44 Things You Didn't Know About Oil

Authored by Viktor Katuna via OilPrice.com,

Whenever you see a headline like this, you know it will go along the lines of “did you know that petroleum stands for rock oil?” Yes you did, goes the reply of an overwhelming majority of readers.

For this reason, the list below is one which holds the reader in high esteem, as a dear colleague on the road to broaden our knowledge of the oil industry. So here we go...

1.) Oil’s first use was for caulking – ruins from early Antiquity (5-6 000 BC) testify that Euphrates and Indus Valley civilizations built their houses with bitumen. Caulking their ships with bitumen logically followed soon afterwards.

2.) Both Tamerlane and Nadir Shah used camels laden with petroleum casks to frighten off Indian war elephants – once set on fire, the sight of fire made the elephants flee in panic.

3.) A first in Europe, oil exported from Venezuela in 1539 was used to treat the gout of Emperor Charles V.

4.) People of the Caspian Basin used oil to cure their camels’ mange.

5.) Drilling was invented by the Chinese, using the cable tool percussion method, presumably during the 2nd millennium BC.

6.) The Chinese know-how of drilling found its way to Europe thanks to the Catholic missionary Father Imbert, whose 1828 description of salt drilling methods paved the way for the development of oil drilling as we know it now.

7.) In Medieval times, Caspian oil was transported in sealskin bags. (The Caspian seal was substantially more common back then, now it is an endangered species mostly due to radical habitat shrinking.) In other adjacent regions, sheepskin bags were used.

8.) The Giza pyramids were glued together with bitumen.

9.) Up until the early 20th century, oil was considered to be an excellent cure for diphtheria.

10.) Oddly enough, up to the First World War, airplane fuel was blended with castor oil, irritating pilots to the point of constant diarrhea.

11.) The first-ever oil tanker, Zoroaster, was sunk alongside six other ships near the Azerbaijani coast to create a platform for a new offshore field.

12.) Titusville, the birthplace of the U.S. oil industry, gave rise to a plethora of other products, too. Robert Chesebrough came here to look into how petroleum could be used and came up with the idea of producing the petroleum jelly, Vaseline.

13.) Chesebrough ate a spoonful of Vaseline every single day and lived until he was 96 years old.

14.) The first oil war was the Chaco War (1932-1935), which pitted Paraguay, supported by Royal Dutch Shell, against Bolivia, supported by Standard Oil. In the end, most of the Chaco region went to Paraguay.

15.) The average speed at which oil is transported through pipelines is about 5-10 km per hour (roughly 3-6mph).

16.) Crude pipeline transportation was first proposed by the famous Russian scientist, Dmitry Mendeleev. He argued that burning oil in furnaces in the vicinity of producing fields is ineffective, instead oilmen should transport it to main centers of consumption, refine and use it there.

17.) Mendeleev was also the first Russian scientist to take a proper look at the quality parameters of Russian (now Azerbaijani) crude. He established that Russian crude is heavier than light American crude, leaving substantially more residue.

18.) In most European languages, crude oil is either a derivative of the Greek “petroleum” (meaning rock oil) or of the Persian “naphtha”. The only exception are a few Western Slavic nations, namely the Poles, Czechs and Slovaks, that call crude “ropa”, meaning “rot”.

19.) Even the Chinese, not cognizant of European onomastics traditions, named petroleum in the 5th century BC shi you (“rock oil”).

20.) The Kumzhinskaya field in Russia burned for 7 years, from 1980 and 1987, after a drilling rig caught fire. The authorities even exploded a nuclear bomb at a depth of 1.5km in an attempt to stop the fire, but the fire still burned.

21.) The world’s northernmost oil field is the Russian offshore Pobeda field (N74’44’’).

22.) The oldest functioning refinery is located in Digboi, India (capacity of 0.65 million tons per year) which first came online in 1901. It is likely the world’s smallest refinery.

23.) The 1988 Piper Alpha explosion in the North Sea is the most deadly oil sector accident ever, leaving 167 dead.

24.) The Deepwater Horizon catastrophe killed more than 8 000 birds and harmed another 75 000.

25.) Only two ladies have so far held the highest post in national oil companies all around the world – Graça Foster (Petrobras) and Isabel dos Santos (Sonangol).

26.) If one is to omit political appointees (Isabel dos Santos was appointed head of Sonangol by her father, José Eduardo dos Santos, who ruled Angola for 38 years), Graça Foster remains the only “merit-based” female CEO of any major oil company.

27.) The father of American geophysics, Everett Lee DeGolyer started working for the U.S. Geological Survey as a cook.

28.) Arguably the lightest constant-quality oil grade is Algerian condensate, with an API density of 71°.

29.) The world’s heaviest oil is found in Athabasca, Canada, with a standard API density of 8°.

30.) The longest-producing oil well is the McClintock Well #1 in Titusville, Pennsylvania, which has been producing crude since 1861.

31.) The world’s largest oil company is Russian (Rosneft), and so is the largest gas company (Gazprom).

32.) Rosneft’s and Gazprom’s CEOs, Igor Sechin and Alexey Miller, worked together from 1991 to 1996 in the Foreign Affairs Committee of Saint Petersburg under the guidance of Vladimir Putin.

33.) In Venezuela, the cost of a 0.33l (12 fl oz) beer can is equivalent to 30-35 liters of gasoline.

34.) As of late February, Iceland has the highest gasoline prices in the world, yet a liter of gasoline still costs less than a bottle of water.

35.) The largest oil platform is found at the Norwegian offshore field Troll, towering at 472m above sea level.

36.) The world’s longest well was drilled in November 2017 at the Sakhalin-I, reaching a depth of 15,000 meters.

37.) Were the oil rush to have started several decades later than the 1860s, we might have never witnessed a sperm whale in the 20th century – sperm whale oil was the essential source for producing kerosene, and as a result they were almost hunted down to extinction.

38.) The idea of nationalizing one’s oil sector was first carried out by the Soviets in 1918 – it took almost 20 years until another country, Bolivia, nationalized its oil industry in 1937.

39.) It took the Soviets more than forty years to market their rapidly increasing oil volumes in Europe – the first supply contracts were signed with West Germany and Italy in 1960, to intense American dissatisfaction.

40.) It is very rarely stressed how socially mobile the oil industry has been since its inception – John D. Rockefeller’s father was a con artist, indicted for rape in 1849, whilst Ivan Gubkin, the founding father of Russian/Soviet petroleum geology, was the only literate child (out of 5) of a Volga burlak.

41.) Offshore oil production makes up roughly 30% of total world output – despite heavy volatility this ratio has barely changed in the past decade.

42.) Iraq is the most dependent country with regard to oil as a percentage of its exports (99%), whilst in terms of general GDP, it is Kuwait that is most dependent on the oil industry (55% of its GDP comes from oil).

43.) The first commercial oil discovery in Africa took place in 1955 (the Benfica field in Angola), roughly a 100 years after the United States and the Russian Empire started producing oil.

44.) The current oil price record was set in 2012 when annual Brent prices reached $111.63 per barrel.

How many of those had you heard before?


Stuck on Zero erkme73 Thu, 03/08/2018 - 19:02 Permalink

" The Giza pyramids were glued together with bitumen. "

B.S. The pyramids were dry set or set with mortar made from limestone.

"The first commercial oil discovery in Africa took place in 1955 (the Benfica field in Angola), roughly a 100 years after the United States and the Russian Empire started producing oil."

BS. See http://wiki.openoil.net/History_of_Egyptian_oil_and_gas_industry.


In reply to by erkme73

NumbersUsa SWRichmond Thu, 03/08/2018 - 19:51 Permalink

"On November 21, 1962, the Department of Justice ordered the AZC (AIPAC) to begin registering as an Israeli foreign agent. This touched off an intense battle between the Justice Department and the AZC which outlasted (killed) both JFK and RFK. The bloodied and bruised Justice Department hid away its files on the affair until they were finally declassified and released in 2008.

The effort to register Israel’s foreign agents clearly failed. Just 42 days after the Justice Department order, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee incorporated itself in Washington and took over the AZC’s functions. Since the year it was ordered to register—as part of the AZC—AIPAC has extracted an inflation-adjusted $250 billion from US taxpayers for its foreign principals. Influencing the conduct of US policy "by techniques outside normal diplomatic channels" has never stopped."

And the jew supremacists at AIPAC want your guns, your money, your kids & your soul.

In reply to by SWRichmond

Lumberjack Thu, 03/08/2018 - 18:56 Permalink

Without it, we would not exist...

trees and coal would be gone, whales extinct. No lubrication for bearings, no heat for homes and businesses, heat to make glass, steel or other necessities, pharmaceuticals, let alone solar panels or insulation for electrical wiring and on and on.... 

Pure Evil pedro-the-cat Thu, 03/08/2018 - 19:38 Permalink

To think that rotting dinosaur flesh was transformed into oil over millions of years is ridiculous.

With all the scavengers feeding off corpses it difficult to imagine any dead dinosaur lasting long enough to be turned into oil.

If you observe predators in Africa even they eat dead animals they come across that they didn't kill. Unlike humans that'll pass up a dead animal alongside the road other animals such as predators or scavengers don't have that luxury.

Add in microbes and other flesh eating insects one can imagine there's not much left at the dinner table.

Even whales that die are quickly consumed at the bottom of the ocean by all forms of scavengers from sharks to crabs to other creatures that consume dead animals.

Even if it were possible what would be the sheer concentration of dinosaurs needed to form an oilfield as large as the one in Saudi Arabia. That would be impossible since most dinosaurs were herbivores and would have stripped the available biodiversity resulting in mass starvation even before the numbers of dinosaurs could multiply to that number to form the oil.

In reply to by pedro-the-cat

AGuy Pure Evil Thu, 03/08/2018 - 20:55 Permalink

"To think that rotting dinosaur flesh was transformed into oil over millions of years is ridiculous"

You can't be serious you though Oil originated from Dinosaurs? You must have gone to a liberal public school.

Oil originates from anaerobic microbes in shallow seas. Is called Fossil fuels not Dino fuels. Most of the Oil was deposited during the period of the dinosaurs about 300 to 200 million years ago.

In reply to by Pure Evil

GeoffreyT Anarchyteez Fri, 03/09/2018 - 00:45 Permalink

Beat me to it - the Abiotic Oil Hypothesis is something that people will start focusing on now that "Hubbard's Peak" is now half a decade in the rear-view mirror, and oil supply still shows no sign of peaking.

That said: the current (biotic) hypothesis does not centre on dinosaurs, and it makes no sense to try to pretend that it does.

In reply to by Anarchyteez

Logonaut Thu, 03/08/2018 - 19:10 Permalink

As a Chinese major, I'm fascinated by Chinese technology -- oil-well drilling in particular -- as well as Chinese attitudes towards technics and innovation. What was the precise moment when I lost the "Western attitude problem" of assuming the Han are innovation-free robots? Well, it would be difficult to say exactly... but by the time I learned about different drill bits being used for different strata 2000 years ago! on these long bamboo doohickeys that attitude had died. 

Goodness riddance to that particular bias against the East, by the way. I'm not sure who originated that paste Chinese are currently using to turn desert into farmland, but I'm pretty sure I understand why it is getting so little press in the West. Please note: I am proud of Western achievements, and my own work is within the Western intellectual tradition; but I admire what is admirable, and dismissive attitudes towards other groups' achievements achieve nothing.

Anyway, the Chinese were using natural gas to heat their homes! over 2000 years ago, storing it in special bladders. Then oil-drilling followed. One assumes, without quite knowing, that the original discovery of natural gas would have been due to tragic and instructive explosions of miners' lamps/torches/whatever whilst mining salt, which was the original reason for all the drilling and hullabaloo. What a cool chain of events. 

Also, the 1088 book <<Dream Pool Essays>> -- by polymath Shen Kuo -- even predicted that fossil fuels would have many applications for the world, essentially being the first to surmise the role that oil would come to play in our time. Okay, I've beaten my hobby-horse long enough! : p 

Flubber Thu, 03/08/2018 - 19:18 Permalink

Can someone please explain item #44 which states that the 'current' oil price record was set in 2012 when Brent crude fetched $111.63/barrel.    I thought the all-time record was approximately $147/barrel about a decade ago.

Andrew-Winter Thu, 03/08/2018 - 20:04 Permalink

Well now.   A couple of things here are dead wrong that I know of.

10.  WWI airplane fuel statement is only half true.    Castor Oil was used in only ONE engine type in World War I.   It was used in the WWI "rotary engine".  This engine had the highest horse power to weight ration of the war due to its cooling method.   It was air cooled, the crankshaft was bolted to the plane, the propeller to the engine and the whole engine spun.  Castor oil was used because it would not dissolve in the  fuel which was fed to the engine through the fixed crankshaft and distributed to the combustion chamber by the spinning of the engine.   The castor, that was not burned with the gasoline lubricated the engine.

37.  Kerosene NEVER came from whales.   What you got from whales was whale oil,  literally the boiled down oil gotten from whale FAT!    Whale oil was never a refined oil.   It came from the boiled whale fat naturally refined, burned brighter and cleaner than kerosene.  Kerosene was just a lot cheaper when it came out.   You can still get whale oil as a lubricant for very fine machinery line a barbers hair clippers.   
But it was never EVER  Kerosene.

I only hope that this much BS is not included in the things here that I am NOT familiar with.