History of Oil & Gas Production in TX
Texas is famous for its oil and gas companies and their production, producing 3.6 million barrels of crude oil and nearly 22 billion cubic feet of natural gas each day. The industry is also growing faster than ever; in 2015, Texas accounted for 40% of the country’s crude output, compared to under 20% in 2009. While it’s easy to see where Texas is today, how did it rise to become the leader in American oil and gas?
Explorers Discover the First Oil
The first recorded sighting of oil in the state was reported by Luis de Moscoso, who had been involved in the DeSoto expedition. After his expedition was forced ashore near Port Arthur in 1543, explorers noticed oil floating on the water’s surface and used it to caulk their ships. After that point, Texas settlers frequently reported seeping crude oil. Lyne T. Barret drilled a well in Nacogdoches County after the Civil War, but declining prices put a stop to the venture. The first economically important oil discovery in the state didn’t occur for nearly 300 years.
Oil Prospecting Begins
Oil was discovered by the American Well and Prospecting Company in1894 in East Texas while looking for water, and the J.S. Cullinan Company opened a refinery on the Corsicana oilfield in 1898. The field was so successful that it quickly prompted more exploration of oil reserves in the state. The discovery that had the biggest impact on the state’s oil production was that at the Spindletop well near Beaumont. The Spindletop well brought in more than 17 million barrels in 1902, far surpassing the 839,000 barrels produced by the Corsicana field at its peak. Within one year, there were over 500 Texas oil companies at Spindletop, including Texaco and Exxon.
The oil industry spread throughout the state over the next century, particularly into the Gulf Coast region. A number of important discoveries occurred during the beginning of the 20th century such as Sour Lake (1902), Humble (1905), and Goose Creek oilfields (1908). Where oil was discovered, villages sprang up and became cities. Oil offered an alternative to sharecroppers in the state, many of whom followed drilling rigs across Texas.
Rise of Natural Gas Industry
Natural gas was discovered in the state as a byproduct of oil. As oil exploration and production increased during the early 20th century, gas production also increased, reaching a peak in 1972 with almost 10 trillion cubic feet produced each year. While natural gas was once considered an unwanted oil byproduct, its value was later realized. Texas has had a steady level of natural gas production due to the discovery of many natural gas fields like the West field (Anadarko Basin), the Carthage field (East Texas), the East field (North-Central Texas), and the Panhandle.
Texas is home to 23% of the United State’s natural gas reserves. Advances in drilling techniques like fracking and horizontal drilling have helped Texas produce more natural gas than any other state in the country. Hydraulic fracturing, a precursor to fracking, was patented by Haliburton Oil Well Cementing Company in 1949 and performed for the first time that year in Oklahoma and Texas. Hydraulic fracturing of shales, which dates back to the 1960s, has been used in Texas to make gas extraction more economical. Massive hydraulic fracturing is applied on a commercial scale to shales throughout Texas as well as China and the United States.
The largest natural gas operations in Texas today are in Barnett Shale, Permian Basin, and Eagle Ford Shale. Major natural gas distributors include the Gateway Energy Corporation, the Texas Gas Service, and West Texas Gas, Inc.