History of Petroleum Geology Committee

Report: December 4, 2001

Gerald M. Friedman became Chair of the History of Petroleum Geology Committee of the AAPG in 2001 and organized its forum titled Petroleum-Geology in Selected States. Four states seen through the eyes of the state geological surveys were selected as examples of the history of petroleum geology: two mid-continent states (Oklahoma and Kansas) and two coastal states (California and New York). Seeps of petroleum were known to Indians, and in the mid-continent giants of geology, including Sidney Powers and Wallace Pratt, were involved in exploration early in the 20th century. California has produced about 25 million barrels of oil, but in New York mostly gas production and storage have been the hallmarks of the industry. The New York State Geological Survey is the oldest continuous survey in the U.S., and its geologists were the leaders in the science, including such eminent stalwarts as Amos Eaton (1776-1842), James Hall (1811-1889), Ebenezer Emmons (1800-1863), and in the 20th century George H. Chadwick (1876-1953). Speakers were Gerald M. Friedman (chair), Daniel F. Merriam (Kansas), Charles J. Mankin (Oklahoma), Kenneth P. Henderson (California), and Arthur M. VanTyne (New York).

Next year's (2002) AAPG annual meeting uses a logo picturing a geologist in heavy boots and knickers with plane table and alidade. The description cites "'Our Heritage: Key to Global Discovery" The theme is meant to honor and derive value from our predecessors and their vast experience. As geologists, we can then use that heritage as a key to unlock new discoveries worldwide. It is the belief of the convention organizers that it is truly a case of the past being a key to our future! Our history of petroleum geology committee is of course central in our heritage program and has started to prepare an interesting program. Our 2002 forum's title is once again Petroleum Geology in Selected States. Four states seen through the eyes of the state geological surveys were selected as examples of the history of petroleum geology: Pennsylvania, Michigan, Colorado, and Texas.

Drake completed his successful oil well in August 1859 in Pennsylvania. By the end of that first historic year, at least 5 additional oil field were discovered in Pennsylvania. By the close of the 19th century, nearly 300 oil and gas field were in production.

In 1925 Saginaw oil field became Michigan's first commercial success in Mississippian Berea Sandstone, using local brine wells to map an anticline. Discovered in 1957, the Albion-Scipio oil field, a narrow 35 mile linear trend of Ordovician dolomite pools still ranks as Michigan's only giant field.

In Colorado and Texas several basins and numerous fields provide much of the backbone to the U.S. oil and gas industry with such giants as the Permian Basin, the Wilkox, Austin Chalk, Sprayberry trend of West Texas (once known as the world's largest uneconomic field), Frio Formation, and others.

The 2002 forum will include a talk by Simon Winchester whose book "the Map that Changed the World - William Smith and the Birth of Geology" has become a New York Times Best Seller. "Strata" Smith is the hero of this book. This book and Winchester's oral tale will conclude an exciting session at the Convention in Houston.