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Welcome to your Unocal Legacy website!  

LINK#1: 4th installment of personal Interview with R.J. Stegemeier - click here!

LINK#2: 76 Credit Cards article from SeventySix Magazine 1983 - click here!  

LINK#3: Interview with President Richard J. Stegemeier from SeventySix Magazine 1986 - click here!

Unocal Legacy, Inc. was formed to create this web site celebrating the Legacy of Union76/Unocal.


October 2015 marked the 125th anniversary of the founding of the Union Oil Company of California

A Few Stories and Pictures from the Long History of the Union Oil Company of California

The first gasoline-powered automobile had not yet appeared in the West when Union Oil Company of California was founded on Oct. 17, 1890. The oil industry was barely 30 years old. Headquarters for the new company were established in Santa Paula, heart of the state's oil country. One hundred years later, when Unocal celebrated its centennial, the original two-story building was renovated and became the Unocal Oil Museum.

To form Union Oil, co-founders Lyman Stewart, Thomas Bard, and Wallace Hardison merged their holdings. Although they could not then have foreseen the tremendous impact the automobile would soon have on oil demand, they were aware of oil's potential as an industrial and transportation fuel.

This history was compiled by Mike Utt, with a lot of help from his friends. Mike joined Union Oil at the Research Center in Brea, California in 1974. He retired from Unocal Engineering & Construction in Sugar Land, Texas 30 years later, in 2004.

Mike says, “It’s just a coincidence that the company only lasted 10 months after I left.”

1890 The Founding

Above is a quick view of the United States as it was in the year Union Oil was founded.


Most of you probably know this image – the first headquarters of the Union Oil Company in Santa Paula, California. The building now houses the California Oil Museum, which is a good place to visit, and a worthy place to send your tax-deductible, Chevron-matched contributions.

This blowout was probably the biggest one in history.


When Union Oil was 25 years old…


The old postcard above shows 3 things:

  • One of the buildings at the Pan-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco
  • The Union Oil booth at the Exposition
  • A view of the Union Oil refinery at Oleum, California – on San Francisco Bay

There is still a refinery at that location, except that:

  • Now the site is owned by Conoco-Phillips
  • and they call the place Rodeo


It’s interesting to compare this to the politics around China National Petroleum Company’s offer to buy Unocal about 80 years later – people objected to an American company being bought by foreigners.


Until 1932, Union Oil signs looked like the one on the left, above.  In 1932, the company introduced a new high-octane gasoline with the brand name 76.


When the company was 50 years old…


Proud of its heritage, the company used a 50th anniversary seal in its advertising.

The magazine ad on the right is for Unoba grease. Conoco-Phillips is still marketing grease with the Unoba name, 75 years later.


We don’t know exactly when Union Oil moved headquarters to Los Angeles, but by 1940 they were in this building at the corner of 7th and Hope.

Not long after World War II began, Union Oil was more involved than they wanted to be.

On 23 December 1941, the Japanese submarine I-21 sighted the Union Oil Company’s oil tanker Montebello. The 440 foot vessel, built in 1921, was en route from Port San Luis, California, to Vancouver, British Columbia.

At 05:30, I-21 fired two torpedoes at a range of 2,000 meters. One was a dud, but the other struck forward in the pump room and dry storage cargo hold. The 38-man crew abandoned the tanker in four lifeboats, which were machine-gunned by I-21 with no casualties. The Montebello sank in 900 feet of water about 4 miles south of Piedras Blancas Light. 


In November 1996, a team of marine researchers surveyed and filmed the wreck in a two-person submarine. The Montebello, apparently still loaded with almost 100,000 barrels of crude oil, was discovered to be resting on the sea floor in 900 feet of water adjacent to the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

The wreck was reexamined in 2010 for the level of deterioration and to determine if the oil was still in the hold and if so, did it pose an environmental threat. The researchers reported in October 2011 that the cargo had dissipated into the vast ocean shortly after sinking.


A big event in 1958 was the opening of a new headquarters building, the Union Oil Center, overlooking the Harbor Freeway.  Because it was built on a hill, Union Oil Center was the highest building in Los Angeles when it opened in April, 1958. 




This is a view of the completed building from the Northwest side. 


A Shell engineer was testing a new lens for his camera, and took this sharp view of the Union Oil Center.


In 1962, the iconic 76 ball signs began appearing on Union Oil stations. An often-repeated story says that the wife of a refinery manager used a Styrofoam ball with the company’s 76 logo on it as a centerpiece at a dinner, and that gave one of the marketing managers an idea…

In any case, the first place the 76 balls appeared was at a ride at the 1962 Seattle, sponsored by. Union Oil.


When Union Oil was 75 years old…

The big event of 1965 was the merger of Union Oil with Pure Oil, making a nearly nationwide company.

 Union Oil Company of California purchased Pure Oil in 1965. Shortly after acquisition by Union Oil, Pure Oil's Refining & Marketing operations became the Pure Oil Division of Union Oil Company of California with the Pure Oil name continuing in full force. By 1970, the Pure Oil brand was phased out, and remaining service stations and auto/truck stops were rebranded as Union 76. The Pure Oil Division was merged with Union Oil's west coast Refining & Marketing division to become the Union 76 division.

After 1970, the Pure Oil name was retained as a registered trademark, while the Firebird brand name was retained and used primarily for motor oils and lubricants that were not extensively marketed toward consumers.


Union Oil named some of its tankers after its oil fields. One of them was named Torrey Canyon. During a time when the company had more tankers than it needed, the Torrey Canyon was chartered to British Petroleum.

On 18 March 1967, owing to a navigational error, she struck Pollard's Rock on the Seven Stones reef, between the Cornish mainland and the Isles of Scilly. The resulting oil spill polluted the coasts of the UK, France and Spain. It was the worst oil spill at the time. Fortunately, Union Oil’s name was never associated with the disaster.

After the merger with Pure Oil, the combined company made major revisions to the existing Chicago refinery:



At 10:45 am on Tuesday morning, January 28, 1969, about five miles off the coast from the aptly named small coastal community of Summerland, all hell broke loose. Like most catastrophes, there was not one point of failure but many acting in concert. The problems began on an offshore drilling rig operated by Union Oil called platform Alpha, where pipe was being extracted from a 3,500 foot deep well. The pressure difference created by the extraction of the pipe was not sufficiently compensated for by the pumping of drilling mud back down the well, which caused a disastrous pressure increase.

As the pressure built up and started to strain the casing on the upper part of the well, an emergency attempt was made to cap it, but this action only succeeded in further increasing the pressure inside the well. The consequence was that under extreme pressure a burst of natural gas blew out all of the drilling mud, split the casing and caused cracks to form in the seafloor surrounding the well. A simple solution to the problem was now impossible; due to the immense pressure involved and the large volume of oil and natural gas being released a “blowout” occurred and the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill was under way.

Mike Utt says: “I was a graduate student when this happened, and I had very little knowledge of the petroleum industry. There was considerable discussion of the causes of the resulting gasoline prices and shortages. In early 1974, I interviewed for a job with Exxon. When I was with an Exxon engineer who had an Exxon company car, and he could not get any gasoline at the Exxon station in the basement of the building in Century City where Exxon had its western region headquarters, I concluded that the fuel shortage was pretty real.”


 Another one of Union Oil’s first major international developments was the Heather field, in the UK sector of the North Sea. After several years of platform design, fabrication and installation, the field went on production in 1978.

The first oil shock in 1973 moved crude prices up to about $12 per barrel; the second shock tripled them again. The effects on the US economy were pretty severe. Does anyone remember the prime interest rate at 20% and “stagflation?”

Photo credit for the picture above belongs to Ray Evans, who was working at the Rodeo refinery during the 1980 strike. The manure bag indicates the opinion of the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers Union about the offer from Union Oil…

In 1980 and 1981, J. Ray McDermott built the Cerveza and Cerveza Ligera platforms for Unocal. These were installed in over 900 feet of water in the Gulf of Mexico. At the time they were among the deepest water single-piece platforms ever constructed. The names (“Beer” and “Light Beer”) were chosen to emphasize their low cost compared to Shell’s Cognac platform, installed in over a thousand feet of water a few years earlier.

 Shell definitely understood the joke.


The 2 graphs above show how the relatively high price of crude oil coincided with the all-time peak in the number of Union Oil employees. Similarly, the collapse of oil prices in the spring of 1986 (very memorable to those of us who were in the business at the time) led to the sharp decline in the number of employees before the end of that same year.

First, let’s make clear the difference between oil from shale reservoirs, like what’s being produced from hydraulically fractured horizontal wells in North Dakota these days, and oil shale like Union Oil tried to make commercial in Colorado in the 1980’s.

In Colorado oil shale, there are kerogens which can be “cooked” to make chemical changes and create something very similar to crude oil. The question is whether that can be done at a profit. Union Oil did not achieve that in the 1980’s, and no other company has achieved it either.


In 1985, Boone Pickens attempted to take over control of Union Oil. Unocal fought him off, but not without significant injury to itself.  The winning tactic was a stock buyback, which Union CEO Fred Hartley referred to it as “Replacing the warm blood of equity with the ice water of debt.” Unocal’s corporate debt increased from $1.2 Billion before Pickens to $5.3 Billion afterwards. Money that could have gone towards oil and gas exploration had to go to interest on the debt instead.

The bar graph below, showing Union Oil long-term debt before and after the Pickens affair, illustrates the problem. The fact that oil prices collapsed in the spring of 1986 made this situation worse.

In November of 1989, a weather event occurred that had never been seen before: a typhoon arose in the Gulf of Thailand. Previously, typhoons had come to the Gulf of Thailand from the south, but this was the first time one got its start there. Weather forecasting was and is experience-based, typically something that has never before been observed will not be forecast.

The drillship Seacrest was working for Unocal Thailand in the Gulf, and had the derrick full of drill pipe so that it was relatively top-heavy. The un-forecast typhoon took the operation by surprise. In the emergency, the rig tried to use the emergency releases to let go of the moorings. One downwind anchor leg did not release, and when the ship reached the end of the line the combination of the wind load, the top-heavy derrick and the un-released anchor line cause the rig to roll over.

Only six workers from the rig survived; 91 were lost. The survivors were the ones who found a piece of flotsam to cling to after the ship capsized; just a life vest didn’t seem to be enough.

The workforce had included Americans, Canadians, Indonesians, Filipinos and Thais. Unocal offered the families of each of the victims the equivalent of 10 years’ salary. Most of the Indonesians, Filipinos and Thais tearfully accepted the payment. Most of the American and Canadian families got a lawyer and tried to see if they could do better.

There was one special case: One rig worker’s Thai wife came into the Bangkok office and accepted the offer of 10 years’ salary. Then a week or two later his Filipina wife came in. After some consultation among the Unocal lawyers, it was decided that the least-cost option was to pay her as well. It seems that each of his wives thought he was working 3 weeks on and one week off.

When Union Oil was 100 years old…

1990 News story:

Unocal Will Spend More Overseas on Exploration

Los Angeles Times, February 27, 1990

Unocal Corp. said Monday that this year, for the first time in company history, it will spend more for expenses of foreign exploration for energy resources than it does for exploration in the United States.

Expenses for foreign exploration of petroleum and geothermal energy will increase to $111 million in 1990 from $76 million in 1989, the company said. U.S. expenses will increase less dramatically, to $106 million from $92 million.

The reversal reflects an industrywide trend toward overseas exploration because of lower costs and less stringent environmental regulations, said M. Craig Schwerdt, an industry analyst with Seidler Amdec Securities Inc. in Los Angeles.

Unocal's foreign energy exploration and production will be concentrated in Thailand, Indonesia, the Netherlands and Ecuador, the company said.

Overall, Los Angeles-based Unocal said it would boost capital and exploration spending to $1.5 billion in 1990, a 22% increase over 1989's $1.2 billion.

"The increased investment level reflects the company's improved cash flow and strategy of investing in projects which offer improved returns," said Unocal Chairman Richard J. Stegemeier in a statement.

The capital budget in 1990 would be $1.27 billion, up from $1.05 billion in 1989. That would include domestic capital expenditures of $858 million and foreign capital expenditures of $413 million in 1990.

Under that, capital spending for domestic petroleum exploration and production will amount to $424 million in 1990. Capital spending for foreign petroleum exploration and production, including Canada, will be $370 million.

In refining, marketing and transportation, Unocal plans capital expenditures of $220 million in 1990, up from $143 million a year ago. The money will go to build new equipment at its Los Angeles refinery and to improve its service station and truck stop system. 

It isn’t a secret that upstream operations – oil exploration and production – are generally more profitable than downstream operations – refining, transportation and marketing. When a good opportunity to sell the downstream operations came up in 1997, management took that opportunity, and turned their full attention to the more profitable part of the business.

So, by 1999, Unocal was an international E&P company.

 International oil production was 61% of the total.


In energy terms, the company produced more gas than oil, most of that from overseas.

Gas production was 306 million BOE per day, compared to 175.5 BOE per day of oil. 

International Oil & Gas provided the largest slice of the cash flow pie.

On August 1, 2001 Unocal Indonesia got government permission to proceed with development of the West Seno field, in over 3,000 feet of water just south of the Equator on the east coast of Borneo. Twenty-four and a half months later, the field started production. It was Unocal’s first floating production system, and the first deepwater development in Indonesian waters. The overall cost, including development drilling, was about $850 million. It is probably the last deepwater development which will ever be finished for less than a billion dollars.

This photo of the West Seno field shows the tension-leg platform at the right, with a drilling tender moored alongside, towards the bottom center of the picture. The spread-moored Floating Production Unit is at the upper left, with a construction barge on the far side.

The West Seno field is still being operated by Chevron, but may not be profitable; it has never met its production targets.

The graph above shows the decline in the number of Union Oil employees from the peak year of 1984 until the last Annual Report in 2004. The biggest drop is related to the sale of the refining, marketing and transportation assets to Tosco Corporation in 1997, but the overall decline was pretty continuous.


What led to the end of the Union Oil Company of California? One informed opinion is “lack of exploration success.” An exploration and production company needs to keep finding more reserves to stay in business. Union Oil’s reserves peaked at 2,834.4 million barrels of oil equivalent in 1968. As shown by the graph above, reserves declined by an average of about 1.3 percent per year from the peak in 1968 until the end in 2004, with the last annual report showing 1,753.7 million barrels of oil equivalent.

When Union Oil was almost 115 years old… 

Union Oil reached the end of the line just a couple of months before its 115th anniversary.

San Francisco Chronicle, August 11, 2005:

Chevron completes Unocal deal / Purchase spells end of 115-year-old oil company 

Oil giant Chevron Corp. completed its $17.9 billion purchase of Unocal Corp. Wednesday, the finale of a tortuous four-month takeover that touched off an international bidding war and strained the United States' relations with China.

The two companies, both survivors of California's 19th century oil boom, declared the sale done just hours after a Unocal shareholders meeting in a Los Angeles-area hotel voted to support it, with more than 96 percent in favor.

For San Ramon's Chevron, the deal brings a needed boost to the company's oil and natural gas reserves, helping it compete at a time of tightening supplies and soaring prices. For Unocal, Wednesday's vote spelled the end of the company's 115-year history of independence.

"This is an important milestone for Chevron, and I want to welcome Unocal employees to our company," said Chevron Chief Executive Officer David O’Reilly. "The addition of Unocal strengthens our position as a global energy leader, and together we will be able to accomplish great results."

The deal almost didn't happen. For months, Chevron battled a rival bid from China National Offshore Oil Corp., which coveted Unocal's Asian oil reserves. The foreign firm offered more money, $18.5 billion, an amount that tempted Unocal's board.

But the bid from CNOOC, partly owned by the Chinese government, provoked an outcry in Congress, where politicians view China's growing thirst for oil as a threat. Stung by the backlash, China National pulled its bid last week. Chevron's offer was the only one left on the table when Unocal shareholders met Wednesday.

Many energy economists say the takeover will have little effect on consumers. Oil prices are set by the international market, not individual companies. And Unocal hasn't owned gas stations for a while, so a merger won't give Chevron more power to raise gasoline prices.

Chevron now must focus on absorbing Unocal's operations in the United States and overseas.

Chevron has already extended job offers to more than 5,000 of Unocal's 6, 400 employees, with 95 percent accepting. Although industry analysts expect some job losses, Chevron said Wednesday that it will offer positions to many of the remaining 1,400 Unocal employees and finish the selection process by the end of September.

Unocal's CEO, Charles Williamson, will join Chevron temporarily as an executive vice president to aid the transition. He is expected to leave later this year. Unocal's El Segundo headquarters will probably close in 2006.

Wall Street will be watching the transition closely. Investors pushed up Chevron shares by 2.06 percent Wednesday to $62.48. Unocal's shares rose 0.84 percent to $66.10 on their last day of trading.

Many analysts consider the deal a gamble.

Chevron has watched its oil and natural gas reserves slip and has had trouble finding new sources to replace the 2.5 million barrels it pumps each day. Buying Unocal will increase its reserves 15 percent and swell its daily production to 2.8 million barrels.

But Chevron is paying a lot for that boost, analysts argue.

"Will it, in the end, prove to be a cost-effective way for Chevron to expand its reserves? If energy prices stay high, the answer is yes," said Jeb Armstrong, an analyst with Argus Research.

From that standpoint, the takeover got off to an auspicious start. Crude oil for future delivery closed at $64.90 per barrel Wednesday, a new high.

But if oil falls back to the $20-$30 level, where it stayed for years, "at that range, it would prove to be a boondoggle," Armstrong said.

O'Reilly, however, said the deal doesn't rely on high oil prices, nor was it planned with $60 per barrel in mind.

About 60 percent of Unocal's production is natural gas, he noted, and much of the gas is already committed in long-term contracts at lower prices.

"This deal is not as highly leveraged to oil prices as you might think," O'Reilly said in an interview. "We're not counting on higher prices. We put the same economic criteria to this that we do to all our transactions."

Although he drew widespread attention earlier this year by declaring an end to the era of cheap oil, O'Reilly said crude prices can't climb indefinitely. They eventually will force consumers to use less as well as boost the amount of capital flowing into oil production. Supplies will grow, pushing prices down, he said.

"I'm as surprised as you are at $60 oil," O'Reilly said. "I would anticipate that oil prices will moderate, but I've been wrong for months on this."

Oil's stunning price climb formed the backdrop for Chevron's tug-of-war with CNOOC, which raised the threat of international competition over a limited supply of crude.

Chevron and Unocal first announced plans for the buyout on April 4, with Chevron offering roughly $16.5 billion. Chevron needed to boost production, and oil field projects now under development wouldn't make a noticeable difference until sometime next year.

"We're waiting for these projects to kick in," said analyst Tina Vital with Standard & Poor's. "So the Unocal deal fills the hole and adds to the future."

In late June, CNOOC announced its unsolicited $18.5 billion offer for Unocal.

Members of Congress, including some who had received campaign contributions from Chevron over the years, immediately objected. Many faced constituents grumbling about the cost of filling up their cars. Both Democrats and Republicans worried that the Chinese government was trying to buy up oil supplies that the United States would need, and they complained that CNOOC's government financing gave it an unfair advantage in a bidding war. Working with rare speed, the lawmakers passed legislation to slow down any deal between China National and Unocal.

Chevron argued that its stock-and-cash offer, although lower than CNOOC's, posed fewer risks for Unocal shareholders. Chevron also increased its bid to $17 billion, a figure that in recent days has risen to roughly $17.9 billion as the company's stock price has risen. Rather than continue in the face of congressional opposition, China National bowed out.  


When Unocal was bought by Chevron, Chevron was 6 or 7 times as big as Unocal.


Well, the oil and gas business has been a boom-and-bust business through its whole history, and the last 10 years are no exception to that.

If Unocal was struggling in the effort to find more reserves, so is Chevron….

In the 10 years shown in the graph above, Chevron’s oil-equivalent reserves have averaged a decline of over a million barrels PER WEEK!

We don’t think Chevron has a public goal for reserves, but they have one for production rate, and the graph above shows it.

Well, how are they doing?

Not too well, as shown on this graph.

And worse yet, early in 2015 they cut the capital investment budget due to current prices, so making that goal seems very doubtful.

Publically, Chevron says they are still committed to producing 3.1 million barrels oil equivalent per day by 2017.

Good luck to them.


SEE the old "Murph" commercials  - links on our "Links" page - click here!

See our article on the 1984 struggle between CEO Fred Hartley and T. Boone Pickens for the future of Unocal.

As we go forward we hope others who were part of or interested in the Unocal Era will visit and contribute to preserving the history, accomplishments and effort that made Unocal a historic California and international petroleum producing and refining corporation.

You can read or post comments by clicking the comment logo just below.



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Reader Comments (16)

Hi Mike,

What a great idea! I worked extensively with Union/Unocal in many locations - Ventura in Cat Canyon, Santa Paula production/eng office, offshore on many of the platforms and even in Indonesia when I spelled an ex-pat in my company. Consequently I have fond memories of many of the people I worked with at Unocal.

January 1, 2011 | Registered CommenterLarryG


I joined Union Oil in 1974, when many of the employees were very loyal to the company - and the company was pretty loyal to them, too. The world has changed a lot since then, but there are still a lot of people who have good feelings about their experience with Union Oil and/or Unocal.


January 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMike Utt

From Neill Freeman:

The Boone Pickens case was MY case.

We were able to prove that Pickens went over the threshold in a series of trades rather than in a single block. $48 million (if I recall correctly) recovery for Unocal as disgorgement of insider trading profits. Interestingly, he acquired the “block” in a series of “as-of” trades through Jeffries & Co. who used Stevens & Co in Little Rock to allegedly assemble the block. We were in the Rose Law firm Offices at the same time Hilary couldn’t find the Whitewater Billing files. Because of sequencing codes on the actual trade slips we proved that the trades actually spanned over a full trading week, NOT the single Block trade Mesa contended. (For Mesa, their single block could have been assembled, and they usually are, from multiple sources – but it is a Block only if it happens concurrently and this clearly didn’t happen.)(Side light – we picked up a number of cases for Jeffries after that)

The lawyer that took credit for it was Darryl Snider, now at Heller Ehrman, but the real lawyer was Pat Coughlin (then of Milberg Weiss) who had brought the original Shareholder derivative suit and carried the laboring oar on the securities purchases side where we broke the case.

January 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMike Utt


Great web site. As we are telling war stories about T. Boone Pickens ...

I usually played Union 76 stock with Put and Call Options in the 80's. The stock would move in the $30-$40 dollar range, so it was buy the Call option in the low $30s and buy the Put near $40. Needless to say I bought a bunch of $40 Puts, 6 months out, a few days before Pickens hostile takeover of Union 76. Within a month my $1/share Puts were worth 10 cents/share and becoming worthless..
Those of you that were around at this time vividly remember the stock holders meeting attended by Pickens that was televised to a number of offices. Needless to say, if Boone was successful then Brea Reseach was history. I had planned to buy 500 $40 put options for 15 cents/share, but figured I'd need the money if I was redeployed.
Needless to say, Pickens failed in his takeover bid, and I ended up getting $6/share for my Put options when the stock dropped back into the low $30s before the Put expiration date.
I had mixed emotions after this event, since had I bought those 500 $40 Put options, I would have made close to $300,000 and missed the next 14 years of my career with UNOCAL.

Best Regards,

Hello Mike,
Thanks for initiating this. There are many former Unocal alumni that are still connected with unique and intersting stories
You may recall our mutual effort in the investigation of an incident in Balikpapan in the 90's.
I retired subsequent to the Chevon buyout after 25 years with Unocal where I started on the Parachute Shale program in 1980 and spent the last 15 years of my career with the Corporate HES department.
I have fond memories of my career with a great company.
Best regards,

January 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Volpe

My Tribute to Milan Skripek:

Among my many memories of the many people I knew from Unocal, one person always brings a smile to my face and that person was Milan Skripek. I remember Milan Skripek very well. When I first joined Unocal, I was hoping to find some people who might be interested in playing tennis. I found out about the Unocal tennis ladder (of which I would later become the coordinator) and called up several people including Milan to set up a match. Milan was very selective in whom he would play and told me that he wouldn't play me until I had beaten Mike Hunter first. Mike was pretty high up on the ladder and Milan was using him to screen his potential opponents.

When I finally beat Mike Hunter and satisfied all the requirements he imposed for me to be able to challenge him, he still couldn't find time to play me because of the other matches he had already set up. One Saturday morning at 8 AM, I was awoken from a deep sleep by a telephone call from Milan. He was at the Fullerton Tennis Center and his 8 AM match had just canceled out on him and he wanted to know if I could make it down to the courts right away to play since he had already paid for the 1-hour court time. I rushed down to the Fullerton Tennis Center to promptly get beaten 6-1 6-0, well before the 9 AM time limit.

I didn't fare much better the second time I played him because he made me run around with his accurate placement shots and deadly overheads. Eventually, I closed the gap on him and I think I might have even beaten him once or twice - but for an old bow-legged guy, he sure was a darn good tennis player. He hated to waste time warming up - he only had a limited amount of time and energy so why waste it warming up? I'm the same way now so that's one thing I learned from Milan.

One time Steve Lipman (former president of the Unocal Science and Technology Division - formerly known as the Unocal Research Center) asked him how he did in a tennis tournament he had entered because Steve had heard Milan had gotten to the final round. Milan started out by complaining about how sick he was and how young (in their prime) the other entrants were. He then went into detail about his opponent's hard serves and powerful strokes. But then Steve knowingly interjected, "So what score did you finally win by?" To which Milan answered, "6-2 6-1... but it was a lot harder than the final score indicated."

What a guy. I would have loved to have the chance to play him again one last time. His game was perfectly suited for older tennis players. All guile and no pace. As I am now the "old" tennis player, he is the standard to which I aspire.

I hope to hear more stories about the Unocal days from others.

February 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHoai Dovan

Thanks for setting this up. I was hired by Milan Skripek at 76 Research in 1981 as a Technician. I spent 9 years there working in the Process Development group in U and V buildings (3yrs), then the Product Evaluation group in the Engine/Knock lab (3 yrs), followed by the Product Development group (Lubes 3 yrs). I was very fortunate to work with some of the most intellegent and thoughtful people in my working career. I am now on my 30th year in the industry but I will never forget the fun times that we had at S&T. How do I go about sending some photos that might be of interest?

February 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBarry Duffin

Mike -- Brilliant idea! Thanks for your efforts in setting up this site -- looking at it brought to mind some great years with Unocal in Brea and Sugar Land. I visited Orange County last year, and it was tough to keep a dry eye when I saw the flat land at Imperial and Valencia. Anyway, I plan to forward the URL for the Unocal Legacy site far and wide. All the best, Joe Curiale

March 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJoe Curiale

Hey Mike!

Great idea. There are hundreds of ex-Unocal folks in the Houston area. I look back with pride at my 23 years with Unocal. What a shame Unocal is no longer around. It was the best - by far - of all the major oil companies around.

I will never forget Mike Utt & I standing on the deck of the West Seno TLP offshore Indonesia when we ran the first completion riser. It was touch & go for a while, but turned out great.

Glen Anthony

May 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGlen Anthony

I have a completely self-serving post comment on the Pickens takeover attempt. I ran the Exploration Department Library at the time, and it was located on the 7th floor of the Union Oil/Unocal headquarters building in downtown Los Angeles. The meetings with Mr. Pickens and his people frequently took place in the conference room right across the hall from the library. I usually stayed at work after hours to clear up paperwork, and on days when the Pickens group had been there, I always checked out the conference room for leftover goodies, usually in the form of extra cans of soda. Cheap of me, I know - and probably somewhat unethical, as the unopened cans could have been used for other meetings, but I was not terribly well-compensated. I did enjoy my work, though, and looked upon the meeting leftovers as a job perk! People I remember from my years with the company are Bill Sax and Doyle Paul, Exploration Division leadership, Kim Park (the gracious and very capable division secretary/admin. asst.), Frank Tomaszewski (head of the Drafting group), Bill Sulkoske and many geologists and geophysicists, Harold Zahner from the Legal Dept. (who originally hired me into the Litigation Support group), and my best buddies from Litigation Support - Cherie Bartlett and Cindy Govea.

April 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterArdis Weiss

Thanks for the great retrospective on the 125th anniversary of the company! I didn't remember the 1989 Seacrest disaster (probably because I was on maternity leave at the time.) Thanks for allowing us to remember our shared past.

February 9, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSandy Minner

Hi Mike,
Thanks for a great job. It brings back many good memories which makes me feel that maybe I am not 39 yrs old anymore after all. Like Hoai, I also have many good memories of our good late friend , smiling Milan. I never saw him play tennis, but saw him play a spectacular ping pong game with Bernie Peralta many moons ago, for which he should have charged a fee for watching. Did you know that he was one of our great translators when we had some Russians at the Research Center to license our MCCF Enhanced Recovery Process? You should, because when the Russians were at the Research Center, playful Mike had ‘thoughtfully” pasted the acronym of the process high above the entrance to my office where I couldn't reach it, with some “misinforming” good taste explicit such as saying the “M” stood for Moscow, etc. Ha ha. Milan didn't know how to translate that. Thanks again. Sam Sarem

October 15, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSam Sarem

I didn't see any mention of the Avila Beach oil pipeline leak that allowed 400,00 gallons of petroleum products to leak for years under the town and the resistance of UNOCAL to clean it up. They finally did, to the tune of 200 million dollars

March 11, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSteve


You are right - I didn't mention Avila in that summary of Unocal history. A bigger pollution problem, less visible to the public, was the underground plume at the Guadalupe oil field. That problem had many consequences, including a California judge threatening prison time for Unocal executives. You can get quite a bit of information by Googling "Unocal Guadalupe."

Mike Utt

March 12, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMike Utt

Hey Mike great article. I am a collector of anything unocal. The first pic u have of the minute man Sign is awesome. I've never seen that particular sign before is there anything you could tell me about it . thanks again for the great history lesson

April 21, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Rogers BTW

Anyone know of a centennial lithograph by artist bob wynne which shows a collage of pictures of union oil buildings and founders and ceo s over 1890 to 1990. I saw the framed copy of one today someone bought at a yard sale only 1200 were produced. I spent many hours trying to find info on the artist without success.ease let me know if you have any info.bodenj thanks.

October 9, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterBodenmiller

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