Petroleum History

Kinds of Petroleum, has been used since ancient times, and now its so important across society, including in economy, politics and technology.

Small amounts of petroleum have been used during history. The Egyptians make mummies and sealed their mighty Pyramids with pitch. The Babylonians, Assyrians, and Persians used it to pave their streets and for their walls and buildings . Boats along the Euphrates were constructed with woven reeds and sealed with pitch. The Chinese also came across it while digging holes for brine (salt water) and used the petroleum for heating. The Bible even claims that Noah used petroleum to make his Ark seaworthy.

American Indians used petroleum for painting, fuel, and medicine. Desert nomads used it to treat camels for mange, and the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, used petroleum it to treat his gout. Ancient Persians and Sumatrans also believed petroleum had medicinal value. This seemed a popular idea, and up through the 19th Century jars of petroleum were sold as miracle tonic able to cure whatever ailed you. People who drank "snake oil" understand that petroleum doesn't taste very good!

In 1847, the process to distill kerosene from petroleum was invented by James Young. He noticed a natural petroleum seepage in the Riddings colliery at Alfreton, Derbyshire from which he distilled a light thin oil good for use as lamp fuel, at the same time obtaining a thicker oil suitable for lubricating machinery. In 1848 Young set up a small business refining the crude oil.

Young eventually succeeded, by distilling cannel coal at a low heat, in creating a fluid resembling petroleum, which when treated in the same way as the seep oil gave similar products. Young found that by slow distillation he could gain a number of useful liquids from it, one of which he named "paraffine oil" because at low temperatures it congealed into a substance resembling paraffin wax.

The production of these oils and solid paraffin wax from coal created the subject of his patent dated 17 October 1850. In 1850 Young & Meldrum and Edward William Binney entered into partnership under the title of E.W. Binney & Co. at Bathgate in West Lothian and E. Meldrum & Co. at Glasgow; their works at Bathgate were completed in 1851 and became the first truly commercial oil-works in the whole world with the first modern oil refinery, using oil extracted from locally-mined torbanite, shale, and bituminous coal to manufacture naphtha and lubricating oils; paraffin for fuel use and solid paraffin were not sold until 1856.

Another early refinery was built by Ignacy Łukasiewicz, providing a cheaper alternative to whale oil. The demand for petroleum as a fuel for lighting in North America and around the world quickly grew. Edwin Drake's 1859 well near Titusville, Pennsylvania, is popularly considered the first modern well. Drake's well is probably singled out because it was drilled, not dug; because it used a steam engine; because there was a company associated with it; and because it touched off a major boom. However, there was considerable activity before Drake in various parts of the world in the mid-19th century. A group directed by Major Alexeyev of the Bakinskii Corps of Mining Engineers hand-drilled a well in the Baku region in 1848. There were engine-drilled wells in West Virginia in the same year as Drake's well. An early commercial well was hand dug in Poland in 1853, and another in nearby Romania in 1857. At around the same time the world's first, small, oil refinery was opened at Jasło in Poland, with a larger one opened at Ploiesti in Romania shortly after. Romania is the first country in the world to have had its annual crude oil output officially recorded in international statistics: 275 tons for 1857.

The first commercial oil well in Canada became operational in 1858 at Oil Springs, Ontario (then Canada West). Businessman James Miller Williams dug several wells between 1855 and 1858 before discovering a rich reserve of oil four meters below ground. Williams extracted 1.5 million liters of crude oil by 1860, refining much of it into kerosene lamp oil. William's well became commercially viable a year before Drake's Pennsylvania operations and could be argued to be the first commercial oil well in North America. The discovery at Oil Springs touched off an oil boom which brought hundreds of speculators and workers to the area. Advances in drilling continued into 1862 when local driller Shaw reached a depth of 62 meters using the spring-pole drilling method. On January 16, 1862, after an explosion of natural gas Canada's first oil gusher came into production, shooting into the air at a recorded rate of 3,000 barrels per day. By the end of the 19th century the Russian Empire, particularly the Branobel company in Azerbaijan, had taken the lead in production.

Access to oil was and still is a major factor in several military conflicts of the twentieth century, including World War II, during which oil facilities were a major strategic asset and were extensively bombed. The German invasion of the Soviet Union included the goal to capture the Baku oilfields, as it would provide much needed oil-supplies for the German military which was suffering from blockades. Oil exploration in North America during the early 20th century later led to the US becoming the leading producer by mid-century. As petroleum production in the US peaked during the 1960s, however, the United States was surpassed by Saudi Arabia and the Soviet Union.

Today, about 90 percent of vehicular fuel needs are met by oil. Petroleum also makes up 40 percent of all energy consumption in the United States, but is responsible for only 1 percent of electricity generation. Petroleum's worth as a portable, dense energy source powering the vast majority of vehicles and as the base of many industrial chemicals makes it one of the world's most important commodities. Viability of the oil commodity is controlled by several key parameters, number of vehicles in the world competing for fuel, quantity of oil exported to the world market (Export Land Model), Net Energy Gain (economically useful energy provided minus energy consumed), political stability of oil exporting nations and ability to defend oil supply lines.

The top three oil producing countries are Russia, Saudi Arabia and the United States. About 80 percent of the world's readily accessible reserves are located in the Middle East, with 62.5 percent coming from the Arab 5: Saudi Arabia, UAE, Iraq, Qatar and Kuwait. A large portion of the world's total oil exists as unconventional sources, such as bitumen in Canada and extra heavy oil in Venezuela. While significant amount of oil are extracted from oil sands, particularly in Canada, logistical and technical hurdles remain, as oil extraction requires large amounts of heat and water, making its net energy content quite low relative to conventional crude oil. Thus, Canada's oil sands are not expected to provide more than a few million barrels per day in the foreseeable future.


About Radiant Global

We supply our materials for use in the roads, construction and general civil engineering industry. Supplying bitumen and natural asphalt (“like-Gilsonite”) is also a significant part of our business


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