The History of Oil Timeline
January 17, 2022
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November 12, 2018
The history of oil is extensive and incredibly interesting, with roots reaching as far back as the 6th Century BC. Back then, oil was used in weaponry to aid the battles of the army of Kir II, the first Shah of Achaemenid Empire (in what is present-day Iran). In contrast, now, oil has many uses across the globe and is a fundamental part of our day-to-day lives. While domestic heating oil users may simply see oil as the energy source they need to fire up their boilers or AGAs with, oil has had several varied uses throughout the centuries. As we explore the history of oil and the timeline of oil discovery, we note a few of our favourite oil history facts.
History of the Oil Industry: When Was Oil First Discovered?
1254-1324: The history of oil begins with a household name: Marco Polo. Some note that the Venetian explorer Marco Polo was the first Western man to make an oil discovery. The esteemed traveller visited the Persian city of Baku (in modern Azerbaijan), and saw oil being collected from seeps (fissures where crude oil naturally seeps out of). At this point in the oil production history timeline, the liquid was used in lighting and medicine, mostly for therapeutic healing purposes. Marco noted that the oil was being exported to nearby Eastern countries, most likely for the same purposes as used in Baku.
1723: Peter the Great of Russia (1672-1725) ordered a special decree regarding oil extraction. He demanded that Michael Matyushkin, who governed Baku, send "one thousand poods of white oil or as much as possible, and look for an increase in production". Baku was seen as a threat to the world, with many travellers writing about Baku's vast oil fields and the income this brought to the country every year. When we look back on the history of oil and the industry, Baku was a major player, both for production and consumption.
Oil Production History: When Was The First Oil Well Dug?
1803: The world's first successful sea oil extraction well began construction in 1803 in Bibi-Heybat Bay, in the Caspian Sea (Azerbaijan). These were located between 18 and 30 metres away from the shoreline and were hand-dug. Shortly after, in 1825, the offshore oil extraction was abandoned due to a strong storm destroying the wells.
Victories in the History of Oil Exploration: The Discovery of Kerosene
1846: 1846 was a revolutionary year for the history of oil exploration. Canadian geologist Gesner discovered kerosene by refining the liquid from coal, oil shale and bitumen. He claimed that it burnt cleaner than other oils and so was of greater use than the oils being used at the time. He founded the Kerosene Gaslight Company and used the oil to light the streets of Halifax. This oil was later used in the USA, travelling far and wide to light up people's streets.
1853: In July of 1853, Polish chemist Ignacy Lukaseiwicz discovered how to make kerosene from crude oil using an easier method than Gesner. His local hospital was desperate for kerosene lamps to help them illuminate surgery rooms, and so Lukasiewicz provided them with kerosene lamps, helping them to perform emergency surgical operations with improved lighting. Soon after, they ordered a number of his lamps and 500kg of kerosene. Overwhelmed with the order quantity, the Polish chemist established the world's first crude oil refinery in 1856.
Oil Production History: The First Commercial Wells
1858-1896: The first commercial oil well began operation in 1858 in the aptly named Oil Springs, in Ontario. This commercial oil well would be the first of its kind in the history of oil production, as its mass scale would support many businesses worldwide. Later, in 1896, the first offshore oil well was drilled in the Summerland Oil Field in California. These first oil wells were drilled by repeatedly dropping large cable tools into the earth, creating vast vertical wells. Oil history fact: Nowadays, wells are mostly horizontal, allowing for sufficient space and depth for tools.
1948: Upon discovering a bend in the Wadi-Al-Sahbah dry river bed in Saudi Arabia, petroleum geologists Steineke, Barger and Berg conspired that there might be an oil discovery to be made. They guessed that there might be an oil reservoir underneath. After many years, a huge oil reservoir was found named Ghawar Field. This was a major victory in the history of oil exploration, as Ghawar Field turned out to be the world's largest conventional oil field. It was put on a stream in 1951, and was reported in 2008 to have used 48% of its proven resources.
1949: Naft Daslari, also known as Oily Rocks, is confirmed in the Guinness World Records as the world's first offshore oil platform. Located within the Caspian Sea, 100km away from Baku, the oil platform is equipped with numerous drilling platforms and a population of 2,000. Over 190 miles of streets were built, making it a functional city out at sea! Oil history fact: Oily Rocks was originally called Black Stones!
History of the Oil Industry: Big Oil Era Begins
1969: In the 1960s, the UK Continental Shelf Act came into force, governing the drilling for oil on the continental shelf around the British Isles, hoping for a major oil discovery. Victory came in 1969, as the discovery of commercial oil was found in the Forties Field in the North Sea. Although oil was not produced until 1976, this marked a great milestone in the history of oil exploration for Britain.
1986: Towards the end of 1985, oil prices had been stable for over three years. However, as the demand for oil fell following the 1970s Energy Crisis and the market share for overproduction cut to support prices, the oil industry collapsed. As a result, oil prices plummeted from $27 per barrel to less than $10 a barrel. It was a simple case of supply and demand; however, when we look back at the history of the oil industry, this is one of the biggest blows the sector had ever seen.
2010: The Deepwater Horizon oil spill was one of the largest modern-day disasters the oceans have ever seen. BP-operated Macondo Prospect spilt over 780,000m3 worth of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Although the flow was sealed very quickly, many regard this as one of the largest environmental disasters in American history.
The history of oil is long-winded and steeped with history. From its many uses and discoveries, we're certain that the modern world wouldn't be as it is today without the use of oil. Despite competition from renewable energy sources, the oil industry remains stable and thriving. Here at Rix, we strive to provide you with the best oil for your needs, whether that be domestic heating oil or commercial fuel. For more information about the types of oil we can provide, check out our Information Hub. For further enquiries, please contact us today.