the</strong>r<br />

than discovery <strong>of</strong> new fields. Most <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> giant fields like Wilm<strong>in</strong>gton<br />

and Midway-Sunset were mature. Production was decl<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g despite <strong>the</strong><br />

best efforts <strong>of</strong> operators.<br />

Never<strong>the</strong>less a bright future lie ahead. Federal regulation <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

<strong>in</strong>dustry rationalized <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> early ’80s allow<strong>in</strong>g new ideas and new<br />

<strong>in</strong>novators to come to <strong>the</strong> fore. <strong>California</strong>’s oil fields are mature, but<br />

given <strong>California</strong>’s complex geology and technological <strong>in</strong>novations,<br />

oil fields with stacked pay and previously unreached deposits have<br />

largely stabilized what would typically be decl<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g production.<br />

<strong>California</strong> <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> last several years has been <strong>the</strong> third highest producer<br />

<strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> U.S., after Texas and North Dakota.<br />

<strong>California</strong> <strong>in</strong>dependent Venoco was founded <strong>in</strong> 1992 by Tim Marquez with<br />

$3,000 <strong>in</strong> capital. <strong>The</strong> company now has several onshore and <strong>of</strong>fshore fields,<br />

and <strong>in</strong> 2006, expanded to Texas.<br />

PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF VENOCO.<br />

BLACK GOLD IN CALIFORNIA: <strong>The</strong> <strong>Story</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>California</strong> <strong>Petroleum</strong> <strong>Industry</strong><br />

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UNION OIL:<br />

AN ERA ENDS AFTER 115 YEARS<br />

Union Oil¸ or Unocal, passed <strong>in</strong>to history <strong>in</strong> 2005 when it<br />

was absorbed by Chevron. In its long and storied existence it<br />

survived four takeover attempts. Each crisis played a role <strong>in</strong><br />

shap<strong>in</strong>g this company. <strong>The</strong> first was <strong>the</strong> proxy battle precipitated<br />

by Thomas Bard <strong>in</strong> 1899, <strong>the</strong> second <strong>in</strong> 1922 was by a group <strong>of</strong><br />

foreign <strong>in</strong>vestors known as Royal Dutch Shell, and <strong>the</strong> third<br />

was by Phillips <strong>Petroleum</strong> <strong>in</strong> 1959.<br />

<strong>The</strong> Shell struggle received a great deal <strong>of</strong> media attention.<br />

<strong>The</strong> patriotic zeal <strong>of</strong> <strong>California</strong>’s citizenry was appealed to <strong>in</strong><br />

order to prevent <strong>the</strong> company from fall<strong>in</strong>g under foreign<br />

control. <strong>The</strong> Los Angeles Chamber <strong>of</strong> Commerce raised “…<strong>the</strong><br />

real danger <strong>of</strong> foreign dom<strong>in</strong>ation <strong>of</strong> this company, which<br />

has been heret<strong>of</strong>ore ‘<strong>of</strong> and for’ <strong>California</strong>ns.” <strong>The</strong> Los Angeles<br />

Express said, “…Every stockholder owes it to his pocketbook,<br />

to <strong>California</strong> and to <strong>the</strong> nation to keep <strong>the</strong> American flag fly<strong>in</strong>g<br />

over <strong>California</strong>’s oil fields.” When it came down to <strong>the</strong> stockholders’<br />

vote on March 20, 1922, Union had won by 25,000<br />

shares. It would be Lyman Stewart’s last great fight, and his f<strong>in</strong>al<br />

victory. He died <strong>in</strong> 1923 at <strong>the</strong> age <strong>of</strong> eighty-three. It is likely<br />

that this episode helped to cement Union’s reputation as a<br />

<strong>California</strong> company. It reta<strong>in</strong>ed this regional stamp for decades<br />

even as it began to expand <strong>in</strong>to overseas operations.<br />

<strong>The</strong> company’s fourth struggle to ma<strong>in</strong>ta<strong>in</strong> its <strong>in</strong>dependence<br />

would help to redef<strong>in</strong>e <strong>the</strong> company and contribute to its<br />

ultimate fate. In late 1984, while engaged <strong>in</strong> a bid to take<br />

over Phillips <strong>Petroleum</strong>, T. Boone Pickens and Mesa <strong>Petroleum</strong><br />

began buy<strong>in</strong>g shares <strong>of</strong> Union. Union, reorganiz<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong>to<br />

Unocal, a Delaware corporation, began go<strong>in</strong>g by that name<br />

dur<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong> fight with Pickens. Delaware’s laws have been<br />

crafted to make it harder for an outsider to take over a company<br />

and are why many companies have <strong>in</strong>corporated <strong>the</strong>re.<br />

After acquir<strong>in</strong>g 13.7 percent <strong>of</strong> Unocal’s stock, Mesa announced<br />

that it would buy ano<strong>the</strong>r 37 percent at $54 a share. Unocal<br />

CEO Fred Hartley decried Pickens as a corporate raider,<br />

say<strong>in</strong>g that his method was to buy stock <strong>in</strong> a target company<br />

with borrowed money, <strong>the</strong>n dismember <strong>the</strong> company by us<strong>in</strong>g<br />

its assets to pay <strong>of</strong>f <strong>the</strong> loans. Said Hartley, “Mesa was<br />

com<strong>in</strong>g not to build, but to destroy. <strong>The</strong>y were out to loot and<br />

liquidate Unocal.”<br />

Unocal countered Pickens’ hostile tender with an <strong>of</strong>fer <strong>of</strong><br />

its own: to buy all rema<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g shares at $72 if Mesa succeeded<br />

<strong>in</strong> gett<strong>in</strong>g enough shares to control <strong>the</strong> company. This would<br />

leave Unocal with so much debt that it would not be a desirable<br />

target for Pickens. A court battle ensued <strong>in</strong> Delaware over<br />

whe<strong>the</strong>r Unocal had <strong>the</strong> right to deny <strong>the</strong> $72 <strong>of</strong>fer to Mesa<br />

for its shares. <strong>The</strong> number <strong>of</strong> law firms and lawyers <strong>in</strong>volved<br />

was phenomenal and <strong>the</strong>y worked around <strong>the</strong> clock. <strong>The</strong>y set<br />

up a special room at corporate headquarters <strong>in</strong> Los Angeles<br />

called <strong>the</strong> “Dungeon” where <strong>the</strong>y kept documents under<br />

tight security.<br />

In May 1985, Unocal won both <strong>the</strong> court case and <strong>the</strong> proxy<br />

fight, but it was a costly victory. Aside from a six month disruption<br />

<strong>of</strong> company affairs, Unocal’s debt went from $1.2 billion<br />

to $5.3 billion.This was money that could not be spent on<br />

acquir<strong>in</strong>g new leases or develop<strong>in</strong>g exist<strong>in</strong>g fields. Although<br />

<strong>the</strong>y later restructured <strong>the</strong>ir debt, it took <strong>the</strong>m at least fifteen<br />

years to pay it <strong>of</strong>f.<br />

In <strong>the</strong> 1990s Unocal went overseas <strong>in</strong> a big way, acquir<strong>in</strong>g<br />

a large <strong>of</strong>fshore natural gas concession <strong>in</strong> Thailand and o<strong>the</strong>r<br />

leases <strong>in</strong> Asia and Lat<strong>in</strong> America. Domestic exploration was<br />

restricted to <strong>the</strong> Gulf <strong>of</strong> Mexico. To free up capital, Unocal<br />

disposed <strong>of</strong> all <strong>of</strong> its <strong>California</strong> fields by 1996. In 1997 <strong>the</strong><br />

ref<strong>in</strong>eries, gas stations and transportation facilities were sold<br />

to Tosco, along with <strong>the</strong> “76” logo so familiar to <strong>California</strong>ns.<br />

<strong>The</strong> research center <strong>in</strong> Brea was closed. Even <strong>the</strong> corporate<br />

headquarters <strong>in</strong> downtown Los Angeles was sold and <strong>the</strong><br />

company moved to nearby El Segundo. This reduced <strong>the</strong><br />

company’s debt to about $2.2 billion. In <strong>the</strong> early 2000s<br />

Unocal’s reserves had decl<strong>in</strong>ed, although <strong>the</strong> company was<br />

mak<strong>in</strong>g more money because <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>in</strong>creased price <strong>of</strong> oil. New<br />

projects, ma<strong>in</strong>ly <strong>in</strong> Asia, were about to come on l<strong>in</strong>e, promis<strong>in</strong>g<br />

an <strong>in</strong>crease <strong>in</strong> production.<br />

Unocal had been radically transformed. Most <strong>of</strong> its assets<br />

were overseas and <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> Gulf <strong>of</strong> Mexico. It had divested itself<br />

<strong>of</strong> virtually all <strong>of</strong> its U.S. ref<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g and market<strong>in</strong>g assets. Its<br />

great discoveries at Orcutt, Midway-Sunset, Brea-Ol<strong>in</strong>da, Santa<br />

Maria <strong>of</strong>fshore and many o<strong>the</strong>rs were now under <strong>the</strong> flags<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>in</strong>dependents. Although its headquarters was still <strong>in</strong><br />

<strong>California</strong>, nearly all <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>California</strong> “stamp” <strong>of</strong> Unocal was<br />

gone. Lyman Stewart would have been amazed, although he<br />

might have recognized <strong>the</strong> risk-tak<strong>in</strong>g culture, especially <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

foreign projects.<br />

With its new mix <strong>of</strong> assets and petroleum reserves Unocal<br />

was a ripe takeover candidate and Chevron saw it as a good fit.<br />

A deal was reached <strong>in</strong> 2005 for some $18 billion <strong>in</strong> stock<br />

and cash. A company partly owned by <strong>the</strong> Ch<strong>in</strong>ese government<br />

made a counter <strong>of</strong>fer, spark<strong>in</strong>g a controversy rem<strong>in</strong>iscent <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

one <strong>in</strong>volv<strong>in</strong>g Royal Dutch Shell <strong>in</strong> 1922, although it was less<br />

<strong>in</strong>tense. Chevron won, end<strong>in</strong>g Unocal’s remarkable 115 year<br />

span. In a sense it was com<strong>in</strong>g full circle as Pacific Coast Oil<br />

Company, Chevron’s forerunner, had given Stewart and<br />

Hardison <strong>the</strong>ir start <strong>in</strong> Pico Canyon back <strong>in</strong> 1883. Unocal may<br />

be gone, but its contributions to <strong>California</strong>’s petroleum <strong>in</strong>dustry<br />

have had a permanent impr<strong>in</strong>t.<br />

CHAPTER FIVE<br />

99


Well on Signal Hill, operated by<br />

Signal Hill <strong>Petroleum</strong>.<br />

PHOTO BY AUTHOR.<br />

Operat<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong> mature areas such as Los<br />

Angeles Bas<strong>in</strong> was becom<strong>in</strong>g less pr<strong>of</strong>itable<br />

for <strong>the</strong> large oil companies, especially after <strong>the</strong><br />

drop <strong>in</strong> oil prices <strong>in</strong> 1986. <strong>The</strong>se companies<br />

determ<strong>in</strong>ed that <strong>the</strong> best strategy was to focus<br />

outside <strong>of</strong> <strong>California</strong>, and needed capital for<br />

large, higher-marg<strong>in</strong> ventures <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> Gulf<br />

<strong>of</strong> Mexico or overseas. <strong>The</strong> ’80s ushered <strong>in</strong><br />

an era <strong>of</strong> mergers and attempted takeovers,<br />

plac<strong>in</strong>g many companies <strong>in</strong> temporarily<br />

delicate f<strong>in</strong>ancial positions. In 1984 Texaco<br />

bought Getty, a Los Angeles-based company.<br />

This controversial move resulted <strong>in</strong> a $3<br />

billion legal judgement for Pennzoil, which<br />

had made a previous merger <strong>of</strong>fer for Getty.<br />

In 1985 Chevron acquired Gulf follow<strong>in</strong>g a<br />

takeover attempt <strong>of</strong> Gulf by T. Boone Pickens<br />

and Mesa <strong>Petroleum</strong>. Royal Dutch Shell<br />

merged with several o<strong>the</strong>r companies <strong>in</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> mid-’80s. Occidental (Oxy) merged with<br />

Cities Service, ano<strong>the</strong>r company that had<br />

been targeted by Pickens. Later, Chevron<br />

would merge with Texaco, and Exxon with<br />

Mobil. In 1985, Union barely survived yet<br />

ano<strong>the</strong>r hostile takeover bid by Pickens, but<br />

it was weakened <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> process. Eventually<br />

Union would merge with Chevron. All <strong>of</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong>se companies had mature properties <strong>in</strong><br />

<strong>California</strong>, and many <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>se hold<strong>in</strong>gs could<br />

be used as a source for much needed cash if<br />

<strong>the</strong>y were sold.<br />

When a need arises, <strong>the</strong> bus<strong>in</strong>ess world<br />

f<strong>in</strong>ds a way to fill it. Independent oil companies<br />

arose to take over many <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

<strong>California</strong> fields from <strong>the</strong> majors. <strong>The</strong>se <strong>in</strong>dependents<br />

could focus on new ideas to brea<strong>the</strong><br />

new life <strong>in</strong>to <strong>the</strong> old fields. <strong>The</strong>re are several<br />

breeds <strong>of</strong> <strong>in</strong>dependents <strong>in</strong> <strong>California</strong>. Some<br />

were formed from scratch specifically <strong>in</strong> order<br />

to revitalize old fields. In <strong>the</strong> early ’80s,<br />

Hal Washburn and Randy Breitenbach were<br />

roommates at Stanford study<strong>in</strong>g petroleum<br />

eng<strong>in</strong>eer<strong>in</strong>g. At <strong>the</strong> time <strong>the</strong> oil <strong>in</strong>dustry was<br />

boom<strong>in</strong>g, and <strong>the</strong> two students chose <strong>the</strong><br />

energy sector over <strong>the</strong> up-and-com<strong>in</strong>g Silicon<br />

Valley tech sector <strong>in</strong> Stanford’s back yard.<br />

By <strong>the</strong> time <strong>the</strong> pair left Stanford <strong>the</strong> oil<br />

patch had hit a downturn. Despite <strong>the</strong><br />

down times, Washburn and Breitenbach saw<br />

an opportunity <strong>in</strong> <strong>California</strong> fields, which<br />

still had a lot <strong>of</strong> oil that could be recovered<br />

through advanced technology even though<br />

<strong>the</strong>y had been produc<strong>in</strong>g for decades.<br />

<strong>The</strong>y formed Breitburn Energy <strong>in</strong> 1988, later<br />

acquir<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong> West Pico and Sawtelle Oil<br />

Fields from Oxy. With<strong>in</strong> a few years <strong>the</strong>y<br />

had proved <strong>the</strong> value <strong>of</strong> <strong>California</strong>’s oil<br />

fields by quadrupl<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong> estimated reserves<br />

<strong>of</strong> those two fields. In 1999 <strong>the</strong>y bought Santa<br />

Fe Spr<strong>in</strong>gs and Rosecrans from Texaco. Today<br />

Breitburn operates 572 wells <strong>in</strong> <strong>California</strong>,<br />

produc<strong>in</strong>g 5,500 barrels a day. It has also<br />

leveraged <strong>the</strong> experience gleaned from<br />

<strong>California</strong>’s complex geology and expanded its<br />

oil operations to Colorado, Texas, Oklahoma,<br />

Michigan, Ill<strong>in</strong>ois, Florida, and elsewhere.<br />

O<strong>the</strong>r <strong>in</strong>dependents were formed out <strong>of</strong><br />

a major for <strong>the</strong> purpose <strong>of</strong> tak<strong>in</strong>g over its<br />

<strong>California</strong> operations. In 2014 Oxy was one <strong>of</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> largest oil and gas producers <strong>in</strong> <strong>California</strong>,<br />

with thousands <strong>of</strong> wells <strong>in</strong> five giant fields<br />

BLACK GOLD IN CALIFORNIA: <strong>The</strong> <strong>Story</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>California</strong> <strong>Petroleum</strong> <strong>Industry</strong><br />

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Left: Arroyo Grande Field.<br />

COURTESY OF CHARLES MAINO FAMILY.<br />

<strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> Los Angeles Bas<strong>in</strong>, San Joaqu<strong>in</strong> Valley,<br />

Ventura, and Sacramento Valley. Oxy had<br />

taken over THUMS Oil Company and was<br />

thus operat<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong> Long Beach unit <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

Wilm<strong>in</strong>gton Field. In November 2014, Oxy<br />

formed <strong>California</strong> Resources Corporation<br />

(CRC) out <strong>of</strong> its <strong>California</strong> hold<strong>in</strong>gs, giv<strong>in</strong>g<br />

Oxy shareholders 0.4 shares <strong>of</strong> CRC stock<br />

for every Oxy share <strong>the</strong>y owned.Operat<strong>in</strong>g<br />

exclusively <strong>in</strong> <strong>California</strong>, this new company<br />

has 19,800 gross drill<strong>in</strong>g locations on 2.3<br />

million acres.<br />

Below: Wells on <strong>the</strong> Ma<strong>in</strong>o Lease,<br />

Arroyo Grande Field, near Pismo Beach,<br />

Santa Maria Bas<strong>in</strong>. Formerly operated by<br />

Grace <strong>Petroleum</strong>, <strong>the</strong> field is now operated<br />

by Freeport-McMoRan, which is<br />

us<strong>in</strong>g steamflood<strong>in</strong>g.<br />

COURTESY OF CHARLES MAINO FAMILY.<br />

CHAPTER FIVE<br />

101


BLACK GOLD IN CALIFORNIA: <strong>The</strong> <strong>Story</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>California</strong> <strong>Petroleum</strong> <strong>Industry</strong><br />

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Opposite, top: L<strong>in</strong>ear rod pumps (LRP)<br />

provide direct control <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> sucker rod,<br />

without need for <strong>the</strong> heavy counterweight<br />

system used on conventional pumpjacks.<br />

COURTESY OF VAQUERO ENERGY,<br />

SETH HUNTER PHOTOGRAPHER.<br />

Left: Approximate trackl<strong>in</strong>es <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

directional wells, Tunnell site. <strong>The</strong> natural<br />

terra<strong>in</strong> is left undisturbed except for <strong>the</strong><br />

small drill<strong>in</strong>g site.<br />

TRACKLINES FROM VAQUERO ENERGY;<br />

AERIAL IMAGE FROM GOOGLE EARTH.<br />

Below: Modern pump<strong>in</strong>g operation<br />

by Vaquero Energy <strong>in</strong>volv<strong>in</strong>g a set <strong>of</strong><br />

directional wells. Tunnell site, Sisquoc,<br />

Santa Barbara County.<br />

COURTESY OF VAQUERO ENERGY,<br />

SETH HUNTER PHOTOGRAPHER.<br />

CHAPTER FIVE<br />

103


Aera Energy was formed from hold<strong>in</strong>gs <strong>of</strong><br />

Shell and Exxon-Mobil, and is a subsidiary <strong>of</strong><br />

affiliates <strong>of</strong> those two companies. Aera claims<br />

to have 25 percent <strong>of</strong> <strong>California</strong>’s production,<br />

mostly <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> San Joaqu<strong>in</strong> Valley. Its proved<br />

reserves are 682 million barrels.<br />

Hundreds <strong>of</strong> o<strong>the</strong>r <strong>in</strong>dependents have<br />

hold<strong>in</strong>gs rang<strong>in</strong>g from just a few wells <strong>in</strong><br />

one field to hundreds <strong>of</strong> wells <strong>in</strong> multiple<br />

fields. Some are small, perhaps family-owned<br />

concerns that have existed for decades.<br />

O<strong>the</strong>rs such as Warren Resources and E & B<br />

Natural Resources have grown by consolidat<strong>in</strong>g<br />

properties <strong>of</strong> smaller companies and<br />

majors. Many <strong>in</strong>dependents that operate<br />

<strong>in</strong> <strong>California</strong> also have similar mature oil<br />

properties <strong>in</strong> o<strong>the</strong>r states, and may be headquartered<br />

out <strong>of</strong> state. Some are diversified<br />

ei<strong>the</strong>r locally or nationwide, or are affiliated<br />

with oil field services, ref<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g operations, or<br />

are engag<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong> m<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g, real estate, or o<strong>the</strong>r<br />

<strong>in</strong>dustries. <strong>The</strong>se companies have names like<br />

Freeport-McMoRan, L<strong>in</strong>n, Vaquero, Veneco,<br />

and Signal Hill <strong>Petroleum</strong>. Along with<br />

rema<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g majors such as Chevron, <strong>the</strong><br />

<strong>in</strong>dependents form <strong>the</strong> backbone <strong>of</strong> today’s<br />

dynamic <strong>California</strong> petroleum <strong>in</strong>dustry.<br />

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Although <strong>the</strong> names have changed, <strong>the</strong> history<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>California</strong> petroleum <strong>in</strong>dustry has<br />

<strong>in</strong> some ways come full circle. Many <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

issues that confronted <strong>the</strong> <strong>in</strong>dustry <strong>in</strong> its earliest<br />

days are still around. One <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> biggest<br />

challenges is <strong>the</strong> heavy, viscous oil, up to 10<br />

billion barrels <strong>of</strong> it still <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> ground await<strong>in</strong>g<br />

new technologies to extract it. Ano<strong>the</strong>r largely<br />

untapped opportunity is <strong>the</strong> Lower Monterey<br />

Formation, which <strong>in</strong> many places is a reservoir<br />

rock as well as be<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong> source rock for <strong>the</strong><br />

oil. Although it <strong>of</strong>ten conta<strong>in</strong>s a light oil, it is<br />

also home to a peculiar low-permeability rock<br />

called diatomite from which it is difficult to<br />

remove <strong>the</strong> oil us<strong>in</strong>g conventional methods.<br />

Billions <strong>of</strong> barrels could be locked away <strong>in</strong><br />

this rock. <strong>The</strong>se challenges exist more or less<br />

anywhere oil is found <strong>in</strong> <strong>California</strong>.<br />

Opposite, top: Tower to collect solar energy<br />

for production <strong>of</strong> steam. Ano<strong>the</strong>r way to<br />

provide energy for steamflood<strong>in</strong>g.<br />

COURTESY OF CHEVRON USA.<br />

Opposite, bottom: Steam <strong>in</strong>jection pipes at<br />

Kern River.<br />

COURTESY OF CHEVRON USA.<br />

Above: Steam cogeneration plant at Kern<br />

River Field. This plant produces steam for<br />

steamflood<strong>in</strong>g but also produces electricity<br />

for o<strong>the</strong>r purposes. Chevron has rema<strong>in</strong>ed a<br />

major player <strong>in</strong> <strong>California</strong>, operat<strong>in</strong>g<br />

Kern River and o<strong>the</strong>r fields.<br />

COURTESY OF CHEVRON USA.<br />

Left: Two billion barrels <strong>in</strong>cludes what <strong>the</strong><br />

Elwoods got with <strong>the</strong>ir little cable tool rig,<br />

<strong>the</strong> nation-lead<strong>in</strong>g output <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> early<br />

1900s, <strong>the</strong> output <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Independent Oil<br />

Producers Agency which competed with<br />

Standard <strong>in</strong> those early years, and <strong>the</strong><br />

technology and ideas <strong>of</strong> today’s Chevron.<br />

COURTESY OF CHEVRON USA.<br />

CHAPTER FIVE<br />

105


BELRIDGE, THE FIELD<br />

THAT WOULD NOT DIE<br />

One field, Belridge (north and south) <strong>in</strong><br />

San Joaqu<strong>in</strong> Valley, is a microcosm <strong>of</strong><br />

<strong>California</strong>’s attempts to get its oil out <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

ground.It is a showcase for <strong>in</strong>novations driven<br />

by necessity, <strong>in</strong>novations that are be<strong>in</strong>g<br />

applied around <strong>the</strong> world. <strong>The</strong> Belridge Field<br />

has been produc<strong>in</strong>g for 104 years. It has seen<br />

everyth<strong>in</strong>g from <strong>the</strong> old wooden derricks and<br />

steam eng<strong>in</strong>es to <strong>the</strong> most modern horizontal<br />

drill<strong>in</strong>g, enhanced recovery, and even remote<br />

sens<strong>in</strong>g from satellites.<strong>The</strong> discovery well<br />

was drilled by <strong>the</strong> Belridge Oil Company<br />

<strong>in</strong> 1911 with a cable tool rig. <strong>The</strong>y found an<br />

oil sand at 602 feet <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> Tulare Formation.<br />

<strong>The</strong>re was also oil <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> underly<strong>in</strong>g<br />

Monterey Formation. <strong>The</strong> well’s <strong>in</strong>itial production<br />

was 100 barrels a day <strong>of</strong> mostly<br />

heavy oil. In 1919, after drill<strong>in</strong>g about 130<br />

wells, <strong>the</strong> company made its valuation report.<br />

It said, mirror<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong> pessimism <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

aforementioned David White <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> USGS<br />

(Chapter 3), “It is estimated that with<strong>in</strong> ten<br />

years both pools will be commercially<br />

exhausted,” and “Future production…is<br />

estimated to be about 1.8 million barrels.”<br />

However, technology has repeatedly belied<br />

predictions <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> end <strong>of</strong> available oil. Rotary<br />

drill<strong>in</strong>g, steel derricks, and diesel eng<strong>in</strong>es<br />

made for deeper holes and <strong>in</strong>creased <strong>the</strong><br />

longevity <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> wells. Eventually a third pool<br />

<strong>of</strong> natural gas and oil was discovered below<br />

<strong>the</strong> Monterey. In 1934 <strong>the</strong> <strong>the</strong>n-deepest well<br />

<strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> world at 11,377 feet was drilled <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

Belridge Field. By 1960 144 million barrels<br />

had been produced, eighty times <strong>the</strong> <strong>in</strong>itial<br />

reserve estimates. Unfortunately, by <strong>the</strong>n<br />

production rates had decl<strong>in</strong>ed seriously, and<br />

once aga<strong>in</strong> it appeared <strong>the</strong> field was <strong>in</strong> its<br />

f<strong>in</strong>al days.<br />

Steamflood<strong>in</strong>g <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Tulare pool, with<br />

its heavy oil, rejuvenated <strong>the</strong> field. Daily<br />

production <strong>in</strong>creased from about 11,000<br />

barrels <strong>in</strong> 1960 to nearly 50,000 by 1979.<br />

Shell purchased Belridge Oil Company for<br />

$3.6 billion, <strong>the</strong> largest U.S. merger up to<br />

that time. Shell fur<strong>the</strong>r developed <strong>the</strong><br />

field, br<strong>in</strong>g<strong>in</strong>g production to almost 175,000<br />

barrels a day <strong>in</strong> 1987. After peak<strong>in</strong>g around<br />

1990 <strong>the</strong> field aga<strong>in</strong> began to fade. Even so<br />

it reached <strong>the</strong> 1 billion barrel mark <strong>in</strong> May,<br />

1995. Thus Belridge jo<strong>in</strong>ed an exclusive<br />

club with half a dozen o<strong>the</strong>r <strong>California</strong> fields.<br />

It is exceeded <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> o<strong>the</strong>r forty-n<strong>in</strong>e states<br />

only by Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay and a few fields<br />

<strong>in</strong> Texas and <strong>the</strong> Gulf.<br />

<strong>The</strong> Tulare now had decl<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g production.<br />

<strong>The</strong> sub-Monterey pool <strong>of</strong> mostly natural gas,<br />

with primary gas expansion drive, had<br />

already begun to decl<strong>in</strong>e <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> 1950s. This<br />

left <strong>the</strong> Monterey pool, with its light oil<br />

imprisoned <strong>in</strong> diatomite. Up until <strong>the</strong> 1970s<br />

<strong>the</strong> Monterey was almost always completed<br />

with <strong>the</strong> Tulare so that some <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> light<br />

Monterey oil would move up <strong>in</strong>to <strong>the</strong> Tulare<br />

and dilute <strong>the</strong> heavy oil <strong>the</strong>re. Diatomite is<br />

made up <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> skeletons <strong>of</strong> diatoms, microscopic<br />

mar<strong>in</strong>e organisms. <strong>The</strong>se t<strong>in</strong>y, fragile<br />

fossils give <strong>the</strong> rock a high porosity but a<br />

very low permeability. Although it holds a lot<br />

<strong>of</strong> oil, <strong>the</strong> oil is firmly trapped. If some oil<br />

comes out, <strong>the</strong> result<strong>in</strong>g loss <strong>of</strong> pressure<br />

tends to make <strong>the</strong> layers <strong>of</strong> diatoms collapse,<br />

block<strong>in</strong>g any fur<strong>the</strong>r flow <strong>of</strong> oil. <strong>The</strong><br />

Monterey at Belridge is quite thick, up to<br />

3,500 feet, so that as much as 6 billion<br />

barrels <strong>of</strong> oil is reservoired <strong>the</strong>re.<br />

Along came ano<strong>the</strong>r technology called<br />

hydraulic fractur<strong>in</strong>g, which revived <strong>the</strong> field<br />

once aga<strong>in</strong>. Start<strong>in</strong>g around 1978 a mixture<br />

<strong>of</strong> water and sand was pumped <strong>in</strong>to wells at<br />

pressure, creat<strong>in</strong>g small fractures <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> formation.<br />

Gra<strong>in</strong>s <strong>of</strong> sand propped <strong>the</strong> fractures<br />

open, allow<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong> relatively light oil to flow<br />

to <strong>the</strong> borehole. Waterflood<strong>in</strong>g was used to<br />

ma<strong>in</strong>ta<strong>in</strong> pressure <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> formation as oil was<br />

produced, so that <strong>the</strong> diatomite would not<br />

collapse. Significant production <strong>in</strong>creases<br />

were realized <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> diatomite until about<br />

1985. <strong>The</strong>n it levelled <strong>of</strong>f for about <strong>the</strong> next<br />

ten years.<br />

In 1997 Aera Energy took over <strong>the</strong><br />

hold<strong>in</strong>gs <strong>of</strong> Shell and Mobil at Belridge,<br />

which accounted for almost <strong>the</strong> entire field.<br />

A s<strong>in</strong>gle operator allows enhanced recovery<br />

methods to be applied <strong>in</strong> a systematic way,<br />

and data from hundreds, even thousands<br />

<strong>of</strong> wells, can be used toge<strong>the</strong>r with modern<br />

computer technology to plan <strong>in</strong>fill and<br />

<strong>in</strong>jection wells.<br />

BLACK GOLD IN CALIFORNIA: <strong>The</strong> <strong>Story</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>California</strong> <strong>Petroleum</strong> <strong>Industry</strong><br />

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In <strong>the</strong> Monterey diatomite reservoir a<br />

computerized database <strong>of</strong> some 14,500 wells<br />

(as <strong>of</strong> 2011) is used to create grids <strong>of</strong> geologic,<br />

completion, and production data. In recent<br />

years <strong>the</strong> database has been expanded by<br />

700 new <strong>in</strong>fill wells drilled annually, some<br />

only 50 feet from older wells. Compar<strong>in</strong>g<br />

logs <strong>of</strong> new wells with adjacent older ones,<br />

certa<strong>in</strong> depth <strong>in</strong>tervals showed reduced oil<br />

saturation, <strong>in</strong>dicat<strong>in</strong>g that waterflood<strong>in</strong>g had<br />

flushed out <strong>the</strong> oil. Such depths could <strong>the</strong>n<br />

be avoided when complet<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong> new well.<br />

Well density is now high enough to predict oil<br />

saturation <strong>in</strong> places where no well has yet<br />

been drilled. This can be done <strong>in</strong> detail <strong>in</strong> a<br />

three dimensional space, allow<strong>in</strong>g Aera to<br />

plan drill<strong>in</strong>g and completion <strong>of</strong> new wells.<br />

Maps <strong>of</strong> hydraulic fractures made with tiltmeter<br />

data help to plan spac<strong>in</strong>g <strong>of</strong> <strong>in</strong>fill wells.<br />

Although <strong>the</strong> field has an extremely dense<br />

pattern <strong>of</strong> vertical wells, it was found that<br />

horizontal wells would more efficiently dra<strong>in</strong><br />

th<strong>in</strong> lenses or beds <strong>of</strong> diatomite. A horizontal<br />

well can provide <strong>the</strong> equivalent <strong>of</strong> 1,200 feet<br />

<strong>of</strong> pay <strong>in</strong> a 400 foot zone. With a fracture<br />

azimuth map, horizontal bore holes can be<br />

aligned with <strong>the</strong> fractures.<br />

InSAR (Interferometric syn<strong>the</strong>tic aperture<br />

radar, a satellite-based remote sens<strong>in</strong>g method)<br />

is used to map ground subsidence as a way <strong>of</strong><br />

assess<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong> degree <strong>of</strong> collapse <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> diatomite<br />

layers. Satellite data are collected every twentyfour<br />

days to monitor how both <strong>in</strong>jection and<br />

production are affect<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong> diatomites.<br />

Aera is th<strong>in</strong>k<strong>in</strong>g about future <strong>in</strong>novations.<br />

<strong>The</strong>y say that diatomite production at<br />

Belridge will cont<strong>in</strong>ue for decades. Steam will<br />

have to be created to keep <strong>the</strong> production<br />

go<strong>in</strong>g. Solar or biomass (from agricultural<br />

waste) energy could be used <strong>in</strong>stead <strong>of</strong><br />

gas-fired generators for this purpose. When<br />

<strong>the</strong> field is f<strong>in</strong>ally depleted heat will rema<strong>in</strong> <strong>in</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> steamed reservoirs. This heat could be<br />

removed and utilized, accord<strong>in</strong>g to Aera, us<strong>in</strong>g<br />

low temperature geo<strong>the</strong>rmal projects ak<strong>in</strong> to<br />

those used for natural geo<strong>the</strong>rmal systems.<br />

HUFF ‘ N PUFF<br />

Ano<strong>the</strong>r method <strong>of</strong> extract<strong>in</strong>g heavy oil,<br />

cyclic steam <strong>in</strong>jection, has been used <strong>in</strong> many<br />

places <strong>in</strong> <strong>California</strong>. <strong>The</strong> first step, “huff,” is<br />

<strong>in</strong>jection <strong>of</strong> steam over days or weeks.<br />

A soak<strong>in</strong>g phase <strong>in</strong> which <strong>the</strong> well is shut <strong>in</strong><br />

follows so that <strong>the</strong> reservoir can heat up.<br />

F<strong>in</strong>ally, <strong>the</strong> “puff” stage is production <strong>of</strong> oil<br />

and water from <strong>the</strong> same well for weeks<br />

to months. When production tapers <strong>of</strong>f as<br />

<strong>the</strong> temperature decreases, <strong>the</strong> puff stage is<br />

stopped and <strong>the</strong> whole cycle is repeated.<br />

An advantage <strong>of</strong> cyclic steam <strong>in</strong>jection is that<br />

separate <strong>in</strong>jection wells are not needed.<br />

Orcutt Hill.<br />

Clockwise, start<strong>in</strong>g from top, left:<br />

Distribution l<strong>in</strong>es.<br />

COURTESY OF PACIFIC COAST ENERGY.<br />

Production manifold. This and additional<br />

photographs show <strong>the</strong> small environmental<br />

footpr<strong>in</strong>t <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> cyclic steam <strong>in</strong>frastructure<br />

at Orcutt Hill.<br />

COURTESY OF PACIFIC COAST ENERGY.<br />

Oil/gas facility.<br />

COURTESY OF PACIFIC COAST ENERGY.<br />

Water facility.<br />

COURTESY OF PACIFIC COAST ENERGY.<br />

CHAPTER FIVE<br />

107


Top: Orcutt Hill today.<br />

COURTESY OF PACIFIC COAST ENERGY.<br />

Above: Control room for Orcutt Hill cyclic<br />

steam <strong>in</strong>jection facility.<br />

COURTESY OF PACIFIC COAST ENERGY.<br />

Huff ‘n Puff is be<strong>in</strong>g used by Pacific Coast<br />

Energy Company at Orcutt Hill <strong>in</strong> Santa<br />

Barbara County, a field that was developed<br />

over 100 years ago by Union Oil. Orig<strong>in</strong>ally<br />

called <strong>the</strong> Santa Maria Field, <strong>the</strong> field was<br />

renamed Orcutt <strong>in</strong> 1947 after Union’s pioneer<strong>in</strong>g<br />

geologist, W. W. Orcutt. Peak production<br />

was reached <strong>in</strong> 1908 at 8.7 million barrels<br />

annually. Enhanced recovery methods, <strong>in</strong>clud<strong>in</strong>g<br />

waterflood<strong>in</strong>g, began <strong>in</strong> 1951. In 1990<br />

Union (Unocal) sold <strong>the</strong> field. S<strong>in</strong>ce <strong>the</strong>n it<br />

has been owned by various <strong>in</strong>dependent<br />

operators. Breitburn bought a large part <strong>of</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> field <strong>in</strong> 2004, and <strong>the</strong> operator name<br />

later changed to PCE, a partnership <strong>in</strong>volv<strong>in</strong>g<br />

<strong>the</strong> founders <strong>of</strong> Breitburn. PCE (which also<br />

operates one <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Pico Boulevard oil islands<br />

<strong>in</strong> Los Angeles), has 6,000 acres at Orcutt<br />

Hill. PCE uses eight drill<strong>in</strong>g pads, similar to<br />

oil islands, from which it proposed <strong>in</strong> 2012<br />

to drill 96 new produc<strong>in</strong>g wells. Steam for<br />

huff ‘n puff is generated us<strong>in</strong>g br<strong>in</strong>e water<br />

produced from wells. <strong>The</strong> complexity and<br />

technology <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> operation can be seen from<br />

<strong>the</strong> field <strong>in</strong>stallations as well as <strong>the</strong> control<br />

room with its many monitors <strong>of</strong> various<br />

sens<strong>in</strong>g devices.<br />

OFFSHORE<br />

BOOM AND FADE<br />

<strong>The</strong> pace <strong>of</strong> <strong>of</strong>fshore activity quickened<br />

from <strong>the</strong> doldrums <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> 1970s, but <strong>the</strong><br />

boom was to prove temporary. With a regulatory<br />

climate <strong>in</strong> Wash<strong>in</strong>gton D.C. that valued<br />

domestic production, and pent up discoveries<br />

from <strong>the</strong> ’70s, ten new platforms were erected<br />

from 1980 to 1985. Production started <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

Beta Field <strong>in</strong> 1981 five years after discovery.<br />

Peak production <strong>of</strong> almost 21,000 barrels a<br />

day from three production platforms was<br />

reached <strong>in</strong> 1986. Several fields were developed<br />

<strong>of</strong>fshore Santa Maria. Significant work<br />

was still go<strong>in</strong>g on as late as 1989, when two<br />

platforms were <strong>in</strong>stalled. Also <strong>in</strong> 1989 Union<br />

(Unocal) drilled a well from Platform Irene<br />

that had a horizontal reach <strong>of</strong> 12,739 feet<br />

and a true vertical depth <strong>of</strong> only 4,057 feet.<br />

<strong>The</strong> length <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> borehole was 14,387 feet.<br />

Wide areas <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> OCS were covered <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

early 1980s with seismic pr<strong>of</strong>il<strong>in</strong>g, <strong>in</strong>dicat<strong>in</strong>g<br />

optimism that fur<strong>the</strong>r exploration and<br />

discoveries would occur. Several more fields<br />

were discovered <strong>of</strong>fshore Santa Maria, largely<br />

as a result <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> seismic surveys.<br />

Right: Platform Gail. One <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Channel<br />

Islands is <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> background. Installed <strong>in</strong><br />

1985, this is almost <strong>the</strong> last <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

<strong>California</strong> <strong>of</strong>fshore platforms built.<br />

COURTESY OF VENOCO.<br />

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<strong>The</strong> precipitous drop <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> price <strong>of</strong> oil <strong>in</strong><br />

1986 was a blow to <strong>the</strong> <strong>of</strong>fshore <strong>California</strong><br />

<strong>in</strong>dustry. <strong>The</strong> price recovered, but lease sales<br />

<strong>of</strong> new Federal blocks have been stopped.<br />

<strong>The</strong> two platforms built <strong>in</strong> 1989 proved to be<br />

<strong>the</strong> last. <strong>The</strong> possibility <strong>of</strong> directional drill<strong>in</strong>g<br />

from exist<strong>in</strong>g platforms is now <strong>the</strong> ma<strong>in</strong> way<br />

<strong>of</strong> tapp<strong>in</strong>g new resources. This is especially<br />

true for <strong>the</strong> undeveloped fields <strong>in</strong> <strong>of</strong>fshore<br />

Santa Maria.<br />

Most <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> majors have left <strong>the</strong> <strong>of</strong>fshore<br />

arena to smaller companies like Freeport-<br />

McMoRan, which has all four Santa Maria<br />

platforms, Irene, Harvest, Hildago, and<br />

Hermosa. Memorial Partners has a controll<strong>in</strong>g<br />

<strong>in</strong>terest <strong>in</strong> two <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> three production<br />

platforms <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Beta Field. Veneco has<br />

platform Holly <strong>of</strong>f <strong>the</strong> Santa Barbara Coast.<br />

Exxon-Mobil still operates Heritage, Harmony<br />

and Hondo, west <strong>of</strong> Holly.<br />

For <strong>the</strong> time be<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong>re will be no OCS<br />

Lease sales <strong>in</strong> <strong>California</strong>. Offshore reserves<br />

most likely <strong>in</strong> excess <strong>of</strong> 10 billion barrels<br />

exist, <strong>in</strong> addition to those proven <strong>in</strong> Santa<br />

Maria Bas<strong>in</strong>, await<strong>in</strong>g future development. A<br />

treasure trove <strong>of</strong> <strong>in</strong>formation also exists from<br />

<strong>the</strong> test drill<strong>in</strong>g and seismic exploration <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

’70s and ’80s. In <strong>the</strong> early 2000s a twenty-five<br />

year confidentiality period for an enormous<br />

body <strong>of</strong> seismic data expired. <strong>The</strong>se data are<br />

now freely available to <strong>the</strong> scientific community<br />

from <strong>the</strong> U.S. Geological Survey. Aside<br />

from <strong>the</strong>ir value for petroleum exploration,<br />

<strong>the</strong>se data are now be<strong>in</strong>g used to map <strong>of</strong>fshore<br />

faults and better understand <strong>the</strong> mechanisms<br />

and potential for earthquakes.<br />

SEISMIC IN THE CITY<br />

Seismic reflection survey<strong>in</strong>g, especially 3D,<br />

has become more popular with companies<br />

try<strong>in</strong>g to develop mature fields as this mapp<strong>in</strong>g<br />

method can image traps or small compartments<br />

that can be developed by carefully<br />

planned directional wells. Pla<strong>in</strong>s Exploration<br />

(PXP; now part <strong>of</strong> Freeport-McMoRan) did<br />

<strong>the</strong> first 3D seismic survey <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> Los Angeles<br />

Bas<strong>in</strong>, cover<strong>in</strong>g 21 square miles <strong>in</strong> and around<br />

<strong>the</strong> Inglewood Field <strong>in</strong> 2003. <strong>The</strong> survey was<br />

meant to image compartments isolated by<br />

small branch faults <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Newport-Inglewood<br />

Fault, as well as to reveal deep pay zones. <strong>The</strong><br />

first test well based on this survey came <strong>in</strong> at<br />

800 barrels a day <strong>in</strong> 2004.<br />

Top, left: Record<strong>in</strong>g GPS position for<br />

placement <strong>of</strong> a node.<br />

COURTESY OF NODAL SEISMIC.<br />

Top, right: Node be<strong>in</strong>g buried.<br />

COURTESY OF NODAL SEISMIC.<br />

Below: A node with all <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> components<br />

that allow it to cont<strong>in</strong>uously record data.<br />

COURTESY OF NODAL SEISMIC.<br />

CHAPTER FIVE<br />

109


Top, left: Four vibrator trucks <strong>in</strong> downtown<br />

Long Beach.<br />

COURTESY OF NODAL SEISMIC<br />

Top, right: Vibrator truck.<br />

COURTESY OF NODAL SEISMIC.<br />

Above: School children on a field trip<br />

learn<strong>in</strong>g about <strong>the</strong> seismic survey.<br />

COURTESY OF NODAL SEISMIC.<br />

Three-dimensional surveys had become<br />

quite cumbersome as <strong>the</strong> number <strong>of</strong> geophones<br />

deployed simultaneously <strong>in</strong>creased.<br />

Conventional geophones require cables to<br />

connect <strong>the</strong>m to a central record<strong>in</strong>g device.<br />

In surveys done <strong>in</strong> remote areas cables can<br />

be laid out on <strong>the</strong> ground. For a 3D survey<br />

with 30,000 geophones this would be a very<br />

extensive grid <strong>of</strong> cables. In a city, cables<br />

would have to go along sidewalks or similar<br />

places, and can be stepped on, run over,<br />

or even vandalized. Geophones would be<br />

left exposed, perhaps covered only with<br />

sandbags. Of course <strong>the</strong> cables and geophones<br />

have to work, and bad connections need<br />

time-consum<strong>in</strong>g trouble shoot<strong>in</strong>g.<br />

Self-powered and self-record<strong>in</strong>g geophones,<br />

called “nodes,” have been developed. <strong>The</strong>se<br />

geophones do not require cables. Each node<br />

has a battery, a solid-state memory, a GPS for<br />

accurate tim<strong>in</strong>g, and a geophone sensor. About<br />

<strong>the</strong> size <strong>of</strong> a small c<strong>of</strong>fee can, a node can be<br />

easily buried <strong>in</strong> a flower bed or lawn with<br />

a shovel. A hand-held GPS gives accurate<br />

position<strong>in</strong>g <strong>of</strong> each node. Batteries allow nodes<br />

to be left buried for up to two weeks. It is not<br />

necessary to “trigger” record<strong>in</strong>g by <strong>the</strong> nodes<br />

as each one has satellite-based tim<strong>in</strong>g and<br />

records cont<strong>in</strong>uously dur<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong> entire two<br />

week run. Noth<strong>in</strong>g is done with <strong>the</strong> nodes until<br />

<strong>the</strong>y are dug up and connected to a computer.<br />

In 2011 Nodal Seismic did a 3D survey<br />

cover<strong>in</strong>g most <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> City <strong>of</strong> Long Beach,<br />

38 square miles, with 6,000 nodes deployed.<br />

This is a densely populated city, with over<br />

9,000 people per square mile. Vibrator trucks<br />

provided <strong>the</strong> energy source. A pilot project<br />

was performed <strong>in</strong> and around <strong>the</strong> campus<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>California</strong> State University Long Beach<br />

before <strong>the</strong> full-scale project was attempted.<br />

Detailed plann<strong>in</strong>g was necessary, as well as a<br />

comprehensive community relations strategy,<br />

<strong>in</strong>clud<strong>in</strong>g notification <strong>of</strong> residents, educational<br />

programs, post<strong>in</strong>g <strong>of</strong> signs, and cooperation<br />

<strong>of</strong> local city, university, and police authorities.<br />

A 99.7 percent data recovery was obta<strong>in</strong>ed.<br />

<strong>The</strong> survey provided better imag<strong>in</strong>g <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

Long Beach Oil Field (Signal Hill) for Signal<br />

Hill <strong>Petroleum</strong>. Nodal learned that without<br />

cables to constra<strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong>ir positions geophones<br />

could be laid out <strong>in</strong> a more efficient array.<br />

This meant that <strong>the</strong> vibrator trucks could be<br />

kept ma<strong>in</strong>ly on major boulevards ra<strong>the</strong>r than<br />

small residential streets.<br />

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Ano<strong>the</strong>r unexpected benefit <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> survey<br />

was that several small earthquakes occurred<br />

dur<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong> six months when <strong>the</strong> sensor array<br />

was deployed. <strong>The</strong> sensors recorded <strong>the</strong><br />

earthquake waves as <strong>the</strong>y passed, and it was<br />

revealed that <strong>the</strong> waves did not spread out<br />

uniformly like waves on <strong>the</strong> surface <strong>of</strong> a<br />

lake, but ra<strong>the</strong>r were affected by geologic<br />

structures. A major structure <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> area is<br />

<strong>the</strong> Newport-Inglewood Fault, which focused<br />

<strong>the</strong> seismic waves as <strong>the</strong>y passed through.<br />

This could provide important <strong>in</strong>sights to<br />

seismologists who are try<strong>in</strong>g to develop better<br />

seismic hazard models for sou<strong>the</strong>rn <strong>California</strong>.<br />

THE AGE OF<br />

INFORMATION<br />

<strong>The</strong> petroleum <strong>in</strong>dustry has always been<br />

driven by <strong>the</strong> latest technologies. This was as<br />

true <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> cable tool days as it is today. In<br />

early <strong>California</strong>, with its isolation and lack <strong>of</strong><br />

coal, <strong>the</strong> oil revolution made <strong>the</strong> <strong>in</strong>dustrial<br />

revolution possible. Motive power (steam, <strong>the</strong>n<br />

diesel), rotary drill<strong>in</strong>g, directional drill<strong>in</strong>g, seismic<br />

methods, well logg<strong>in</strong>g, enhanced recovery,<br />

modern pipel<strong>in</strong>es, deepwater platforms, tanker<br />

ships, and modern ref<strong>in</strong>eries are all triumphs<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>in</strong>dustry. But someth<strong>in</strong>g else has revolutionized<br />

<strong>the</strong> petroleum <strong>in</strong>dustry s<strong>in</strong>ce about 1980:<br />

<strong>the</strong> <strong>in</strong>formation revolution. This revolution has<br />

made changes <strong>in</strong> <strong>California</strong> energy development<br />

not felt <strong>in</strong> many o<strong>the</strong>r places.<br />

Early analog seismic and well log data were<br />

recorded on paper or magnetic tape. However,<br />

efficient process<strong>in</strong>g <strong>of</strong> multi-channel seismic<br />

required digital comput<strong>in</strong>g. In <strong>the</strong> 1970s and<br />

’80s expensive ma<strong>in</strong>frame computers were used<br />

by large oil companies and seismic contractors.<br />

<strong>The</strong> people process<strong>in</strong>g seismic with <strong>the</strong>se<br />

computers were not <strong>the</strong> people us<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong> data<br />

to generate oil prospects. Paper seismic pr<strong>of</strong>iles<br />

were pr<strong>in</strong>ted by <strong>the</strong> processors and geologists<br />

used <strong>the</strong>se paper records to create prospect<br />

maps by hand. Today what used to be done<br />

on ma<strong>in</strong>frames is done on an ord<strong>in</strong>ary PC.<br />

Raw data can be processed rapidly <strong>in</strong>-house,<br />

and subtle features like bright spots can<br />

be brought out. Data can be processed and<br />

reprocessed quickly, with geologists provid<strong>in</strong>g<br />

<strong>in</strong>put at each stage. <strong>The</strong> result is clearer imag<strong>in</strong>g<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> features that geologists use when <strong>the</strong>y<br />

are putt<strong>in</strong>g toge<strong>the</strong>r prospects. Wirel<strong>in</strong>e logs<br />

are now rout<strong>in</strong>ely collected <strong>in</strong> digital form.<br />

Old paper logs are scanned and digitized.<br />

Several s<strong>of</strong>tware companies have produced<br />

3D visualization and <strong>in</strong>terpretation systems<br />

that allow seismic data, well logs, production<br />

data, and o<strong>the</strong>r <strong>in</strong>formation to be <strong>in</strong>tegrated.<br />

<strong>The</strong>se programs are run on a PC, whereas<br />

major oil companies previously had similar<br />

programs that ran on ma<strong>in</strong>frames. Today<br />

this type <strong>of</strong> s<strong>of</strong>tware is available to even <strong>the</strong><br />

smallest <strong>in</strong>dependent. This fact alone has had<br />

a pr<strong>of</strong>ound effect on <strong>the</strong> petroleum <strong>in</strong>dustry<br />

<strong>in</strong> <strong>California</strong>, where new reserves will <strong>in</strong> large<br />

part be found by hav<strong>in</strong>g 3D gridded, detailed<br />

<strong>in</strong>formation on a reservoir. In <strong>the</strong> case <strong>of</strong><br />

Belridge, cited above because it is a typical<br />

field <strong>in</strong> <strong>California</strong>, <strong>the</strong> data are actually 4D,<br />

where <strong>the</strong> fourth dimension is time. For<br />

example, cased-hole neutron logs are run<br />

on some wells annually. 3D seismic is be<strong>in</strong>g<br />

<strong>in</strong>creas<strong>in</strong>gly used <strong>in</strong> mature <strong>California</strong> fields<br />

where <strong>the</strong> seismic is <strong>in</strong>tegrated with logs<br />

from thousands <strong>of</strong> wells. Most large <strong>California</strong><br />

fields are located along faults and small<br />

compartments among fault splays, such as<br />

those <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> Inglewood Field, are common.<br />

We may expect that <strong>the</strong>se <strong>in</strong>formation-rich<br />

3D and 4D methods will be ma<strong>in</strong>stays <strong>of</strong><br />

<strong>California</strong> development for years to come.<br />

Chevron Viz Lab at San Ramon.<br />

Used for 3D visualization.<br />

COURTESY OF CHEVRON USA.<br />

CHAPTER FIVE<br />

111


Three-dimensional model <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> reservoir at<br />

Kern River.<br />

COURTESY CHEVRON USA.<br />

Information technology is also critical <strong>in</strong><br />

enhanced recovery operations. One look at<br />

Pacific Coast Energy’s control room at Orcutt<br />

Hill can confirm this. Cyclic steamflood<strong>in</strong>g<br />

requires constant feedback on what is happen<strong>in</strong>g<br />

<strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> reservoir around each well. <strong>The</strong><br />

same is true for Belridge or any o<strong>the</strong>r field<br />

that has hundreds, even thousands, <strong>of</strong> wells.<br />

Decisions have to be made quickly, and <strong>the</strong>y<br />

must be based on reliable <strong>in</strong>formation. This<br />

applies to safety and environmental concerns<br />

as well as to efficient production <strong>of</strong> oil.<br />

TOWARD THE FUTURE<br />

Today, <strong>California</strong> produces more than 200<br />

million barrels <strong>of</strong> oil annually from about<br />

50,000 active wells. Although this is half<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> peak production <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> mid-’80s,<br />

<strong>California</strong>’s domestic production is still third<br />

<strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> nation. <strong>The</strong> state also produces 350 BCF<br />

<strong>of</strong> natural gas annually. Fourteen ref<strong>in</strong>eries,<br />

mostly <strong>in</strong> Los Angeles and San Francisco Bay,<br />

process about 2 million barrels <strong>of</strong> oil per day.<br />

Customers receive natural gas via 100,000 miles<br />

<strong>of</strong> pipel<strong>in</strong>es. Gasol<strong>in</strong>e and o<strong>the</strong>r products are<br />

sold at 9,500 retail outlets throughout <strong>the</strong><br />

state. In 2004 <strong>the</strong> <strong>in</strong>dustry had $143 billion <strong>in</strong><br />

sales, paid $22 billion <strong>in</strong> wages and $5 billion<br />

<strong>in</strong> taxes.Its 364,000 employees account for<br />

about 2 percent <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> jobs <strong>in</strong> <strong>California</strong>, a<br />

significant number for any major <strong>in</strong>dustry.<br />

Even with this level <strong>of</strong> production, <strong>the</strong> state<br />

still operates at an energy deficit and needs to<br />

import over 60 percent <strong>of</strong> its oil, 90 percent <strong>of</strong><br />

its natural gas and 28 percent <strong>of</strong> its electricity.<br />

<strong>Petroleum</strong> made <strong>California</strong> an <strong>in</strong>dustrial<br />

and economic giant, and made our far-flung<br />

car-oriented lifestyle possible. Although <strong>the</strong><br />

petroleum <strong>in</strong>dustry has changed it will be<br />

an <strong>in</strong>tegral part <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>California</strong> economy<br />

for decades to come. Given <strong>the</strong> grow<strong>in</strong>g<br />

<strong>California</strong> population and <strong>in</strong>creas<strong>in</strong>g demand<br />

for energy, petroleum is and will cont<strong>in</strong>ue to<br />

be a major part <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> economic life <strong>of</strong> communities<br />

across <strong>the</strong> state. Every <strong>California</strong>n’s<br />

quality <strong>of</strong> life is directly correlated with hav<strong>in</strong>g<br />

access to ample, affordable, secure energy.<br />

<strong>The</strong> <strong>in</strong>dustry <strong>in</strong>volves itself <strong>in</strong> local and cultural<br />

affairs and makes long-term positive<br />

contributions to <strong>California</strong>’s quality <strong>of</strong> life.<br />

America has thousands <strong>of</strong> oil companies,<br />

large and small. Each has its own strategy on<br />

how to explore for and produce petroleum.<br />

A host <strong>of</strong> technologies have been developed<br />

by entrepreneurs try<strong>in</strong>g to get a competitive<br />

edge. For more than a century and a half,<br />

<strong>California</strong> has been a ma<strong>in</strong>spr<strong>in</strong>g <strong>of</strong> this<br />

dynamic enterprise.<br />

Today, thanks to technological advances and<br />

cont<strong>in</strong>ued need, oil and natural gas exploration<br />

is occurr<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong> geological locations previously<br />

unimag<strong>in</strong>ed. Technologies like horizontal<br />

drill<strong>in</strong>g and hydraulic fractur<strong>in</strong>g have shown<br />

promis<strong>in</strong>g results. Dire predictions <strong>of</strong> peak oil<br />

and depleted reserves have come and gone.<br />

Wallace Pratt’s famous aphorism reasserts itself:<br />

Oil is, and always will be, found <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> m<strong>in</strong>ds<br />

<strong>of</strong> thousands <strong>of</strong> explorationists <strong>in</strong> as many<br />

places. <strong>California</strong> is a well-developed petroleum<br />

prov<strong>in</strong>ce, and thanks to <strong>the</strong> legions <strong>of</strong><br />

m<strong>in</strong>ds look<strong>in</strong>g for oil, it has a bright future.<br />

BLACK GOLD IN CALIFORNIA: <strong>The</strong> <strong>Story</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>California</strong> <strong>Petroleum</strong> <strong>Industry</strong><br />

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MUSEUMS AND MONUMENTS:<br />

TRACES OF CALIFORNIA’S PAST<br />

Listed here are a number <strong>of</strong> museums that have various artifacts <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> early days <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> petroleum <strong>in</strong>dustry <strong>in</strong> <strong>California</strong>, especially<br />

large objects such as pumpjacks, derricks, eng<strong>in</strong>es, or old-style shops and <strong>of</strong>fices. O<strong>the</strong>r museums may have <strong>in</strong>door static displays that<br />

relate to <strong>the</strong> petroleum <strong>in</strong>dustry. In contrast, <strong>the</strong> museums listed below provide opportunities to walk among <strong>the</strong> last rema<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g relics <strong>of</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> early <strong>in</strong>dustry and appreciate <strong>the</strong>m <strong>in</strong> a way that cannot be done with photographs.<br />

Monuments, plaques, and o<strong>the</strong>r rem<strong>in</strong>ders can be found <strong>in</strong> many corners <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> state. A few are pictured on pages 113 through 117.<br />

ANTIQUE GAS AND STEAM<br />

ENGINE MUSEUM<br />

2040 North Santa Fe Avenue, Vista, <strong>California</strong> 92083<br />

760-941-1791 • www.agsem.com<br />

This museum has restored eng<strong>in</strong>es and o<strong>the</strong>r equipment<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> type used <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> oil fields, <strong>in</strong>clud<strong>in</strong>g pumpjacks, steam<br />

eng<strong>in</strong>es, and early hit-and-miss <strong>in</strong>ternal combustion eng<strong>in</strong>es.<br />

One steam eng<strong>in</strong>e was “rescued” from Pico Canyon. What sets<br />

this museum apart from <strong>the</strong> o<strong>the</strong>rs is that <strong>the</strong> eng<strong>in</strong>es have been<br />

restored to <strong>the</strong> work<strong>in</strong>g order and appearance, down to <strong>the</strong><br />

pa<strong>in</strong>t, that <strong>the</strong>y would have had when <strong>the</strong>y were new. <strong>The</strong>se<br />

mach<strong>in</strong>es can be observed <strong>in</strong> operation dur<strong>in</strong>g shows <strong>in</strong> June<br />

and October. <strong>The</strong> museum has many o<strong>the</strong>r types <strong>of</strong> eng<strong>in</strong>es,<br />

two portable cable tool rigs, early agricultural equipment and<br />

tractors, steam traction eng<strong>in</strong>es and o<strong>the</strong>r artifacts.<br />

Above: Internal combustion eng<strong>in</strong>es <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> type used <strong>in</strong> oilfields (arrows).<br />

Dates <strong>of</strong> manufacture range from before 1910 to <strong>the</strong> 1950s.<br />

PHOTOGRAPH BY THE AUTHOR, COURTESY OF THE ANTIQUE GAS AND STEAM ENGINE MUSEUM.<br />

Left: Test eng<strong>in</strong>e used <strong>in</strong> research to improve gasol<strong>in</strong>e.<br />

PHOTOGRAPH BY THE AUTHOR, COURTESY OF THE ANTIQUE GAS AND STEAM ENGINE MUSEUM.<br />

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CALIFORNIA OIL MUSEUM<br />

1001 East Ma<strong>in</strong> Street, Santa Paula, <strong>California</strong> 93060<br />

805-933-0076 • www.caoilmuseum.org<br />

Display <strong>of</strong> cable tool components.<br />

Left to right, Steam boiler, steam eng<strong>in</strong>e,<br />

band wheel, walk<strong>in</strong>g beam, and base <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

derrick. <strong>The</strong> large-diameter hemp rope goes<br />

down <strong>the</strong> hole.<br />

COURTESY OF CALIFORNIA OIL MUSEUM,<br />

SANTA PAULA, CALIFORNIA.<br />

Occupy<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong> build<strong>in</strong>g that served as Union Oil’s company headquarters before it moved<br />

to Los Angeles, this museum features a very well-preserved cable tool drill<strong>in</strong>g rig. A number <strong>of</strong><br />

gasol<strong>in</strong>e pumps from early gas stations display old brands like Red Crown. <strong>The</strong> former <strong>of</strong>fices<br />

<strong>of</strong> Union Oil on <strong>the</strong> second floor are meticulously restored, and one can imag<strong>in</strong>e <strong>the</strong> debates<br />

between Lyman Stewart and Thomas Bard that took place <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> board room. Ano<strong>the</strong>r <strong>of</strong>fice<br />

was occupied by Union geologist, W. W. Orcutt, and still ano<strong>the</strong>r was <strong>the</strong> payroll <strong>of</strong>fice, with<br />

enormous ledger books full <strong>of</strong> handwritten records.<br />

HATHAWAY RANCH AND OIL MUSEUM<br />

11901 Florence Avenue, Santa Fe Spr<strong>in</strong>gs, <strong>California</strong> 90670<br />

562-777-3444 • www.hathaworld.com<br />

This five-acre museum has a ranch house, a belt-driven mach<strong>in</strong>e shop, and oil field equipment.<br />

Guided tours are available.<br />

KERN COUNTY MUSEUM<br />

3801 Chester Avenue, Bakersfield, <strong>California</strong> 93301<br />

661-437-3330 • www.kcmuseum.org<br />

This county museum has as one <strong>of</strong> its exhibits, “<strong>Black</strong> <strong>Gold</strong>: <strong>The</strong> Oil Experience.” With <strong>in</strong>door<br />

and outdoor exhibits <strong>of</strong> oil field equipment and o<strong>the</strong>r artifacts, this exhibit emphasizes <strong>the</strong> local<br />

Kern County oil <strong>in</strong>dustry.<br />

BLACK GOLD IN CALIFORNIA: <strong>The</strong> <strong>Story</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>California</strong> <strong>Petroleum</strong> <strong>Industry</strong><br />

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MENTRYVILLE<br />

27201 Pico Canyon Road, Newhall, <strong>California</strong> 91381<br />

661-259-2701 • www.scvhistory.com/mentryville<br />

This is <strong>the</strong> ghost town described <strong>in</strong> Chapter 1, with <strong>the</strong> mansion, school<br />

house, o<strong>the</strong>r build<strong>in</strong>gs, and old equipment such as steam eng<strong>in</strong>es. A 1.5<br />

mile hike up a paved road br<strong>in</strong>gs you to <strong>the</strong> Pico No. 4 Discovery Well and<br />

monument. A replica <strong>of</strong> a wooden derrick, old equipment, and <strong>the</strong> old<br />

pipel<strong>in</strong>e can be seen along <strong>the</strong> way. <strong>The</strong> field has almost totally gone back<br />

to a natural state, but signs <strong>of</strong> it can still be seen if you look carefully.<br />

Top and <strong>in</strong>set: Pico No. 4 Well,<br />

with two commemorative plaques nearby.<br />

<strong>The</strong> well was plugged, and pipes left to show<br />

<strong>the</strong> well’s location. An old eng<strong>in</strong>e and some<br />

cable for a jack l<strong>in</strong>e are at left.<br />

PHOTO BY THE AUTHOR.<br />

Left: Early oil field steam eng<strong>in</strong>e near <strong>the</strong><br />

schoolhouse at Mentryville.<br />

PHOTO BY THE AUTHOR.<br />

MUSEUMS AND MONUMENTS:<br />

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115


OLINDA MUSEUM AND TRAIL<br />

4025 Santa Fe Road, Brea, <strong>California</strong> 92823<br />

714-671-4447 • www.city<strong>of</strong>brea.net/<strong>in</strong>dex.aspx?NID=438<br />

This twelve-acre park, located on <strong>the</strong> edge <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> hills <strong>of</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> Brea-Ol<strong>in</strong>da Field, has a house that served as a field<br />

<strong>of</strong>fice, ano<strong>the</strong>r build<strong>in</strong>g with an eng<strong>in</strong>e that ran jackl<strong>in</strong>es<br />

go<strong>in</strong>g to numerous wells, <strong>the</strong> discovery well <strong>of</strong> this portion<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> field, Ol<strong>in</strong>da No. 1, which has been cont<strong>in</strong>uously produc<strong>in</strong>g<br />

s<strong>in</strong>ce 1897, and a walk<strong>in</strong>g path that w<strong>in</strong>ds its way<br />

among work<strong>in</strong>g wells <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> modern field and a few oil seeps.<br />

Top: This build<strong>in</strong>g at <strong>the</strong> Ol<strong>in</strong>da Museum and Trail housed <strong>the</strong> eng<strong>in</strong>e that ran jackl<strong>in</strong>es to several wells.<br />

Above: Jackl<strong>in</strong>es to <strong>in</strong>dividual wells came <strong>in</strong> through <strong>the</strong> w<strong>in</strong>dows <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> build<strong>in</strong>g and were attached to holes around <strong>the</strong> rim <strong>of</strong> this <strong>of</strong>f-center wheel <strong>in</strong>side.<br />

Each jackl<strong>in</strong>e was balanced by ano<strong>the</strong>r one on <strong>the</strong> opposite side <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> wheel. <strong>The</strong> wheel was turned by a motor via <strong>the</strong> vertical shaft, giv<strong>in</strong>g each jackl<strong>in</strong>e a back-and-forth movement.<br />

Model <strong>of</strong> a derrick is <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> background.<br />

PHOTOGRAPHS BY THE AUTHOR.<br />

WEST KERN OIL MUSEUM<br />

1168 Wood Street, Taft, <strong>California</strong> 93268<br />

661-765-6664 • www.westkern-oilmuseum.org<br />

Located <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> Midway-Sunset Field, <strong>the</strong> West Kern Oil Museum is on eight acres <strong>of</strong> land,<br />

and has <strong>the</strong> derrick and cable tool rig <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> old Jameson No. 17 well, drilled <strong>in</strong> 1917. This last<br />

wooden derrick was donated to <strong>the</strong> museum <strong>in</strong> 1974, and <strong>the</strong> museum was on its way toward<br />

amass<strong>in</strong>g a collection <strong>of</strong> pumpjacks, eng<strong>in</strong>es, boilers, old vehicles and o<strong>the</strong>r oil field equipment.<br />

BLACK GOLD IN CALIFORNIA: <strong>The</strong> <strong>Story</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>California</strong> <strong>Petroleum</strong> <strong>Industry</strong><br />

116


Above: Monument to oil field workers, Signal Hill. Downtown Long Beach and Santa Catal<strong>in</strong>a Island <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> background.<br />

Right: Plaques at Signal Hill. Several work<strong>in</strong>g wells surround a park on <strong>the</strong> steep side <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> hill.<br />

Below: Plaque at Discovery Well Park, Hunt<strong>in</strong>gton Beach.<br />

PHOTOGRAPHS BY THE AUTHOR.<br />

MUSEUMS AND MONUMENTS:<br />

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117


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BLACK GOLD IN CALIFORNIA: <strong>The</strong> <strong>Story</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>California</strong> <strong>Petroleum</strong> <strong>Industry</strong><br />

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