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100 Years: Wyoming and Marathon Oil Corporation

From a landscape that includes towering mountains and rugged terrain to a vast, high prairie, a drive through Wyoming today still gives much the same sense as it did when the first oil and gas pioneers arrived in Wyoming more than a century ago.

Marathon Oil Company, formerly known as The Ohio Oil Company, first came to Wyoming in 1912 in search of oil. Wyoming beckoned as the new and exciting frontier, and the men who headed west knew little of what lay ahead in an often harsh and unforgiving terrain and the wild, undeveloped country. The tales that emerged from those first 100 years are many.

The history of Wyoming and that of Marathon Oil cannot really be seen separately. Both had a profound impact on one another. Mining, including oil and gas, is Wyoming’s most important industry. And surely Marathon Oil would not be the company that it is today without Wyoming. Company values were shaped by what happened in that rugged landscape. Marathon Oil emerged as a company that knew the value of good employees, explored for oil and gas prudently, and took care of the communities in which it operated.

This Centennial website is designed to tell the stories of the past century, from the memories of some of the children who grew up in the camps, and from the records of production fields both come and gone and those still active today.


Growing Up Marathon

PutnamConstruction Supervisor Gregg Putman says when he is asked where “home” is, he doesn’t quite know what to say. “Both of the houses I lived in as a child were company houses at pipeline stations, and both have been sold and moved since we left.” he says. “So I don’t really have the feeling that I have a hometown that I go back to. My dad began working with Platte Pipeline in the 1950s, before it became part of Ohio Oil, and when I was born he was the station operator at the Pilot Butte Camp near Riverton.”

His memories of camp life include a little mischief. “I remember being caught climbing the storage tanks, and sliding down the side gauge piping,” smiles Gregg. “I got into a lot of trouble for that.”

When Gregg was in the third grade, his dad was transferred to Guernsey, located at the other side of Wyoming near Cheyenne. “We lived about 150 yards from the pipeline station where my dad was the station operator,” he said. “We were the only Platte family there, and my friends were the ranch kids in the area. As a result, I got into rodeo and competed in bareback riding, steer wrestling and even rode a few bulls. It was a gorgeous part of the country, and a great place for kids to grow up. My dad retired after 32 years with the Company.”

Gregg met his wife in Laramie, and after he got married he hung up his rodeo spurs. He admits it was never his intention to become a pipeliner, go to work for Marathon, or even to stay in Wyoming necessarily. However, all three of those things came true.

Putnam_FamilyIt is now 35 years later. Gregg first went to work for Continental Pipeline for a couple of years before hearing Marathon was hiring gangs out of Powell, Wyoming. “I’ve been with the Company ever since,” he says.

He and his wife both still have a bit of wanderlust, however. “My wife and I wander continuously,” he says. “We’re always jumping in the car and we love it.”

Over the years, Gregg has seen busts and booms and had a variety of jobs. He has worked pipeline gangs, been a heavy equipment operator, pipeline gauger, and contruction/maintenance foreman. In 1999, he accepted a transfer to Findlay, Ohio, where he spent about a year as a drafting coordinator and then the next 5 yearsworking on GIS systems for both pipeline and engineering applications. In 2005, he returned to Wyoming and currently works out of the Sheridan office.

“Marathon Oil has always treated their people top notch,” he adds. “Now I can’t imagine my life without being part of this Company.”


Early Beginnings

Timeline taken from “Black Gold, Mike Mackey, 1997”

In early 1912, Ohio Oil appointed Francis E. Hurley as vice-president in charge of the Rocky Mountain Division.

In June 1912, John (Jack) McFadyen was appointed superintendent of Ohio Oil Company operations in Wyoming. The same month, McFadyen and William E. Badger, the company’s pipeline man, left for Wyoming and visited the Grass Creek field near Thermopolis, Wyoming. 

Hurley met McFadyen in early 1913 and drove to an anticline on the Tisdale ranch outside of Casper. The wildcat well on the Tisdale ranch was the Ohio Oil Company’s first venture in Wyoming. After $250,000 in expenditures, McFadyen had only a dry hole to show for his efforts.

Ohio Oil acquired 400 acres of land at Grass Creek, and by the end of 1914, completed 11 producing wells. 

By July 3, 1991, 1 billion barrels had been produced from 47 Fields in Wyoming, including Byron/Garland (230 mmbbls), Oregon Basin (409 mmbbls), and Grass Creek (156 mmbbls). 

You can see the timeline at the right for some of the key milestones and important dates in Marathon's history in Wyoming. 

  • 1915
    Ohio Oil moved to the unproven field of Elk Basin.
  • 1917
    Casper Office building  was constructed. 
  • 1916 - 1920
    Ohio Oil expanded its operations with discoveries at Maverick Springs, Rock Creek near Laramie, Lost Soldier and Ferris Dome near Rawlins.
  • 1927
    Ohio Oil entered Oregon Basin. The company made the first major oil strike in Oregon Basin on Feb. 1, 1927, drilling to the Embar sand at a depth of 3,350 feet.
  • 1931 - 1939
    Ohio Oil drilled and completed more than 90 wells in Wyoming.  Prominent subsidiaries of the company at this time in Wyoming are the Billings Gas Company and The Rocky Mountain Gas Company. 
  • 1962
    The Ohio Oil Company changed its corporate name to match its public image, and became Marathon Oil Company at its 75th Anniversary.
  • 1982
    Marathon Oil Company acquired by United States Steel Company. 
  • 1984 
    Acquired Husky Oil Company.

Preserving Wyoming for the Next Century

LandOver the course of the past 100 years, Marathon Oil has come to be known as a faithful steward of Wyoming’s natural resources.  Whether it is fostering and protecting habitats for sensitive species, providing critical water sources, leading industry efforts to reduce air emissions, or reclaiming land once operations have ceased, proactive environmental stewardship is an integral part of the Wyoming Asset Team’s operations.

Much of Marathon Oil’s environmental focus and project leadership is currently shepherded by Senior Environmental Professional Mike Williams. As a hydrogeologist, Mike’s passion for environmental stewardship is fueled by an opportunity to provide high quality produced water for the beneficial use of agriculture and wildlife in the arid Wyoming landscape.  Marathon Oil constantly strives to use its resources to identify programs or opportunities that foster wildlife habitats and offer other sustainable benefits for the environment. For instance, on tribal lands of the Wind River Indian Reservation, the Company has partnered with tribal and federal agencies to use produced water for lacustrine, riparian, and wetland habitat development projects to benefit rangeland, livestock and wildlife. In addition to habitat improvement initiatives, Marathon Oil has led industry efforts in the implementation of avian protection programs and provided technical training as an outreach effort to the oil and gas industry throughout Wyoming.

“Marathon Oil’s Wyoming workforce loves the outdoors and are every bit as interested in protecting and enhancing the environment as anyone else,” comments Williams. “We find ourselves working in robust partnerships with governmental agencies, non-profit groups, ranchers, as well as community groups.”

Sage_GrouseFor example, through partnerships with non-profit groups, local conservation districts, and other industry groups, Marathon Oil has led efforts to provide peer-reviewed science and accomplish grass-roots projects to foster the preservation and recovery of the endangered Greater Sage-Grouse.  The sage-grouse thrives in a sagebrush steppe habitat, which comprises much of the terrain in Wyoming and surrounds many of Marathon Oil’s operations. In some former prime sage-grouse areas, juniper encroachment and subsequent predation has degraded the ability of the habitat to support sage-grouse. Consequently, Marathon Oil has been active in juniper removal and prescribed burning and mowing projects to enhance native rangelands and encourage sage brush regeneration. Since 2005, the Company has donated more than $70,000 to non-profit groups for habitat improvement projects for the Greater Sage-Grouse in the Bighorn Basin, including areas near the Marathon Oil-operated Grass Creek and Oregon Basin fields. Marathon Oil is also involved with partnerships dedicated to the application of state-of-the-art field techniques to track, study, and characterize sage-grouse brooding and predation trends in the Bighorn Basin.

With our partners, Charles Hessenthaler and the National Wild Turkey Federation, Marathon Oil has implemented a comprehensive and sustainable Wildlife Habitat Management Plan on its private land in the Garland Oilfield. Says Williams, “This is a multi-year project that uses good stewardship practices to sustainably farm selected areas of the parcel for the benefit of wild turkey and other game birds, promotes native wildlife habitat, conserves water resources, eradicates invasive species, and re-establishes native plants to the once neglected bottom land of the Shoshone River.

HorsesIn Wyoming, water is a highly valued natural resource.  Marathon Oil has recently entered into a partnership with the Bureau of Land Management and Friends of a Legacy (FOAL) in a multi-faceted water resource enhancement and conservation project, which includes drilling sustainable low-yield water wells in the McCullough Peaks Wild Horse Management Area and along Dry Creek to benefit wild horses and other wildlife. This project also includes reservoir restoration projects to provide water for wildlife and livestock and enhance rangeland in critical areas. Riparian restoration efforts are also underway, which will remove thirsty, non-native tamarisk and Russian Olive trees and replant the river bottoms with indigenous species.

Produced water discharged to the arid landscape from Marathon Oil’s oilfield operations is critically important to the indigenous wildlife and ranching operations of the Bighorn and Wind River basins. “For more than 50 years the produced water discharge ponds and streams in this sparsely populated and extremely dry environment has provided the only dependable source of water and good quality forage for cattle and wildlife such as mule deer, pronghorn antelope, upland game birds and waterfowl,” explains William. “It’s a pretty important habitat in this desert landscape. The local ranchers downstream of our operations love the water for their cattle and have testified during agency rule-making efforts that Marathon’s produced water is essential to the viability of their ranch.”

Marvin Blakesley, who retired from Marathon Oil in 2008, continues to be an integral part of the Company’s environmental programs, serving in a variety of capacities.

“Thanks to Marvin, we already had a great track record and were seen as an industry leader when I took this job,” says Williams. “We try to be very proactive about our environmental stewardship.  Because of Marathon Oil’s long-standing commitment to environmental stewardship, the opportunity to advance our projects, build relationships and change attitudes comes with a credible track record.”

Marathon Oil’s efforts have been recognized by governmental agencies such as the Bureau of Indian Affairs, US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and non-profits such as The Nature Conservancy, National Wild Turkey Federation and FOAL.





Contributions to the Community

The Company demonstrates its commitment to being a responsible member of the community by supporting charitable, educational and community programs across Wyoming. Marathon has sponsored and organized methamphetamine education and awareness programs, and is an active sponsor of the American Cancer Society Relay for Life, the United Way of South West Wyoming and Campbell County, and numerous other charitable organizations throughout Wyoming.


Marathon Oil Corp. Pledges $1 Million to UW

Story Courtesy of the University of Wyoming

April 3, 2012 — Marathon Oil Corp. (NYSE: MRO), celebrating its 100th year in Wyoming and 125th anniversary as a company, today (Tuesday) announced a $1 million gift commitment to the University of Wyoming to further improve UW's academic and research offerings in alignment with the needs of the state's energy industry.

The announcement was made during a ceremony at the UW College of Business atrium. Speakers included Jim Bowzer, Marathon Oil vice president of North American production operations; UW President Tom Buchanan, UW School of Energy Resources Director Mark Northam and UW Foundation President Ben Blalock.

"This kind of commitment goes a long way toward strengthening Wyoming's energy industry and will continue the University of Wyoming's leadership in energy research," Gov. Matt Mead says. "I thank Marathon for their investment in Wyoming and our state's future."

Marathon Oil's gift will be doubled to $2 million with funds allocated by the governor and the Wyoming State Legislature during the recent session. The matching funds help UW pursue partnerships, which will lead to the distinction of its energy programs in critical areas of strategic importance to Wyoming's energy economy -- areas that are essential to the nation's financial future. Through distinction, UW strives to achieve core recruiting school status with a broad group of industry partners.

UW's strategic plan for energy programs focuses on three areas: unconventional reservoirs, climbing the value chain and renewable resources. "Climbing the value chain" means adding steps in Wyoming's chain of natural gas production and coal production to mitigate boom-and-bust cycles. Research into renewable resources includes increasing efficiency so that such resources are more cost effective.

"This contribution to the University of Wyoming is consistent with Marathon Oil's focus on supporting key educational initiatives in communities where we operate," Bowzer says. "In this case, the community is Wyoming, where our company has had the privilege of operating for 100 years. We understand and fully support UW's efforts to advance key energy research activities in support of the state's and our industry's efforts to meet growing energy needs, while creating jobs, economic growth and securing our nation's energy future."

The partnership with Marathon Oil will support research into the extraction of energy resources from unconventional reservoirs. Research programs within the center include reservoir geomechanics and hydraulic fracturing, characterization and flow, drilling and completions, and improved recovery. For this research, the center will focus on increasing faculty expertise, research facilities and outreach. The announcement with Marathon Oil is the first of several public-private partnerships totaling $30 million that are being pursued.

Because Wyoming's economy is largely based upon natural resource extraction, this research has direct implications for the future of the state and its citizens. Significant new oil and gas reserves within Wyoming are projected to be discovered in tight rock formations, and incremental improvements to production represent major new revenue streams to the state.

"Quite simply, UW wouldn't be a leader in energy research and education today without the tremendous support of our partners in the Wyoming Legislature, state government and energy industry," Buchanan says. "Marathon's gift continues a tradition of collaboration between industry and university research to equip UW students with the state-of-the-art know-how required to solve the energy challenges facing Wyoming and the world."

Marathon Oil is once again renewing its commitment to UW energy programs, confirming that Wyoming's university is on the right track for the future of Wyoming and its citizens.

This support represents Marathon's second major contribution to UW. In 2008, a $1 million gift, also doubled by the state of Wyoming, was given to support the Energy Innovation Center, a state-of-the-art research and collaboration facility that will help the School of Energy Resources and its various centers of excellence realize their full potential.

The 2008 gift also supports the College of Engineering and Applied Science Student Services Center and the Department of Geology and Geophysics Rocky Mountain Field Camp.

"The important corporate partnership that UW has enjoyed with Marathon for years is now being elevated to a new level," Blalock says. "Marathon's leadership gift in this exciting new phase of UW's energy programs is a clear statement that UW is shoulder-to-shoulder with our energy partners, and Marathon has worked closely with UW in shaping the university's plans for advancing teaching and research in the area of unconventional reservoirs. Once again, Marathon is investing in UW excellence, and we greatly appreciate our Marathon partners."

UW is committed to the continued advancement of its energy-related teaching, research, and outreach programs through corporate partnerships. The goal of UW's strategic plan for energy programs includes commitments totaling $15 million from corporate partners to take advantage of the $15 million in state matching funds.

Marathon Oil Remembers


Commissioned artwork tells the story of Wyoming and Marathon Oil’s shared history…

ArtworkIn 1952, when painter Glen Hopkinson was just five years old, his father moved their family to the little town of Byron, Wyo., located about 40 miles east of Cody. “My dad was the superintendent of schools and also the art teacher,” explains Glen. “The population of Byron in those days was about 350 to 400, and that included a couple dozen Ohio Oil (Marathon Oil) families. So most of my friends growing up were those kids.”

Glen has many memories of those years, including what he called “the forest” of iron oil derricks around the town. “The Company provided most of our tax base, so we had a good school system,” he adds. “Basically, if you weren’t a farmer and you didn’t work for the school system, you probably were employed by Ohio Oil. My father-in-law, Fay Cozzens, was an Ohio Oil employee in the 30s and 40s, and my mother-in-law, Dorothy, ran a grocery store here for 65 years.”

When Cindy Greer of the Wyoming Asset Team approached Glen about a painting to commemorate Marathon Oil’s 100 Years in Wyoming, he got pretty excited. “Marathon Oil is really part of my family history too,” he says. “After living in Arizona for many years, my wife and I had just moved back to Byron permanently into her old family home, so the timing was perfect.”

Glen says his first thought was to create a triptych, or three separate pieces, but in the end he decided on a single three by six foot composite painting that would incorporate the Wyoming landscape, wildlife and the oil industry. He made about seven rough sketches, or smaller oil paintings, to present to Cindy and Asset Team Manager Matt Vezza so they could help choose the images for the painting.

HopkinsonThe end result is essentially a view of the landscape and wildlife of the Big Horn basin, complete with both modern and historical elements and a gas plant in the distance. “Before I got started, I spent some time at the Marathon Oil office and was given access to a lot of the historical photographs,” he says. And of course I played on the rocks in that landscape when I was a boy.”

This is not the first Hopkinson piece in the Company’s permanent art collection. Before Marathon Oil acquired Husky Oil Company and its office building in Cody, Glen was asked to help expand the Husky corporate art collection. As a result, several of his pieces, including a large buffalo painting done for the board room, now belong to Marathon Oil.

“I have always been grateful for the oil industry and the presence of minerals in our state, so I wanted to represent that in this painting,” comments Glen. “The animals that we have in abundance don’t care; they are just as happy grazing next to a pump as anywhere and thrive in Wyoming alongside the rest of us. I’ve never been afraid of an environmental impact from the oil industry because the companies and the people who work for them and live here are interested in safeguarding that too.”

Glen hopes that everyone will enjoy the final result. “I enjoyed the historical aspect of it all,” he adds. “My favorite subjects are Western themes. It was a fun project and I was really happy to do it.”