By the end of the 1920s, California had firmly established itself as a major
supplier of crude oil and the center of America's petroleum industry. Destinations
along the Atlantic seaboard, most notably New York, received a large amount of
the crude oil shipped out of San Pedro. Additionally, Asia, Hawaii, and other
Pacific locations received oil out of the Port of Los Angeles. In light of this
seemingly insatiable market, companies on both the east and west coasts acquired
ships able to handle the larger oil cargoes.
View from platform at the top of a
tank Click and drag to view a 360° panorama (147k)
Throughout the initial stages of the boom, when oil and petroleum products sold quickly, storage was not considered important and some of the earliest tanks were simple concrete-lined excavations covered with steel tops. Overproduction became a problem in the 1920s, and by 1930, California's oil wells were putting out an unprecedented amount of crude. In that year, the industry produced an average of 887,000 barrels a day, while the market could only absorb 675,000 barrels a day. After World War I, there was a lower demand for oil worldwide, but storage problems quickly became a primary concern. Nevertheless, oil companies continued to pump out crude with the fear that if they stopped, the competition would continue to collect oil regardless of whether anyone had a place to store it.
Overview of Berths 150-151 (1938)
At the end of the 1920s, the oil production companies, seeking new sources of local oil, began looking northward toward the Sacramento Valley, the northern San Joaquin Valley, and the northern Coast Ranges. In 1936, the General Petroleum Company found the last major oil find in the Los Angeles Basin. Located along the northwest edge of San Pedro Bay, the 1936 find marked the end of the Los Angeles Basin oil boom. (View modern photos of Berths 170-171.)