Fuel for Thought

Where Was the First Ever Oil Well?

Nov 04 2014 Comments 0

Versatile, valuable and incredibly useful, oil is a natural substance that is used to power the modern world as we know it. From cars and trucks to boats and planes, the naturally occurring resource has seen countries shoot from underdeveloped nations to ultra-wealthy empires. Today there are millions of commercial oil wells peppered across the globe, each one generating a huge amount of cash. But where did this worldwide phenomenon begin? To shed some light on the history of oil, we’ve scoured global records and come up with a list of what claim to be the world’s first ever oil wells.

The Drake Well

Names after Colonel Edwin Drake, the Drake Well claims to be the world’s first successful oil well. It kicked off the global search for petroleum and paved the way for today’s multi-billion pound oil industry. Despite its historical legacy, the Drake Well was located on a tranquil Pennsylvanian farm. While 1859 saw the first commercial harvesting of the oil, there is ample evidence that Native Americans had been using local oil sources for medicinal purposes since 1410 AD.

China’s early oil wells

The Native American’s may have been taping into oil sources since 1410 AD but according to historians, the Chinese have been harvesting the natural resource since as far back as 347 AD! They had no state-of-the-art drilling infrastructure, instead using bamboo poles fitted with hand crafted drill bits. Despite the lack of machinery, they still managed to achieve depths of up to 790 feet. Once harvested, the oil was used to evaporate brine and create salt.

Azerbaijan’s 9th century fields

According to some sources, the Azerbaijan capital of Baku was home to the world’s first oil fields. These were established in the 9th century and used to create petroleum naphtha, an intermediate hydrocarbon liquid. Marco Polo refers to the fields in his 13th century journals, writing, "On the confines toward Geirgine there is a fountain from which oil springs in great abundance, in as much as a hundred shiploads might be taken from it at one time.”

Ancient Babylonian wells

Over 4000 years ago, Greek historian Herodotus and Diodorus Siculus claim that asphalt was used as a key material in the construction Babylons walls and towers. Records indicate that the viscous petroleum based substance was derived from a series of oil pits located in Ardericca, as well as a pitch spring on the Greek island of Zacynthus. In addition to its use as a construction material, ancient Persian tablets reveal that upper class citizens used petroleum as a form of medicine and fuel.

Today’s oil industry may exist in colossal proportions, however a little research offers fascinating insight into its humble beginnings! Interested in learning more? You can find out which countries produce the most oil and learn about the diifferent types of crude oil right here on Petro Industry News. 

Image Source: Long Beach, California, 1948
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