Saturday, April 29, 2006
Oil Rig Platform, Scottish coast: a brief history of oil from Wikipedia
Ancient Persian tablets indicate the medicinal and lighting uses of petroleum in the upper echelons of their society.
In the 8th century, the streets of the newly-constructed Baghdad were paved with tar, derived from easily-accessible petroleum from natural fields in the region. In the 9th century, oil fields were exploited in Baku, Azerbaijan, to produce naphtha. These fields were described by the geographer Masudi in the 10th century, and by Marco Polo in the 13th century, who described the output of those wells as hundreds of shiploads. (See also: Timeline of Islamic science and technology.)
The modern history of petroleum began in 1846, with the discovery of the process of refining kerosene from coal by Atlantic Canada's Abraham Pineo Gesner. Poland's Ignacy Łukasiewicz discovered a means of refining kerosene from the more readily available "rock oil" ("petr-oleum") in 1852 and the first rock oil mine was built in Bobrka, near Krosno in southern Poland in the following year.
These discoveries rapidly spread around the world, and Meerzoeff built the first Russian refinery in the mature oil fields at Baku in 1861. At that time Baku produced about 90% of the world's oil. The battle of Stalingrad was fought over Baku (now the capital of the Azerbaijan Republic).
Oil field in California, 1938. The first modern oil well was drilled in 1848 by Russian engineer F.N. Semyonov, on the Aspheron Peninsula north-east of Baku.
The first commercial oil well drilled in North America was in Oil Springs, Ontario, Canada in 1858, dug by James Miller Williams.
The American petroleum industry began with Edwin Drake's discovery of oil in 1859, near Titusville, Pennsylvania. The industry grew slowly in the 1800s, driven by the demand for kerosene and oil lamps. It became a major national concern in the early part of the 20th century; the introduction of the internal combustion engine provided a demand that has largely sustained the industry to this day.
Early "local" finds like those in Pennsylvania and Ontario were quickly exhausted, leading to "oil booms" in Texas, Oklahoma, and California.
By 1910, significant oil fields had been discovered in Canada (specifically, in the province of Alberta), the Dutch East Indies (1885, in Sumatra), Persia (1908, in Masjed Soleiman), Peru, Venezuela, and Mexico, and were being developed at an industrial level.
Until the mid-1950s, coal was still the world's foremost fuel, but oil quickly took over. Following the 1973 energy crisis and the 1979 energy crisis, there was significant media coverage of oil supply levels. This brought to light the concern that oil is a limited resource that will eventually run out, at least as an economically viable energy source. At the time, the most common and popular predictions were always quite dire, and when they did not come true, many dismissed all such discussion.
The future of petroleum as a fuel remains somewhat controversial. USA Today news (2004) reports that there are 40 years of petroleum left in the ground. Some would argue that because the total amount of petroleum is finite, the dire predictions of the 1970s have merely been postponed. Others argue that technology will continue to allow for the production of cheap hydrocarbons and that the earth has vast sources of unconventional petroleum reserves in the form of tar sands, bitumen fields and oil shale that will allow for petroleum use to continue in the future, with both the Canadian tar sands and United States shale oil deposits representing potential reserves matching existing liquid petroleum deposits worldwide.
Today, about 90% of vehicular fuel needs are met by oil. Petroleum also makes up 40% of total energy consumption in the United States, but is responsible for only 2% 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.
Access to oil was a major factor in several military conflicts, including World War II and the Persian Gulf War. About 80% of the world's readily accessible reserves are located in the Middle East, with 62.5% coming from the Arab 5: Saudi Arabia (12.5%), UAE, Iraq, Qatar and Kuwait.
The USA has less than 3%.