Like most companies, Amoco started small. Unlike most companies, however, it had the backing of a big name in American industry, John D. Rockefeller.
Standard Oil of Indiana, as the company was officially known for many years, took shape in 1899. Initially it consisted of a single facility outside Whiting, Indiana, which refined oil intro products that people and business needed: axle grease for industrial machinery, paraffin wax for candles, kerosene for home lighting.
The company grew. By the early 1900s it was the leading provider of kerosene and gasoline in the Midwest. Kerosene sales would eventually falter. But with car ownership booming across the United States, demand for gasoline would only go up and up. The first Amoco service station opened in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1912. Those were heady days for the company. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Trust had been broken up the previous year, meaning that Amoco had to stand on its own feet.
Two company scientists registered a patent for a process they had invented called thermal cracking. It doubled the amount of gasoline that could be made from a barrel of oil and also boosted the gasoline’s octane rating. The process became standard practice in the refining industry, and it was credited with averting a gasoline shortage during the First World War.
In the 1920s, the company decided to secure its own sources of crude oil. It established an exploration and production business, Stanolind, with plans to look for oil mainly in the United States. In 1930 Stanolind crews found what they were looking for, striking oil at a large field in east Texas in 1930. They found the Hastings field south of Houston at the end of 1934.
During World War II, Amoco employees put much of their energy into providing gasoline and other products to the American military.
US warplanes flew on Amoco aviation fuel. Soldiers in the trenches peeled Amoco-made paraffin seals off their food rations at mealtimes. And Amoco researchers made discoveries that had military uses, including an all-weather motor oil for trucks and tanks and a new way of making TNT.
War diverted attention away from oil and gas exploration, but by the mid-1940s the company was back on the trail. Off the coast of Louisiana, Amoco explorers found the first oil out of sight of land. The following year, an exploration office opened in Canada. Its first oil was found within months.
Meanwhile, Amoco scientists made a breakthrough that would boost the amount of oil and natural gas that would flow through those new wells. They introduced Hydrafrac, a hydraulic well fracturing process that increased industry production worldwide.
A decade later, Amoco chemicals scientists discovered PTA, a chemical used in the production polyester fibers. To capitalize on the discovery the company opened Amoco Fabrics and Fibers.