Wednesday, August 22, 2018

THE SECRET OF SHERWOOD FOREST


THE SECRET OF SHERWOOD FOREST

HOW A BUNCH OF TEXANS AND OKIES BROUGHT MUCH NEEDED PETROLEUM TO WAR TORN ENGLAND IN WWII BY WAY OF SHERWOOD FOREST. SOME OF THESE INNOVATORS  WENT HOME IN 1944 AND PLAYED A ROLE IN THE START OF US OFFSHORE OIL INDUSTRY IN 1948. 


Visitor Center Image. Author: Marcin Floryan CC BY 2.5

  Back in August of 1943 Jolly Old England wasn't a happy place. The nation was locked into a global war and faced constant invasion threats. In August of 1943 England had but one oil field producing 300 barrels a day while the nation's military defense oil habit was over 150,000 barrels a day. The war machine was thirsty. German U boats assured that oil deliveries from the United States, at that moment in time the world's leading producer, were at least periodically disrupted. England needed to suck oil out of their own good earth with a diligence and fervor never experienced before. Who you gonna call? Texas of course! 

 Back in 1943 everyone who ever pumped some petrol into their lorries knew that Texans were oil men. It would be much later before the titans of Houston started moving their headquarters to Switzerland and talking of themselves as global concerns. Back during WW II they were just "aw shucks" humble ( well, as humble as Texans ever get) Texas Wild Catters. So the call went out to Houston's (now Geneva's) Noble Drilling Corporation to form a partnership with Fain-Porter and drill at least one hundred hopefully oil filled holes while working in secret in the famed Sherwood Forest. 

 In the spirit of allied cooperation and war time patriotism it was agreed the holes would be drilled for costs and expenses only. Forty two young drillers and rough necks ( probably draft exempt due to the vital need for oil in the war effort)  volunteered to travel to England , at that time suffering from Nazi bombing efforts and invasion plans;  for the top secret mission. The group traveled to England aboard the liner turned troop ship HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH while 50 Texas drill rigs were loaded aboard cargo ships. Only three of the rigs made it to England, the rest fell victim to Nazi U Boats. The entire drilling crew made it to England " a might short of drilling rigs" as the Texans would observe at the time. So the Texans did what Texans do, they made do with what they had, what they could get locally, or jury rig and they went to work Texas style, 12 hours a day or more, 7 days a week. 

 Within about a year, as contracted, the Texans and their cousins the Okies produced 106 producing wells. The Sherwood Forest oil patch had only yeilded 300 barrels a day before the Texans arrived. The nation was using 150,000 barrels a day in the war effort. Those Texan driven holes yielded up 300,000 barrels a day twice England's consumption for the war effort. In March of 1944 the Oil men of the Sherwood Forest mission headed back to Houston one man short. Texas derrick hand Herman Douhit was killed during the secret operation. He was buried with full military honors in England , the only civilian buried in the American Military Cemetery in Cambridge. 

 The men of Sherwood Forest went back to drilling in Texas and a number of them eventually helped figure how to transfer those drilling skills offshore as the offshore oil industry began off the coasts of Louisiana and Texas a few years after the end of the war. The generation that produced the Sherwood Forest crew and the offshore oil industry were thought capable of working miracles and that was pretty much the truth of it as long as company headquarters remained in Houston and the companies were run by men who sweated oil. Today Nobel is headquartered in Geneva Switzerland. The company was invited to drill in the US High Arctic but through two attempts now they haven't gotten their rigs through the Bering Sea. You gotta wonder how many of the suits in Geneva today were ever hands dirty in the oil patch or were educated at Texas A&M. 


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