Discovery at Prudhoe Bay: OIL

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By: Sweet, John M.
ISBN: 978-0-88839-630-3
Binding: Trade Paper
Size: 8.5" X 5.5"
Pages: 304
Photos: 100
Illustrations: 29
Publication Date: 2008

PR Highlights: The greatest oil discovery in North America
PHOTO Highlights: Historical photos in b/w & color.

Description: The story behind the greatest oil discovery success of last century and the building of the Trans Alaska pipeline. This book details and celebrates a colossal oil exploration feat and a world-class engineering and construction project. Discovery at Prudhoe Bay - is the story behind the greatest North American oil discovery success ever the Prudhoe Bay discovery in Alaska and the building of the Trans Alaska pipeline. Author and geologist John Sweet was a district explorationist with the company that made the discovery, and his book details and celebrates the colossal oil exploration feat and world-class engineering and construction project. Sweet's writings offer a first-person account of oil exploration work in interior Alaska and the inherent difficulties involved, including freezing cold temperatures, permafrost and unusual geography. The book also gives insight into the operations of large oil companies and the resourceful ways that they worked, often together, to ascertain the existence of the huge oil reserves. Sweet's narrative also establishes the area's historical and geological background. The book begins with a look at the topography and geology of the region, and discusses the early geologic studies that were done, particularly the surveys done by the USGS in the early part of the twentieth century. It examines the explorations of hermit explorer Dr. Leffingwell, who became an icon in the history of geologic studies of Arctic Alaska. Chapter three looks at the first oil activity in the region, which occurred in 1915 to 1921, surrounding the investigation of oil seepages in the area. Chapter four examines the activities in the mid 1920s, during which time the Bureau of Engineering in the U.S. Navy invited the United States Geological Survey to begin to explore and document the geography and geology of the recently established Naval Petroleum Reserve No. 4. The next significant activity occurred around 1944, when World War II and the need for fuel for ships became the catalyst for an unprecedented effort to evaluate the petroleum potential of Naval Petroleum Reserve Number 4. Chapter six goes into when the Richfield oil company discovered the Swanson River Oil Field on the Kenai Peninsula in 1957. Chapters seven, eight and nine look at the various oil companies who were doing exploration into the region, following the Swanson discovery. Chapter ten further focuses on oil exploration. Chapter eleven goes into ARCO's decision of whether to drill or not, following the lack of success by other companies in that area. Chapters twelve, thirteen fourteen detail the events that occurred with the drilling of the first Prudhoe Bay wells; and chapter fifteen focuses on the building of the pipeline. There are virtually no other books in publication that offer readers such a personal glimpse into the discovery at Prudhoe Bay. John Sweet offers clear and complete accounts of the historical goings-on at the time. There are maps, figures and photographs throughout the book. And the book also includes an extensive index, an appendix and a list at people involved with the discovery. This book will appeal particularly to Alaskan buffs, historians, adventure seekers, geologists as well as those with no knowledge of the Prudhoe Bay discovery story.

Author Biography:

John Sweet is a petroleum geologist with an MS from the University of Michigan (1950). He had a thirty-five year career with Atlantic Richfield Company, one-third of which was spent in Alaska. He began his career with a predecessor company, The Atlantic Refining Company, in Midland, Texas, and gradually worked his way north through New Mexico, Wyoming, Montana, Alberta and British Columbia, arriving in Anchorage, Alaska, February 8, 1962.The day he and his family set foot on Alaskan soil, his life changed forever. He was district explorationist at the time of the discovery. Very few geologists ever get be a part of a major oil discovery, much less a world-class oil field, but he did at ARCO, and it's this story that he shares in Discovery at Prudhoe Bay. The construction of this work was based upon many sources and years of research. John Sweet has also written: Developments in Alaska - Published in the Bulletin of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists Vol. 48. No. 6 (June 1963) pp1035-1049. This is a summary of all the oil and gas exploration and development in Alaska for 1963.

Book Reviews:

Review by Callan Bentley
Earth magazine
April 2009
www.earthmagazine.org

An Oilman Tells His Tale

Author John M. Sweet, a former exploration geologist with Atlantic-Richfield Company (ARCO), recounts the story of how oil was discovered at Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. This single field generates 17 percent of U.S. domestic oil production, more than twice the output of the next-largest field. But Discovery at Prudhoe Bay is more than just a story of one oilfield. I also learned a lot about how the oil industry works. The book details not only the nitty-gritty of surveying and drilling, but also the backroom politics, personalities and ploys that led to that first Prudhoe Bay drill hole in 1967. Sweet gives substantial background history too.
Sweet also tells us how Alaska's oil boom transformed life in Alaska. In 1971, Richard Nixon signed into law the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, the largest legal settlement over native claims to lands in the United States...The sale of leases for oil also created the Alaska Permanent Fund, the source of the annual dividend checks distributed to every Alaskan citizen. Despite the impressive central story, one of my favorite parts of the book was the most distant backstory that it told: the exploration of Alaska in the first years of the 20th century. These were serious expeditions, through 'terra incognita' with low supplies and lower temperatures...Sweet explains how these journeys provided the foundation that would eventually lead him and his colleagues to drill for oil. Sweet [provides us] with a vivid firsthand account of the massive 1964 Good Friday earthquake, including tales from friends who lived in the doomed Anchorage suburb of Turnagain Heights, which collapsed into Cook Inlet. Sweet's ARCO colleagues were civic-minded residents who went from house to damaged house rescuing survivors. All in all, the book is an important historical document, and I found it to be a comfortable read. It is most effective when Sweet related his first-person experiences on the project...John Sweet is an oilman, doggone it, not some poet! And he has recorded an important saga that has far-reaching impacts in the modern world.

 

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