Frederick A. Sutton

Memorial grant
Grant 1894-1950

Frederick A. Sutton was born October 25, 1894, in Salt Lake City, Utah. After attending Salt Lake public schools, Mr. Sutton received an engineering degree from the University of Utah in 1917. He was awarded a scholarship in metallurgy at the University in the spring of 1917, but held it only until the following November when he enlisted in the Armed Forces of World War I. He served as sergeant in Company D of the First Gas Regiment, took part in five major battles and returned from Europe in February 1919. He worked one year for the Utah Road Commission, then began his career in the oil business.

His early experience was in 1920 when he worked in Monument Valley, San Juan County, where Midwest Oil Company and the Utah Oil Refining Company had a joint project. Later, he ran a plane-table for the Matador Company, working under Max Ball before going to Colombia in 1921 as a field geologist for Tropical Oil. In March 1925, he went to Argentina as field geologist for the Standard Oil Company of Bolivia with headquarters in Buenos Aires. He spent 11 years there.

In February 1937, he was loaned to Standard Vacuum Oil Company of New York and did exploratory work in China and Tibet. After an incident in 1937, when Japanese aircraft sank the “Panay” – a U. S. gunboat – in the Yangtze River, he was delayed coming home. He was in Siam when that city was bombed and was unable to get out of the country until June 1938.

This expedition was remarkable in many respects. It consisted of two trips. The first covered about 1,000 kilometers with pack mules through Kokonor, the upper valley of the Yellow River, and into northeastern Tibet. The second journey was by motor truck to Suchow, in northwest Kansu Province, and thence by camel caravan for 1,500 kilometers along the edge of the Gobi desert to Tunhuang, the border of Chinese Turkistan and return. Almost all the country traversed was virgin geological territory; much of it never before visited by foreigners. Incidental to this reconnaissance was discovery of the structure where the Chinese government, acting on recommendations contained in Fred’s report, developed an oil field which provided the country’s only domestic source of crude oil during World War II.

In 1939, he returned to Caripito where he worked a year for Creole Petroleum Corporation before going to Maracaibo. Considered an authority on the extensive Venezuelan producing area of the Maracaibo oil basin at that time, one of Sutton’s reports was published by the Bulletin of the AAPG, Vol. 30, No. 10, (Oct. 1946). In 1944, he transferred to the Caracas office where he served as chief of the surface geology section of the company until his retirement in 1950. Due to failing health, he died shortly afterward in Salt Lake City, Utah, on April 25, 1950.

The Frederick A. Sutton Memorial Grant is awarded annually to a deserving graduate student through the American Association of Petroleum Geologists Foundation Grants-in-Aid program, and is endowed by the AAPG Foundation with generous contributions from his family.