Teapot Dome Scandal
Teapot Dome was the popular name for the scandal during the administration of U.S. President Warren G. Harding. The scandal, which involved the secret leasing of naval oil reserve lands to private companies, was first revealed to the general public in 1924 after findings by a committee of the U.S. Senate.
The creation of the Naval Petroleum Reserves originated with the growth of federal conservation policy under presidents Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and Woodrow Wilson. The reserves were tracts of public land where oil should be kept in its natural reservoirs for the future use of the Navy. "Teapot Dome" originally acquired its name from a rock nearby which resembled a teapot.
Private oil interests and many politicians were opposed to the creation of the naval petroleum reserves, claiming that they were unnecessary and that American oil companies could provide for the needs of the U.S. naval vessels. One of these politicians was Sen. Albert B. Fall of New Mexico. In 1921, Fall became Harding's Secretary of the Interior and quickly moved to open the reserves to private exploitation. He attempted to keep his actions secret, but the Senate soon authorized an investigation by the committee on public lands. The Senate committee held extended hearings and found that Fall had convinced Secretary of the Navy Edwin Denby and others that the administration of the reserves should be turned over to him. Fall subsequently leased Teapot Dome to Harry F. Sinclair’s Mammoth Oil Company along with other lease deals in the California reserves. Meanwhile, he received "gifts" amounting to $400,000 from the oilmen.
The Supreme Court found that the oil leases had been obtained corruptly and invalidated all of the reserve leases in 1927. Albert Fall was found guilty of bribery in 1929. He was fined $100,000 and sentenced to one year in prison. Upon the 1927 Supreme Court Decision, Teapot Dome was immediately shut in. Some exploratory and offset wells were drilled in the '50s and '60s, but the field was virtually closed until opening for full development in 1976.
In 1977, the jurisdiction for the reserves was transferred from the Navy to the Department of Energy (DOE). A downturn in oil prices in the mid-'80s caused major oil companies to cut their research & development budgets and begin concentrating their operations overseas.
RMOTC is born
Industry requested that DOE support more hands-on, applied field technology that could be better utilized by independents. RMOTC was established in 1993 through joint efforts by the DOE, industry, and academia. RMOTC uses NPR-3 resources and facilities to assist the United States oil and gas industry in the field testing of new technologies. Commercial field testing at RMOTC began in 1995. The majority of the technology and processes field tested at RMOTC have primary implications in drilling, oil production, enhanced recovery, and production cost reduction. Environmental and renewable energy testing have been a large growth area, and one of increasing importance in the industry, both domestically and worldwide.