The Offshore Imperative
Shell Oil’s Search for Petroleum in Postwar America
Business History - Environmental History
6 x 9, 336 pp.
25 b&w photos., 1 line art., 3 maps., 2 charts.
Pub Date: 04/10/2007
Kenneth E. Montague Series in Oil and Business History
  cloth
Price:        $39.95 s

978-1-58544-568-4
  paper
Price:        $27.95 s

978-1-60344-156-8
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Published by Texas A&M University Press
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2008 Geosciences in the Media award, presented by the American Association of Petroleum Geologists

The Offshore Imperative

Shell Oil’s Search for Petroleum in Postwar America

By Tyler Priest

After World War II, the discovery and production of onshore oil in the United States faced decline. As a result, offshore prospects in the Gulf of Mexico took on new strategic value. Shell Oil Company pioneered many of the early moves offshore and continues to lead the way into “deepwater.”

Tyler Priest’s study is the first time the modern history of Shell Oil has been told in any detail. Drawing on interviews with Shell retirees and many other sources, Priest relates how the imagination, talent, and hard work of personnel at all levels shaped the evolution of the company. The narrative also covers important aspects of Shell Oil’s corporate evolution, but the company’s pioneering steps into the deepwater fields of the Gulf of Mexico are its signature achievement. Priest’s study demonstrates that engineers did not suddenly create methods for finding and producing oil and gas from astounding water depths. Rather, they built on a half-century of accumulated knowledge and improvements to technical systems.

Shell Oil’s story is unique, but it also illuminates the modern history of the petroleum industry. As Priest demonstrates, this company’s experiences offer a starting point for examining the understudied topics of strategic decision-making, scientific research, management of technology, and corporate organization and culture within modern oil companies, as well as how these activities applied to offshore development.
 

 

TYLER PRIEST is the director of Global Studies in the University of Houston’s College of Business. He holds a Ph.D. in history from the University of Wisconsin. Tyler Priest recently received the 2008 AAPG (American Association of Petroleum Geologists) Geosciences in the Media award for The Offshore Imperative.









 

What Readers Are Saying:

“The story Priest tells is a rich and exciting one around a technology revolution. . ." Technology and Culture


“Dr. Priest has written a thoroughly-researched an interesting history of post World War II petroleum exploration.”


“Superb contribution to the history of the industry . . . .  extremely well researched and written.” 


“Dr. Priest has written a thoroughly-researched an interesting history of post World War II petroleum exploration.” --The Permian Historical Annual

“The story Priest tells is a rich and exciting one around a technology revolution. Bullwinkle, for example, was a 1,365-foot-high steel platform, built on a 50,000-ton base, floated out on a gigantic barge and dropped over sideways onto giant mud mats, landing 2.9 feet from its target location. It hosted 40 production wells and won the American Society of Civil Engineers Achievement Award. Shell wasn’t the only company that did this sort of thing, but it usually did it first!” --Technology and Culture

“This is an exciting narrative…the book tells a dramatic story of imaginative businessmen and engineers who propelled Shell forward in the search for ways to locate and recover oil from the depths of the sea.” --Southwestern Historical Quarterly

“This book clarifies some of the concerns that are specific to a company like Shell and shows how information acquisition and processing provided the company with a tangible competitive advantage.” --Ellis Goldberg

“This book’s narrative is sustained throughout by easily understood explanations of the technical details of drilling and production . . . . surpasses Kendall Beaton’s Enterprise in Oil: A HIstory of Shell in the United States . . . deserves a wide audience.” --Journal of Southern History

“His book provides a suitable legacy for Shell’s research arm and its ‘billion dollar adventure into applied science.” --Louisiana History

“. . . highlights the importance of technology in maintaining US leadership in world oil even as the relative position of the United States in terms of oil reserves and oil production declined. It is impressively researched and gracefully written.” --David S. Painter, Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown Unive

“. . . this study is a valuable study. . . .Priest offers a most useful view of what has happened to the American oil industry and to domestic exploration and production over the last fifty years.” --.”—Diana Davids Hinton, J. Conrad Dunagan Chair of Business and Regional Hist

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