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History of the petroleum industry

The history of the petroleum industry began nearly simultaneously in the United States and Canada.


In the US, George Bissell and Edwin L. Drake made the first successful use of a drilling rig on August 28, 1859 at Titusville, Pennsylvania. This single well soon exceed the entire cumulative oil output of Europe since the 1650s. The principal product of the oil was kerosene.


North America's oil industry was born in 1858 when James Miller Williams built the first successful oil well on a deposit of "gum beds" located near the present-day towns of Oil Springs and Petrolia, in the southwest corner of Ontario, Canada. The beds had first been recognized by the Tripp brothers in 1851, but they failed to develop the find and sold the rights to Williams. Williams pumped 1.5 million litres of crude oil from his wells in his first two years. He then launched the first integrated oil company -- exploring, drilling and refining the oil into finished products -- with the founding of "The Canada Oil Company" in 1860.

For the next 50 years, these fields supplied 90% of the oil consumed in Canada and Petrolia became home to the world's most advanced oil development and refining technologies. The boom times were over by the turn of the century, but commercial wells continue pumping to this day. In all, the region has produced an estimated 10 billion barrels. When the Petrolia oil rush began to slow, the drillers there who had learned how to get oil from the ground efficiently found their skills and methods in high demand. Oil men who learned their trade in Petrolia dispersed around the world, to as many as 87 countries, to open today's great oil fields in the Middle East, Gobi Desert, South America, and elsewhere.


Capt. Anthony F. Lucas, an experienced mining engineer drilled the first major oil well at Spindletop. On the morning of January 10, 1901, the little hill south of Beaumont began to tremble and mud bubbled up over the rotary table.

A low rumbling sound came from underground, and then, with a force that shot six tons of four-inch pipe out over the top of the derrick, knocking off the crown block, the Lucas Gusher roared in and Spindletop, history's most famous oil field, was born.

It is estimated that this initial discovery was over 100,000 barrels of oil per day. That one well was producing more oil than all the other wells in the United States combined.

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