A History of Oil and Gas in the 20th Century

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In 1860, Colonel Edwin Drake became the first American to successfully drill for oil. With his major strike in Titusville, Pennsylvania, he launched the modern oil and gas industry. Now, 156 years later, the oil and gas industry is a multi-trillion dollar a year enterprise that provides thousands of jobs and fuels the economy.

Following Drake’s 1860 oil strike, engineers began building gas engines, spurring the automobile industry and innovating the way people and goods were transported. The history of oil and gas is a robust one that spans almost every continent and coincides with major world events that shaped business, culture, and more. Let’s take a closer look at the history of oil and gas over the last century.

January 10, 1901 – Captain Anthony F. Lucas struck oil on Spindletop Hill in Texas. This discovery launched the Texas Oil Boom and soon secured the United States’ position as the world’s top oil producer.

October 1908 – The first Ford Model T is built, making it affordable for the average person to purchase their own automobile. Initially, the Model T could run on gasoline, kerosene, and ethanol, but soon gasoline became the preferred choice for fuel.

1914 – Prime Minister Winston Churchill purchases 51 percent of Anglo-Persian Oil Company for the British government to ensure oil reserves were available for the nation’s navy leading up to World War I. Churchill had the foresight to know how invaluable oil would be for his nation’s success in the upcoming battle.

January 1919 – Gasoline demand surpasses that of kerosene.

January 1954 – The very first fuel injection car, manufactured by Mercedes-Benz, hits the market.  

1954 – The board of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company changes the company’s name to British Petroleum, forming one of the biggest oil conglomerates in the world.

September 10, 1960 – The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is formed to give countries the sovereign rights to their natural resources, mainly oil and gas.

October 1973 – The Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries proclaimed an oil embargo leading to the cost of oil per barrel to increase from $3 to $12. The embargo leads to a global oil crisis.

1979 – The Iranian Revolution significantly decreases oil production, causing a crisis in the United States. The cost of oil more than doubles and car owners wait in long lines at gas stations to fill up.

1980 – Saudi Arabia takes 100 percent ownership of Saudi Aramco, widely considered to be the most valuable company in the world. Saudi Aramco has the world’s largest proven crude oil reserves.

August 2-4, 1990 – Iraq invades Kuwait after accusing the nation of stealing Iraqi petroleum through the use of slant drilling.

January 1997 – The first mass production hybrid road car, the Toyota Prius, is introduced.

May 1997 – George Mitchell begins hydro-fracturing, also known as slickwater fracking, thus reducing the cost of drilling an oil well from $375,000 per well to only $85,000.

December 2002 – A national strike in Venezuela shuts down the country’s oil production, causing a worldwide increase in the cost of oil.

July 2004 – The United States achieves a new record, importing 11.3 million barrels of oil per day.

October 25, 2004 – Oil hits a record price of $55.67 per barrel. The price increase is attributed to concerns over high demand, potential supply disruptions in the Middle East, and damage on the Gulf Coast from Hurricane Ivan.

July 13, 2006 – Oil hits a record high of $78.40 per barrel due to supply and worldwide political concerns.

January 2007 – Honda creates first hydrogen-powered fuel cell car in response to the finite supply of oil.

July 11, 2008 –  Supply concerns and the weakening U.S. dollar cause the price of oil per barrel to hit a record high of $147.27.

November 20, 2008 – The price of oil drops below $50 per barrel.

January 19, 2009 – The price of oil continues to fall, hitting a low of $34 per barrel.

2009 – Declining natural gas prices in North America cause a significant cut in gas drilling in both Canada and the USA.

October 12, 2010 – Following the BP oil spill, the United States lifts its ban on deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

January 2012 – North American natural gas prices drop to the lowest level in a decade because of growth in production from shale gas reservoirs.

2013 – There are an estimated 255.8 million registered passenger vehicles in the United States. These cars run on standard gasoline and diesel, but many are hybrids that use alternative fuel sources.  

This history of oil and gas is a fascinating one with many ups and downs along the way. It will be interesting to see where the path of oil and gas leads in the coming years. If you’d like to learn more about oil and gas or selling mineral rights, contact BWAB today.