The offshore petroleum industry: the formative years, 1945-1962
Kreidler, Tai Deckner
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This dissertation is the first to examine the offshore oil industry born in the calm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The dissertation describes the offshore industry's origins and tracks its development as a consequence of a search for new oil frontiers. In addition, it elaborates how the oil industry moved into the marine province using available technology, and how economic urgency to compete and develop new oil territories fuel marine activity. Enterprising drilling contractors and operators seized the offshore gamble, finding it possible to lower the economic and technological threshold by drawing directly from wartime research and surplus equipment. Though large oil companies eventually placed its indelible stamp upon the industry, the smaller, independent oil operators set the initial pace to establish the offshore frontier. As a technological frontier, offshore development depended upon creative and unconventional engineering. Unfamiliar marine conditions tested the imagination of oil industry engineering. The unorthodox methods of John Hayward of Barnsdall Oil and R. G. LeTourneau of LeTourneau, Inc. among others transformed the industry by blending petroleum and marine engineering. Grappling with alien marine conditions and lacking formal training, Hayward and LeTourneau merged a century of practical oil field knowledge and petroleum engineering with 2,000 years of shipbuilding experience.