Kendrick Oil Company was started by Phil’s father and Michael’s grandfather, P.S. Kendrick in 1918. He discovered the Northwest extension of the Burkburnett field 3 miles northwest of the initial discovery. The Burkwaggoner-Kendrick #1 came in at 4,200 barrels of oil a day at 1,700 feet.  P.S. Kendrick drilled two more wells on his lease with the similar results, and this is how Kendrick Oil Company began.

P. S. Kendrick, Sr., was born February 3, 1890, in Kendrick, Mississippi.  He was orphaned when he was 12 years old when his father died after losing his mother when he was 3 years old.  He attended a “one-room school” until he was 12.  After living with different family and friends, he left for Albany, Texas, to get a job as a cowboy in 1908 when he was 18 years old.  Albany was a town of 1,240 people and the largest cattle-shipping point in Texas.

In 1909 he had Sam Webb, President of the Albany National Bank, appointed as his guardian so he could borrow money to go to Texas Christian University.  After graduating from T.C.U. with an accounting degree, Sam Webb hired him as an Assistant Cashier.

He became very interested in the oil business when in 1910 Texaco brought in the first gas well west of the Corsicana oil field at Moran, Texas, a few miles south of Albany.  He bought his first oil and gas lease in 1913 near Moran and, with some fellow Lions Club members, discovered a small 200’ oil field near Moran.

In 1918 he joined the Internal Revenue Service as an auditor.  While auditing the First National bank in Wichita Falls, he spent the weekends in his Hupmobile car, looking for oil activity.  He was able to obtain a lease on Burk Waggoner’s 160-acre farm 3 miles northwest of the discovery.  He joined his T.C.U. roommate in forming a stock company named after the landowner Burk Waggoner. They designed and printed stock certificates then sold stock from a card table on the busiest downtown corner of Wichita Falls.  They raised enough money to drill a 1,700’ cable tool well.  Because of unforeseen problems, they had to stop and sell more stock until finally at 1,700’, the 4,200-barrel well started flowing over the top of the wooden derrick.

With oil selling for $3.75 a barrel, he owned stock in the company and a 10-acre lease offsetting the discovery well.  P.S. Kendrick personally drilled 2 offset wells producing 3,000 barrels each of oil per day on his own 10 acres. Using his newfound fortune, P.S. Kendrick bought a 2,000-acre ranch 3 miles south of Albany, Texas. He then purchased 200 head of Registered Polled Hereford cattle from ranchers in Des Moines, Iowa, and started breeding registered show cattle.  He entered several of his prize bulls and steers in fat-stock shows in Fort Worth, Kansas City and Chicago.  He had many blue-ribbon entries, but the most successful was his famous prize steer, Dale II, that won the International Championship at the Chicago show. He was elected President of the American Polled Hereford Association in 1925 and 1926.

During this time, he was also running 2-3 cable tool rigs, making money contract drilling.   In 1944 he acquired a 1555-acre oil and gas lease around one-mile hill, west of Albany, from his friend T. W. Lee and sold the rights below 1500’ to Shell Oil Company for a nice profit. He drilled 62 oil producers and six dry holes on this lease.  He had production in four different oil sands between 750’ to 1200’ in the Tannehill, Bluff Creek, Cook and Hope sands.  At the same time he was drilling near Albany, he was drilling wildcat wells with his 5000’ cable tool rig on a 4,000-acre oil and gas lease on the T. G. Hendrick Ranch in Haskell and Throckmorton Counties. He had the first lease taken on that survey in 1925 and that lease is still held by production today.

In P.S. Kendrick memoirs, he said “I had personal charge of every well from making the location until it was completed and on production. I was on the go much of the time in all kinds of weather – hot, cold, dust, storms, rain, hail, sleet, snow, night and day with no air conditioning or heater in my vehicle.”

            In the 1950’s when some geologists were getting rich looking for uranium, Robert Pruit, a geologist with Crown Central Petroleum, and Art Neff, a geologist with American Trading, came to Kendrick Oil with a proposal to hunt uranium in Wyoming.  Art Neff was given a lot of credit discovering oil in the Cambrian sand in the White Flat field. Kendrick Oil agreed to employ them and got a couple of investors to join.  They agreed on a salary and moving costs and purchasing a small core drill rig equipped with a certain amount of drill pipe and core barrel.  After a year of drilling they found a very small deposit that they sold for enough to get their money back. Kendrick Oil hired Robert to work for them in Abilene.  About 6 months later, Robert told them a story they hadn’t heard.  They were drilling a hole in Wyoming that looked encouraging until they hit a shale break.  They wanted to drill through the shale break, but they would have had to buy 2 more joints of drill pipe.  They had already had cost overruns and didn’t want to ask for any more money.  Robert said he heard Humble Oil found a very large uranium deposit under that shale break. Phil Jr. said, “Robert, you should have called my dad.  He always drilled a few more feet if he thought he had a dry hole.” To think it would’ve only taken 2 more joints to find one of the biggest uranium deposits in the nation!

The U. S. Government in the 1950’s desperately needed Mercury to put in Uranium power plants that we were building.  It is the cooling agent that is metal until heated and turns into gas.  When it is cooled, it turns back to metal.

At one time, the Big Bend of Texas had the world’s largest deposit of bright pink-to-red-colored cinnabar, the ore that becomes Mercury when it is heated in a plant that works like a distillery. 

Kendrick Oil owned a 3000’ rotary drilling rig that was equipped with coring capabilities with several different sized diamond bits and core barrels.  Their geologist was the best expert to have to explore for Mercury in the Big Bend.  They obtained the rights to explore for Mercury on Solitaire Dome, a very large inactive volcano that had 10 square miles of Basalt Igneous rock at the surface shaped like a large circle.

Kendrick planned to start coring at the point where Basalt contacted with the sedimentary rock.  They had contracted with the U. S. Government for them to pay 100% of the expenses for ¾ interest.  They would make all decisions through the U.S.G.S.

When the Government geologist showed up, they gave him a tour of the area and showed him the Solitaire Dome Volcano.  The first question he asked, “What does cinnabar Mercury look like?”  They took him to the only active small mine operating in the United States near Terlingua.  The mine entrance was in the side of a hill.  You entered a mined-out area of a very large beautiful pink cinnabar room.  In its hard rock phase, it wasn’t supposed to be harmful.  In its gaseous phase, it is deadly.  They then showed the Government geologist their geologist’s plan on where we should core.  He disagreed.  He wanted to put all our 1000’ core in the center of the volcano, which meant starting out in Basalt.  They cored 1000’ of solid Basalt in every core.  They ended up leaving core all over Solitaire Dome, at least 10,000 to 20,000 feet.  This was a total waste of the U. S. Government’s money and Kendrick’s money!  A second U.S.G.S. geologist replaced the first geologist and he, too, asked what we would find, other than Basalt.

Phil Kendrick Jr. joined the family Oil Company after he graduated from the University of Texas. He also served in the Merchant Marines during WWII and in the Air Force during the Korean War. In the late 1960’s the oil business was in hard times so Phil Jr. went to work on Wall Street in New York and Los Angeles for an investment banking firm White Weld until 1973. During this time Phil was organizing his own oil company, Harken Oil and Gas. In 1974 he discovered and developed a large gas field in Palo Pinto County, Texas.

The “Company Maker” was the #1 McCalla well.

For years the main purchaser of gas on the Eastern Shelf and Fort Worth Basin was Lone Star Gas for 10 cents per thousand cubic feet.  Experts were predicting gas prices would jump to 25 cents.  By the time Harken drilled its first well looking for gas, Mitchell Energy had negotiated a price of 25 cents per MMBTU in Wise Co.

As Phil Jr. and Harken were drilling their third gas well on their block of leases in Eastern Palo Pinto County, their #1 McCalla well blew out with 900’ of drill pipe in the hole as they were coming out for a drill stem test at 3,500’. Their first and second wells also blew out while they were drilling at 3,500. They were relatively easy to control by pumping heavy mud into the hole.  When Halliburton tried to pump heavy mud into the hole of the McCalla well, the force and power of the gas blew the mud out as dehydrated dust. 

The #1 McCalla was on a bluff overlooking Interstate 20, about one mile away.  Phil Jr. was still in California closing that office, having already moved his family to Abilene.  He was awakened about 3 a.m. in the morning by the geologist on the well who was calling from a telephone booth at a Texaco filling station on Interstate 20.  The geologist asked him if he wanted the good news or the bad news first.  Phil Jr. said the good news. “You have one hell of a gas well.  I’m going to put the phone outside of the booth so you can hear it.”  Phil Jr. heard a tremendous deafening roar over a mile away.  The gas was blowing several hundred feet in the air from a 13” diameter hole.  In the meantime, Robert Osborn, our immediate past Chairman of Texas Alliance, was traveling from Dallas to Pecos to try to buy much needed gas for his company, the statewide “Texas Utility Company.”  He saw and heard the gas from the #1 McCalla and immediately turned around and went back to his office to find out who owned the well.  Texas Utilities was just finishing a 16” line from West Texas to Dallas, only 15 miles south of our well.

They named their discovery the Harken Conglomerate, field rules calling for one well per 640-acre units.  They inherited a Fort Worth owner’s small acreage contribution in order to have a 640-acre gas unit for the #1 McCalla well, which gave them a 1/8th working interest. 

Phil Jr. didn’t leave for Texas immediately after his geologist’s phone call.  He stayed on the phone in California talking to all the experts he had come to know since he graduated from college 24 years earlier.  He had insisted the very prominent drilling company from Wichita Falls have a blowout preventer with high-pressure valve connections and to be sure to test the blowout preventer before commencing drilling operations.  He told the owner whom he had skied with in Aspen, Colorado, “This is blowout country.”

When the blowout occurred, the drilling foreman tried to hand pump the rubber bladder to close it, and it failed to close.  They had cemented 200’ of surface pipe as required in this area by the Railroad Commission.  No one had told Phil Jr. the location was on a bluff not far from the edge of the bluff overlooking a creek with running water approximately 150’ below.

Phil Jr. was advised by several very experienced people not to do the first thing people tend to do and that’s call Red Adair.  He got a call later that day that their 1/8th interest Fort Worth partner asked his friend, one of the richest oil operators in Texas, to call Red Adair, which he did.  Phil Jr. refers to him as “Mr. Rich,” who arranged for Red Adair to be on location the day after tomorrow morning to give the well time to settle down or get worse.  He immediately called a good friend, referred to here as Mr. Hal, with Halliburton in Dallas who he got to know when he was stationed in Albany, Texas. Mr. Hal told Phil Jr. that Red Adair was a huge client and Mr. Hal trusted him to keep his advice very confidential.  Red Adair will require a very large fee in advance, rent several hotel rooms, bring in a lot of equipment like bull dozers at an additional charge, buy a lot of Scotch and whiskey, set up card tables, and he and the crew will play dice and card games for as long as 10 days, hoping the hole collapses or the well catches fire.  In that case, it gets very expensive.  Phil Jr. had worked with 2 engineers that are very good working with blowouts.  He called the first one, but he was working on a blowout. The second one was finishing a job near Laredo and thought he would be finished in time to be there to hear Red Adair’s proposal.  His name was Roy Herring, he recalls, and he had to drive all the way from Laredo to Mineral Wells.  Phil Jr. caught a plane to Dallas, rented a car and drove to the local airport to meet the big RED colored Adair airplane along with Mr. Rich and his large group of investors and lawyers.  One of the advisors told him “we assumed any Californian didn’t know much about the oil business and would need a lot of help.”  Phil Jr. thanked him very much. 

Red Adair didn’t get off the plane, but his #1 assistant Boots of Boots and Coots did.  They went in a caravan to the well about 20 miles south of Mineral Wells.  When they arrived, Boots disappeared into the gas-engulfed rig with his flashlight, retreated to breathe fresh air and reentered several times.  Conversation was impossible anywhere close to the rig.  They had already agreed to meet at the Holiday Inn in Mineral Wells.  Just as they were leaving, their consultant Herring showed up.  He had been driving all night from Laredo.

Boots opened the meeting by saying this was a very unstable and dangerous situation.  The substructure was too low.  There was not room enough to build a stack or add another blowout preventer. The valves and connections were not high pressure.  Boots proposed putting two workover rigs with one several hundred feet north and the other south of the well with a drilling cable extending from one rig to the well wrapped around the drill pipe and then on to next workover rig.  The rigs would pull the cable back and forth until this action would cut the drill pipe in two and drop the 900’ of pipe and the drill bit to the bottom of the hole.  They would then move the drilling rig off the hole and set fire to the gas so they could move equipment in close enough to the well to cap it as soon as they set off an explosion to put out the fire.  Boots mentioned another alternative, but both meant junking the well. 

Phil Jr. was ready to listen to what his consultant Herring had to say, even though he had to be dog tired after leaving another blowout near Laredo and driving all night to be at the Red Adair meeting.  In addition to looking like a war refugee who needed a bath, a shave and some sleep, he didn’t have enough money to pay for a motel room.  Phil Jr. told him he had a room at the Holiday Inn with two beds, and he could stay with him.

They ate a late lunch, and Phil Jr. shared all the information he had with Roy.  Phil Jr. went to sleep early.  After a couple of hours, he woke up and Herring was pacing the floor.  Herring said he was trying to figure out why the blowout preventer didn’t work.  Phil Jr. fell asleep several times, and each time he woke up, Herring was still pacing the floor.  About 2 a.m. Herring woke him up and said, “I got it!  I think I know what happened.  The tool pusher said they seldom used a blowout preventer, and he wasn’t told to test it before they started drilling.  They haven’t used it in a long time.  I bet the bladder has a hole in it, and it wouldn’t inflate.  He wanted to hook Halliburton’s pump truck up to the blowout preventer and pump water into the bladder at a fast rate, so the hole in the bladder seals against the drill pipe.  If it holds, gas pressure will build up.  We need to figure out at what pressure will the gas try to come up around the 200 feet of surface pipe or go out through some lower zone to the creek.”

Halliburton came up with a low figure like 500#, Roy hoped 800#.  They had different figures.  Roy said it needed to be 800# to have enough time to work.  Up to this time Phil Jr. had not called his Dad for advice and his Dad had not called him.  P.S. Kendrick had dealt with many blowouts, cable tools and rotary.  The ground they were dealing with was hard, limey sandstone.  Phil’s Dad thought 800# was safe, so that was his vote.

Roy had everything set for the first try.  They were all praying this was going to work. Halliburton had plenty of water and they had plenty of pressure gauges. Each person had to observe what the gauges did. Roy was ready and signaled Halliburton to pump fast and hard. The bladder filled up very fast and sealed the hole tight against the pipe and was holding. It was very strange, a huge roar that was impossible to talk over turned into the most perfect silence they had ever heard.  Everyone was thrilled except the ones that called Red Adair. Roy and the tool pusher changed some valves during the quiet period.  They watched gauges hit 800# and the noise came back.  If they could repetitively open and close the blowout preventer, they might save the well.

Since it’s obvious they were not going to use Adair at this time, Phil Jr. got a call from Mr. Rich, threatening him with a big lawsuit.  He told Phil Jr. he didn’t know what he was doing, and said he was taking a big risk.  If his plan didn’t work, it would probably end up being a catastrophe.  They were preparing their lawsuit right then.  Phil Jr. told him, “I’m sorry you feel this way, but I’m trying to save a very good gas well for your interest, as well as mine.” Mr. Rich called him back later and offered to buy his (Harken’s) interest for the amount of money the well had cost his 7/8th interest up to then.  Phil Jr. politely rejected his offer.

Roy called companies in Midland he had worked with before and they brought in the equipment and talent they needed to save the well. The most dangerous moment occurred the first night.  They hired Sonny Phillips, an Abilene welder, to cut off the pipe immediately above the bladder of the blowout preventer with his acetylene torch.  He needed a volunteer to hold the flashlight so he could see.  Phil Jr. felt he should be that volunteer.  He admitted he was very nervous.  Sparks were flying just inches from the rubber bladder that was holding the gas back for that short period of time we had until the pressure reached 800# again.  It worked!

They were able to build the tall stack needed that reached up above the substructure.  When they finished, they had 2 workable blowout preventers to work with. The Operator opened the two blowout preventers hydraulically.   One would open allowing one joint of drill pipe to be connected to drill string, and then the bottom preventer opened as the top preventer closed until they had 3500’ of pipe in the hole.  In the meantime, they had 3 buoy lines each 2-7/8” pipe and each a half-mile from the well flaring gas.  These were put in place by Roy and the rig tool pusher, each with a pressure gauge in addition to the pressure gauges that the Halliburton pump truck had monitoring the casing pressure.  These flares could be seen by pilots from Abilene as well as Fort Worth.  Lone Star Gas had a pipeline close to the McCalla.  Phil Jr. allowed them to get all the information they wanted including monitoring pressures.  Lone Star calculated the #1 McCalla was flowing 80 million cubic feet per day.

Thirteen days after the McCalla well blew out, they could finally say the well is under control after pumping very heavy mud into the hole.  Roy stayed until they ran and cemented production casing.   They paid him the amount of money he asked for which was the same Boots had asked for, $30,000.  They all were very thankful for Roy.  He was the answer to their prayers.  They had a great gas well and no one was hurt.  They had one close call though.  Mr. Rich, his wife and two other couples flew over the well in a helicopter and made a couple of circles while everyone on the ground was trying to wave them off or show them where to land. If the bladder had opened while they were over or close to the well, it would have been tragic.  They landed safely and got out of the helicopter and two of the women started running toward the rig.  One of Harken’s guards stopped them.  One lady said, “We have a right to go up to the rig.  Our husbands have an interest in this well.”  After a quick explanation, they ran back to the helicopter and took off.  Just a few minutes later, the bladder opened, and the well started roaring again.

The fun part, negotiating a contract to sell their gas began.  The gas purchasers were

  • Texas Utilities
  • Southwest Gas
  • Brazos River Gas
  • Lone Star Gas

After weeks of negotiating back and forth between the above gas companies, Robert Osborn with Texas Utilities made them the best offer, $1.30 per MMBTU.  The BTU was 1200, so we received $1.60 per 1000 cubic feet.  They had to gather their gas and deliver it to Texas Utilities gathering station just a few hundred feet down the highway from the telephone booth from where Phil Jr. first heard the McCalla roar of gas.

Phil Jr.  personally, took charge of building a gas gathering system with 2 large compressors at the delivery point to keep the line pressure low.  Jim Taylor was his pipeline contractor.  He called it the Santo Gas Gathering System.

Harken opened offices in Abilene, Midland, Houston Texas, Lafayette, Louisiana, Casper, Wyoming, New Haven and Stamford Connecticut, Pasadena, California and Brisbane, Australia. Harken went on to drill and operate many wells all over the southern United States. Phil sold his Harken stock in 1983 to a New York based investment group that included Harvard University and George Soros and rejoined his father in the family business. Kendrick Oil continued to drill, operate and develop Oil and Gas fields across the Ft. Worth Basin and Eastern Shelf.

 Phil Jr. considers his main contribution to the Geological fraternity was starting the Perini Library. He convinced Bud Perini to assign him the Library if he agreed to pay all the expenses to maintain the library with the same quality. His plan was to get 20 to 28 members that would pay their pro rata part. Buds family would have 2 free memberships. Phil saved the Library for Abilene instead of it going to Wichita Falls or Ft. Worth.

In 2011 Michael Kendrick joined the family business now going by the name Kendrick Oil and Gas Company where he is the Vice President of Operations and oversees Kendrick’s assets in Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. In 2014 Kendrick added a subsidiary company, Kendale Oil and Gas LLC where Michael is Managing partner.

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