History of Oil Refinement and the Oil Industry, Part 1

At Oilfield Equipment & Manufacturing, we take pride in offering the highest-quality services available when it comes to the manufacturing of oil rig and drilling components, from hydraulic tubing to rod pump components and numerous others. We’re a CNC manufacturer who has been in business for over three decades, helping oil rig operators and staff perform their tasks safely and effectively using only the best possible materials.

In addition to our attention to detail and quality products, we’re highly appreciative of the history behind the oil drilling field and, more broadly, the value of oil over the centuries, particularly recent history, as a human energy source. In this two-part blog series, we’ll go over the origins of oil as a fuel and energy source, plus how it became a major such source and how we got to where we are today.

history oil refinement industry

From Wood to Coal to Oil

During the earlier parts of human history, wood was the primary fuel for many centuries, including nearly our entire modern history. But near the start of the 18th century came the invention of the first modern steam engine, which could be powered either by wood or by coal. Coal quickly became the preferred source here, as it was far cheaper and more efficient than wood for the steam engine.

And while oil itself was discovered and utilized many centuries earlier, which we’ll get to in a moment, it burst onto the scene in the early 20th century.

Oil’s Major Economic Breakthrough

In reality, the first oil was discovered by Chinese civilizations all the way back in 600 BC, when they used bamboo pipelines to collect and transport it. However, it was not until the mid-1800s and even the start of the 1900s that it became recognized as a viable energy source.

In 1859, to be precise, Colonel Drake discovered oil in Pennsylvania. Over 40 years later, in 1901, the famous Spindletop oil discovery began to turn even more heads. Quickly, people began to realize that petroleum was a better product than coal for energy.

As the 1900s wore on, oil quickly became the most popular energy source, largely due to light bulbs and the advent of the automobile. The demand for high-quality power sources for these items led to greater need for oil, which was selling at far higher rates than kerosene by 1919.

For the remainder of this series, we’re going to take a step back and break down the origins of the oil and gas industry, leading to our modern setup.

Standard Oil and Original Oil Powers

While, as we just noted, oil didn’t truly break into worldwide consciousness as a fuel source until the early 1900s, the oil industry had begun to form well before this. John D. Rockefeller is perhaps the most famous early figure here – his Standard Oil Company, founded in 1865, became the dominant power in American oil, handling roughly 90% of the country’s refining capacity, pipelines and oil gathering systems.

Around the world, other companies looked to seize similar dominance levels in other oil-heavy areas. Royal Dutch Petroleum was one big name, as was a company now known as British Petroleum (BP). These companies have evolved into Shell, ExxonMobil and BP, which are considered three of the major oil companies in operation today.

For more on the history of oil drilling and use as an energy source, or to learn about any of our drilling equipment or other services, speak to the staff at Oilfield Equipment & Manufacturing today.