A history of crude oil - the earliest years
In one sense the petroleum industry is very young and, from the perspective of its huge impact on global economic development and growth (and the resultant radical changes in human lifestyle), only started from the early years of the last century.
But crude oil had already been seeping to the surface in many parts of the globe for many thousands of years - and had not gone unnoticed by the human race even long before the hydrocarbon era really got started.
Usage of asphalt, bitumen and oil in their natural forms had already been recorded more than 4,000 years ago in building projects around the Middle East regions. China is also reported as using raw crude oil over 2000 years ago, whilst, at the same time, the Roman empire was also finding applications for raw crude.
Crude was already in those early times being used as a primitive energy source for heating and lighting.
According to Wikipedia, China is also credited with drilling the first oil wells, already prior to 350 AD, using drill bits attached to bamboo poles. In later centuries, bamboo poles were also being used there as pipelines.
In those early years, crude oil was known as ”rock oil” in the Far East and the modern term ”Petroleum” is derived from the medieval latin for this same term, i.e. petra (”rock”) + oleum (”oil”).
However, it took many centuries for oil to start being refined from its crude state into various fuels such as kerosene, and for it to start spreading around the globe.
Distillation became available in Western Europe by the 12th century and the earliest recordings of petroleum in the Americas was in 1595. The first map showing the oil springs of Pennsylvania was published in 1753
The first oil well and refinery in Russia was built in 1745, which used distillation of crude oil to produce a kerosene-like substance, used in oil lamps by Russian churches and monasteries.
But the oil industry itself really only got going around the start of the 1900’s…