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Chapter 1 . Oil Basics
A brief history of the industry
T
 he world’s first oil wells were drilled in China around the 4th century
AD. The Chinese used simple bamboo poles to drill these
wells. The dark, sticky material they extracted was then used
primarily as a source of fuel.
In later centuries, oil was found across Asia and Europe.
Sometimes it accumulates in natural pools above the
ground. Travellers and settlers used the mysterious black
liquid for fuel, as well as for medical treatment.
The modern oil industry began in the mid-19th century.
On August 27, 1859, Colonel Edwin Drake discovered the
first underground oil reservoir near Titusville, Pennsylvania
(USA), after drilling a well only 21 metres (69 feet) deep. The
oil flowed easily. It was also easy to work with and distil. This oil
was known as a paraffin type of oil.
Drake worked for the Pennsylvania Rock Oil Company which
wanted to use the oil to light street lamps. Drake’s well initially
produced 30 barrels of oil per day (b/d). (One barrel is equal to 159
litres or 42 US gallons). Its success marked the beginning of the modern
oil industry.
Oil soon began to receivemore attention from the scientific community.
After some research, a variety of products were eventually developed
from crude oil. For example, kerosene for heating was one of the first
products.
Soon other products (like gasoline and diesel to run engines) were
also on the market. In 1890, the mass production of automobiles
began creating a huge demand for gasoline and pushing companies
to find more oil fields.
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