training specialists to the upstream oil and gas industry

A Brief History of Oil and Gas

40,000 BC Natural bitumen found on stone tools from Neanderthal sites in Syria

5,000 BC Ancient Egyptians use bitumen to create their mummies – mumiyyah Arabic for bitumen

2,000 BC Herodotus claims that asphalt was used in the tower of Babylon with bitumen recovered from the banks of local rivers

600 BC Ancient Greeks observe the “eternal fires” in Absheron peninsula (in modern Azerbaijan)

350 AD Chinese use bamboo drill strings to drill oil wells up to 300 m

1,000 Arabic geographer, Al-Mas’udi observes oil seeps in southern Europe and the Middle East. He dubs the Absheron peninsula bilad al-naffata (the land of the naphtha fountain)

1,000 15,000 inhabitants of Baku mostly involved in the extraction and export of oil. A primitive industry with hand dug wells at natural seeps collected in simple containers. Persian chemists facilitated the extraction by the technological breakthrough of distillation of the crude to separate Kerosene. Such technology was not available to Western Europe until1,200 AD

1,200 Oil production in Azerbaijan reaches almost 100 bbl/day creating an export market for oil

1,632 Natural oil springs found in New York

1750s Industrial revolution takes hold and powered by coal

1753 Seneca Indian trading oil seep products

1790 Nathanial Carey skims oil from seeps near Titusville, Pennsylvania

1846 Abraham Gessner develops process to refine liquid fuel from coal, bitumen and shale – kerosene. A cleaner and cheaper alternative to whale oil

1848 Well drilled to 21m at Bibi-Heybat in Azerbaijan

1853 Ignacy Lukasiewicz invents the modern kerosene lamp, a boon for the modern oil industry

1855 Ignacy Lukasiewicz opens first industrial refinery in the world in Ulaszowice

1859 Colonel Drake drills the first oil well for George Bissell’s Rock Oil Company and strikes oil on August 27 at a depth of 21m at Oil Creek where there were natural oil seeps. This was one of the first rotary drilled wells. The phrase Creekology referring to the exploration methods of the day, basically looking for and following oil seeps in creeks

1861-1865 American Civil War.1 Modern barrel of oil is equivalent to around 23,000 human energy slave hours

1865 Civil war is over and oil costs 59 cents per gallon

1870 John D Rockefeller sets up Standard Oil. Kerosene costs 26 cents per gallon

1873 Nobel brothers enter Baku and are in the Russian oil business

1877 Whaling industry is in disarray

1878 Thomas Edison invents the incandescent light bulb, now the oil industry is in disarray

1890 Royal Dutch was formed by Henri Deterding and Jean Baptist August Kessler to focus on the Dutch East Indies

1892 Samuel Samuels, of Shell fame, commissions the Murex, the world’s first oil tanker

1895 Oil is 7 cents a gallon

1896 First known offshore (saltwater) oil well is drilled at the end of a 300 ft wharf in Summerland, California

1896 Model T Ford is put into production and due to its popularity creates a new dawn in the oil industry

1900 In the United States there were 8,000 registered automobiles, by 1920 there were 8,500,000

1901 Jan10 Spindletop drilled to a depth of 347m produces a gusher of 100,000 bpd

1901 William Knox D’Arcy acquires a Persian concession

1907 Shell Transport and Trading Company and The Royal Dutch Petroleum Company merge to create Royal Dutch Shell

1908 Oil discovered in Persia leading to the creation of Anglo-Persian, later to become BP

1911 Standard Oil ordered to be broken up into 34 smaller companies under the Sherman Antitrust Act

1914 Oil asserts itself for the allies and in the mechanisation of the battlefield. The shortfall in German supplies hindered their war efforts

1922 Venezuela - Los Barroso discovered

1929 Onset of the Great Depression

1932 Oil discovered in Bahrain

1932-1933 Anglo-Iranian concession cancelled

1933 Standard of California (SOCAL, now known as Chevron) wins concession in Saudi Arabia

1938 Oil discovered in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait

1939 World War II

1940 United States limits oil supplies to Japan

1941 United States embargos oil to Japan. Japan attacks Pearl Harbour

1945 WWII ends Germany and Japan basically run out of fuel

1951 Iranians nationalise Anglo Iranian – First post-war oil crisis

1956 Suez crisis – Second post-war oil crisis

1956 Nigeria and Algeria discover oil

1958 Iraqi revolution

1959 Groningen natural gas field discovered and developed in the Netherlands.

1960 OPEC is founded

1967 Six Day war, closes Suez Canal – Third post-war oil crisis

1968 Alaskan North Slope, oil is discovered

1968 Ba’athists seize Iraqi power

1969 Gaddafi seizes power in Libya

1969 North Sea oil discovered

1969 Santa Barbara oil spill

1973 Yom Kippur Ware – Fourth post-war oil crisis. Oil rises from $2.90 to $11.65 in 3 months.

1974 International Energy Agency (IEA) founded

1975 First oil production from North Sea fields

1975 Saudi, Kuwaiti and Venezuelan concessions come to an end

1977 Alaskan North Slope oil comes to market

1979 Three Mile Island nuclear plant accident

1979 – 1981 Iranian hostage crisis. Oil rises from $13 to $34 – Fifth post-war oil crisis

1980 Iraq goes to war with Iran

1982 OPEC quotas

1983 OPEC cuts price to $29/bbl

1983 Crude oil futures floated on NYMEX

1986 Oil price collapse

1986 Chernobyl (USSR) nuclear accident

1988 Iraq Iran war ends

1988 Piper Alpha oil rig disaster, 167 oil rig workers died

1989 Exxon Valdez tanker oil spill

1990 Iraq invades Kuwait – Sixth post-war oil crisis

1998 Oil price $10/bbl

2003 Iraq war

2007 Oil price $147/bbl

2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, 11 fatalities, 16,000 miles of coastline affected and over 8,000 animals reported dead

2016 Oil price drops below $30/bbl

A Brief History of Oil and Gas References

  1. Penn Museum website -
  2. The View from the Mountain,
  4. Wikipedia
  5. The Prize – Daniel Yergin

A Brief History of Oil and Gas References
1. Penn Museum website -
2. The View from the Mountain,
4. Wikipedia
5. The Prize – Daniel Yergin





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