June 15, 1954 – Launch of First Mobile Offshore Rig –

The offshore barge drilling platform, Mr. Charlie left its Louisiana shipyard and went to work for Shell Oil Company in a new oilfield in East Bay, near the mouth of the Mississippi River.

The rig’s design, which would revolutionize the offshore industry, originated with Alden “Doc” LaBorde, a marine superintendent for the Kerr-McGee Company in Morgan City, Louisiana.

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Beginning in 1954 and capable of drilling wells in water up to 40 feet in depth, “Mr. Charlie” was the first mobile offshore drilling unit (MODU). Photos courtesy Murphy Oil Corporation.

Mr. Charlie offshore rig at dock in Louisiana

A major offshore technology advancement, Mr. Charlie used a column-stabilized design.

Despite the Kerr-McGee Company being a leader in post-World War II offshore technologies, including drilling the first oil well out of sight of land in 1947, the company decided against LaBorde’s idea for a transportable, submersible drilling barge. The inventor, a Navy veteran, found support from Charles Murphy Jr., founder of Murphy Oil Company.

LaBorde formed the Ocean Drilling & Exploration Company and contracted with J. Ray McDermott Company to build Mr. Charlie. A barge 220 feet long and 85 feet wide supported the drilling platform 60 feet above the barge. Mr. Charlie became the first truly mobile offshore drilling unit (MODU) and the inspiration for many advanced offshore technologies.

Learn more in Mr. Charlie, First Mobile Offshore Drilling Rig.

June 18, 1889 – Rockefeller builds Giant Refinery in Indiana

Standard Oil Company of New Jersey incorporated a new subsidiary, Standard Oil Company of Indiana, and began processing oil at a new refinery at Whiting, Indiana, southeast of Chicago.

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The Standard Oil refinery in Whiting, Indiana, today owned by BP, remains the largest refinery in the United States.

The refinery, which became the largest in the United States by the mid-1890s, added pipelines connecting it to Kansas and Oklahoma oilfields in 1910. When the Supreme Court in 1911 mandated the break up of John D. Rockefeller’s companies, Standard Oil of Indiana emerged as an independent company, opening Amoco branded service stations in the late 1950s.

Amoco merged with British Petroleum (BP) in 1998 – the largest foreign takeover of U.S. company up to that time.

Learn more in Standard Oil Whiting Refinery.

June 18, 1946 – Truman establishes National Petroleum Council

At the request of President Harry S. Truman, the National Petroleum Council (NPC), was established by the Department of the Interior to make recommendations relating to energy issues. Transferred to the newly established Department of Energy in 1977, the council became a privately funded advisory committee with 200 members appointed by the Secretary of Energy. The NPC website notes that “the NPC does not concern itself with trade practices, nor does it engage in any of the usual trade association activities.”

June 18, 1948 – Service Company celebrates 100,000th Perforation

Fifteen years after its first perforation job, Lane-Wells Company returned to the same well near Motebello, California, and performed its 100,000th perforation. The return to Union Oil Company’s La Merced No. 17 well included a special ceremony; Walter Wells, chairman of Lane-Wells, was present for both events.

In 1930, Wells and an oilfield tool salesman, Bill Lane, envisioned a downhole gun that could shoot steel bullets through casing. They created a multiple-shot perforator that fired bullets by electrical detonation. After many tests, success came at the La Merced No. 17 well. By late 1935, Lane-Wells had established a small fleet of trucks for well-perforation services. The company merged with Dresser Industries in 1956 and later became part of Baker-Atlas. Learn more in Lane-Wells 100,000th Perforation.

June 20, 1977 –  Oil begins Flowing in Trans-Alaska Pipeline

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Construction began in 1975.

After three years of construction, the Trans-Alaska Pipeline began carrying oil 800 miles from Prudhoe Bay to the Port of Valdez at Prince William Sound.

The oil arrived 38 days later, culminating the world’s largest privately funded construction project at the time.

The 48-inch-diameter pipeline cost $8 billion, including terminal and pump stations. Its annual flow accounted for about 20 percent of U.S. oil production. Tax revenues earned Alaska $50 billion by 2002.

Above-ground sections of the pipeline (420 miles) were built in a zigzag configuration to allow for expansion or contraction of the pipe because of temperature changes. In some permafrost areas the supports included special two-inch “heat pipes.”

Prudhoe Bay field was discovered in 1968 by Atlantic Richfield and Exxon about 250 miles north of the Arctic Circle.

Learn more in Trans-Alaska Pipeline History.

June 21, 1893 – Submersible Pump Inventor born

Armais Arutunoff, inventor of the electric submersible pump for oil wells, was born to Armenian parents in Tiflis, Russia. He invented the first electrical centrifugal submersible pump in 1916.

Armais Arutunoff invented of the electric submersible pump.

But after emigrating to America in 1923, Arutunoff could not find financial support for his down-hole oil production technology.

Thanks to help from his friend Frank Phillips, president of Phillips Petroleum, in 1928 Arutunoff moved to Bartlesville, Oklahoma, and established a manufacturing company. His REDA Pump Company manufactured pump and motor devices (and employed hundreds during the Great Depression).

A 1936 Tulsa World article described his invention as “an electric motor with the proportions of a slim fencepost which stands on its head at the bottom of a well and kicks oil to the surface with its feet.”

The name REDA, which stands for Russian Electrical Dynamo of Arutunoff, was the cable address of the company he originally formed in Germany. REDA submersible pumping systems today are part of Schlumberger.

Learn more in Inventing the Submersible Pump.

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June 21, 1932 – Oklahoma “Hot Oil” Controversy

derricks in devon energy park in Oklahoma city

Located on 18 acres, the Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma City includes the Devon Energy Park. Photo by Bruce Wells.

Thirty National Guardsmen marched into the Oklahoma City oilfield when Governor William H. “Alfalfa Bill” Murray took control of oil production after creating a proration board he controlled.

In March 1933, Murray would again declare martial law to enforce his regulations limiting the field’s production – and prevent the sale or transport of oil produced in excess of the quota, often referred to as “hot oil.”

The controversy ended in April 1933 when the Oklahoma Legislature passed House Bill 481, giving the Oklahoma Corporation Commission (established in 1907 to regulate railroad, telephone and telegraph companies) the authority to enforce its rules – and taking away much of Gov. Murray’s power to regulate the industry.


The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Become an AOGHS supporting member and help maintain this energy education website and expand historical research. For more information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. © 2020 Bruce A. Wells.

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