A History Of Petrol
The modern history of petroleum began in the 19th century with the refining of paraffin from crude oil. The Scottish chemist James Young in 1847 noticed a natural petroleum seepage in the Riddings Colliery at Alfreton from which he distilled a light thin oil suitable for use as lamp oil, at the same time obtaining a thicker oil suitable for lubricating machinery. In 1846, Baku the first ever well drilled with percussion tools to a depth of 21 meters for oil exploration. In 1848, Young set up a small business refining the crude oil. The new oils were successful, but the supply of oil from the coal mine soon began to fail (eventually being exhausted in 1851). Young, noticing that the oil was dripping from the sandstone roof of the coal mine, theorised that it somehow originated from the action of heat on the coal seam and from this thought, that it might be produced artificially.
Following up this idea, he tried many experiments and eventually succeeded, by distilling cannel coal at a low heat, a fluid resembling petroleum, which when treated in the same way as the seep oil gave similar products. Young found that by slow distillation he could obtain a number of useful liquids from it, one of which he named “paraffin oil” because at low temperatures it congealed into a substance resembling paraffin wax.
In 1850 Young & Meldrum and Edward William Binney entered into partnership under the title of E.W. Binney & Co. They became the first truly commercial oil-works and oil refinery in the world, using oil extracted from locally mined Torbanite, shale, and bituminous coal to manufacture Naptha and lubricating oils; paraffin for fuel use and solid paraffin were not sold till 1856.
Abraham Gesner, a Canadian geologist developed a process to refine a liquid fuel from coal, bitumen and oil shale. His new discovery, which he named kerosene, burned more cleanly and was less expensive than competing products, such as whale oil.
By 1854, he had expanded to the United States where he created the North American Kerosene Gas Light Company at Long Island, New York. Demand grew to where his company’s capacity to produce became a problem, but the discovery of petroleum, from which kerosene could be more easily produced, solved the supply problem.
Samuel Kier established America’s first oil refinery in Pittsburgh on Seventh avenue near Grant Street, in 1853. In addition to the activity in West Virginia and Pennsylvania, an important early oil well in North America was discovered in Canada in 1858. The discovery at Oil Springs touched off an oil boom which brought hundreds of speculators and workers to the area.
By 1910, significant oil fields had been discovered across the world and were being developed at an industrial level. Availability of oil and access to it, became of “cardinal importance” in military power before and after World War I, particularly for navies as they changed from coal, but also with the introduction of motor transport, tanks and airplanes. Such thinking would continue in later conflicts of the twentieth century, including World War II, during which oil facilities were a major strategic asset and were extensively bombed. In 1938, vast reserves of oil were discovered along the coast of the Persian Gulf.
Until the mid-1950s coal was still the world’s foremost fuel, but after this time oil quickly took over. Later, following the 1973 and 1979 energy crises, there was significant media coverage on the subject 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.
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.
The top three oil producing countries are Saudi Arabia, Russia, and the United States.