OKLAHOMA CITY (JR) -- As the 20th century draws to a close, the Oklahoma petroleum industry is focusing on the 21st century and beyond.
While the commercial oil business in Oklahoma began with the drilling of the Nellie Johnstone #1 well in Bartlesville in 1897, oil shaped the world of the 20th century. The availability of a relatively cheap, abundant energy supply changed the way people lived their lives and did business.
Oil's influence on the development of Oklahoma is evident throughout the state, whether it is the sight of pumping units continuing to harvest "black gold" in the fields or the names of prominent oilmen attached to charitable foundations and buildings in nearly every city in the state.
Petroleum will continue to be a shaping influence in the 21st century as well, although the way it is thought of may evolve.
"When you think into the next millennium about oil and natural gas, I think we're going to get to the point where oil is too valuable to burn," said Mike Cantrell of Oklahoma Basic Economy Corp. in Ada. Cantrell also serves as chairman of the Oklahoma Energy Resources Board's Public Education Committee. "We'll be looking for alternatives as oil becomes scarcer, because we make too many products from crude oil to be burning it for fuel."
Most people think of it as a fuel source, but crude oil is also the basis for a wide range of products that society has become dependent on: plastics, medicines, fertilizers, cleaning agents and other petrochemicals, to name just a few.
Oil prices, which have made headlines in 1999 for going from one extreme to another, will continue to be a concern to producers, Cantrell said.
"I think the trend will be upward for the next decade or two," which is important, he said, because "at the prices we've been forced to live with, we haven't been replacing our reserves as fast as we need to. …