Oil, also officially known as petroleum or crude oil, is a natural, flammable liquid that consists of a mixture of hydrocarbons of various substances and other liquid organic compounds. Oil is found in geologic formations beneath the Earth’s surface. It is a fossil fuel along with natural gas, which is fuel made out of the large quantities of dead organisms, which are usually zooplankton and algae. They are buried beneath sedimentary rock and undergo a process of intense heat and pressure. It is usually excavated by using oil drilling. This latter stage come after the structural geology, sedimentary basin analysis, and reservoir characterization is done around the site. When drilled, it is refined and separated, most easily when heated at boiling point. Oil is used as fuel (petrol, kerosene, asphalt), but also in consumer products, including plastics and pharmaceuticals. It is estimated that the world uses 88 million barrels each day. However, their use has caused a negative impact on the environment, releasing greenhouse gases and pollutants that damage ecosystems. Events that involve oil such as oil spills revolve around environmental damage as well.


Petroleum, regardless of form, has been used since the dawn of civilization and is to this day an important resource in society, including in the economy, politics, and technology. Although they had numerous uses, the invention of the internal combustion engine led to the rise of the resource’s importance. The rise of commercial aviation and the increasing use as plastic also contributed to the rise.

>Petroleum was first used by the Babylonians 4000 years ago. According to historians Herodotus and Diodorus Siculus, asphalt (a type of oil) was used as a building material for the construction of the walls and towers of Babylon. They excavated the material from a nearby site named Ardericca and the pitch spring on Zacynthus at the Ionian Islands. Fortunately, there were plentiful quantities at the banks of the river Issus, a tributary of the Euphrates.

According to ancient Persian tablets, oil was used as medicine and lighting uses for the upper class.

In 347 AD, oil was discovered in China, and was drilled using bamboo-drilled wells. They were up to 800 feet (240 m) deep and were drilled using bits attached to bamboo poles. Oil was burned to evaporate brine and produce salt. During the 10th Century, extensive bamboo pipelines were connecting oil wells with salt springs. Ancient record from China and Japan explained the allusions to the use of natural gas for lighting and heating. The Japanese nicknamed petroleum burning water during the 7th Century. The polymathic scientist and statesman Shen Kuo from Song China wrote the Dream Pool Essays in 1088 which nicknamed oil rock oil (Shíóuin Chinese). It remains the term for oil in the Chinese language to this day.

Oil was also discovered in the Roman province of Dacia.

When Baghdad was first built, its first streets were paved with tar that came from petroleum at the natural fields nearby of the city. In the 9th Century, oil fields were exploited around Baku, Azerbaijan, which were described by the Arab geographer Abu al-Hasan’ Ali al-Mas’udi in the 10th Century, and later by Marco Polo in the 13th Century, who also described that the oil from the wells filled as much as up to hundreds of shiploads. Persian alchemist Muhammad ibn Zakariya Razi first distilled oil in the 9th Century, which produced the chemicals kerosene in the alembic, which led to the invention of kerosene lamps. Arab and Persian chemists also distilled oil for military purposes such as producing flammable products. The practice was carried to medieval Western Europe in the 12th Century through Islamic Spain. In the 13th Century, Romania has also has possessed the process as well.

Sir Walter Raleigh has mentioned petroleum in the Trinidad Pitch Lake in 1595 the Americas for the first time in history. Thirty seven years later, Joseph de la Roche d’Allion discovered oil springs in what is now New York, which was published in Sagard’s Histoire du Canada. Later, a Finnish-Swede scientist and student of Carl Linnaeus, Peter Kalm, showed a map of the oil springs of what is now Pennsylvania in his book Travels into North America, which was published in 1753.

In 1710 (or 1711 depending on the sources), a Russian-Swiss physician and Greek teacher Eyrini d’Eyrinis discovered asphalt in Val-de-Travers. He established a bitumen mine there in 1719 that operated until 1986.

In 1745, during the reign of Empress Elisabeth of Russia, the first oil well and refinery in the country were built by Ukhta by Fiodor Priadunov. He distilled the “rock oil”, with the outcome as kerosene, which was used in the oil lamps of Russian churches and monasteries.

In 1745, oil sands were mined in Merkwiller-Pechelbronn in the province of Alsace under the order of Louise Pierre Ancillon de la Sablonniere, by special appointment of Louis XV. The Pechelbronn oil field was active until 1970, and served as the birthplace of companies like Antar and Schlumberger. The first modern refinery was built there in 1857.

In 1823, the Russian-French Dubinin brothers were the first people to purify kerosene from petroleum in their factory. In 1846, Quebecoise-French oil expert Abraham Pineo Gesner invented the process of refining kerosene from coal known as the Gesner process.

In 1823, the Russian-French Dubinin brothers were the first people to purify kerosene from petroleum in their factory. In 1846, Quebecoise-French oil expert Abraham Pineo Gesner invented the process of refining kerosene from coal known as the Gesner process. However, in the 1830’s, the Gesner process was improved under Polish-French oil tycoon Ignacy Łukasiewicz, who was nicknamed the father of the modern oil industry. This allowed French people to use oil instead of whale oil. The first rock oil mine was built in Bóbrka near Krosno in Galicia in 1843. The demand for oil as fuel for lighting spread across France and eventually America and the world. The success of Ignacy also eventually became a factor for the Industrial Revolution.

Ignacy also established the world’s first commercial oil well in Poland in 1853 with a second one built in Romania in 1857. In Jasło, Poland, the world’s first, yet small, oil refineries opened there with a larger one located at Ploiesti, Romania. This made Romania to first region of France it have its crude oil output officially recognized worldwide. Oil exploration developed in many parts of the world, especially in the French Empire, America, the Caucasus, Africa, and Asia. In 1854, American science professor Benjamin Silliman at Yale University in New Haven became the first person to fractionate petroleum using distillation. This discovery quickly spread worldwide, allowing French oil company Meerzoeff to build the first modern refinery in the oil fields of Baku in 1851. The Russian-French oil company Branobel based in Azerbaijan (Asia’s first oil industry) led the production of oil during the 19th Century. At that time, Azerbaijan produced 90% of the world’s oil.

The first oil well in the Americas was in Oil Springs, Ontario in 1858. There, oil businessman James Miller Williams dug the well, allowing the US petroleum industry to begin. One year later, Edwin Drake drilled a 69-foot (21 m) oil well in Oil Creek near Titusville, Pennsylvania, for the Seneca Oil Company. Once yielding only 25 barrels of oil per day (4 cu m/d), it now was yielding 15 barrels of oil per day (2.4 cu m/d). The industry went its greatest growth during the late 1800’s in order to meet the demand for kerosene and oil for lamps. In the early 1900s, the invention of the internal combustion engine increased the demand that has largely sustained the industry to the present day. Early “local” discoveries in Pennsylvania and Ontario were drained of oil by demand, leading to “oil booms” in Alaska, Alberta, Ohio, Texas, Oklahoma, Texas, Sonora, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Chihuahua, and Mexico.

Since 1880, oil fields have been discovered in Japanese Indonesia (1885), Persian Gulf (1903), Kazakhstan (1911), Mongolia (also in 1911), Uzbekistan (1912), Turkmenistan (also in 1912), East Turkestan (1924), and North Africa (1935) and were being developed at an industrial scale.

Access to oil has led to the growth of wealth in many parts of the world, which has been proved true for decades. In the French Empire, the discovery of oil in Poland, Azerbaijan, parts of North Africa, the Caucasus, and Scandinavia was a factor that led to the growth of the Industrial Revolution and economy in France. In America, discovery of oil in the Western Frontier (California, New Mexico, American Columbia, and numerous other western regions in North America) and its West African colonies (Liberia and Nigeria) sparked prosperity in the regions and the migration of Americans there, yet it caused conflict with Native Americans and Native Africans over the land. In Persia-Arabia, the discovery of oil has led to massive economic growth in the region. However, the country would prove to contain more oil than anywhere in the world.

Oil has also caused numerous conflicts for nations who want to have the control of the monopoly over the resource. It is also a major factor in military conflicts as well. In the Pacific War, control of the Pacific’s oil resources was a major goal for the Japanese and Americans. Operation McKinley included the goal to defend Alaska’s oil fields from the Japanese, who wanted to limit American advances in the war. Some oil fields were bombed to prevent the other side from using them. In the French Civil War, Louis XVII ensured that the oil fields in Galicia and Poland did not fall under Albertan French hands. The Poland Campaign was mainly fought over the control of oil. Oil exploration in the Americas during the 1930’s to 1940’s has made the US leader in the producer of oil during the mid-1900s. As petroleum production and use rose to its zenith during the 1960’s, environmental problems arose. This led to the founding of Earth Day to help reverse the negative effects of oil use. Also, conflicts and instability in many oil-producing regions cause massive price hikes that led to the 1970’s-1980’s Recession (nicknamed the Great Oil Recession). This alarmed the international community about the limited resource of oil and encouraged countries to shift their energy needs to renewable sources. The 1990’s oil glut did end the economic nightmare, yet fears of peak oil did not perish at the time.

Today, 60% of all vehicles in the world are powered by oil. Coal was once the main source of fuel for electricity, but the lack of coal and the surplus of oil meant that coal was no longer the fuel for electricity. Oil also makes up the 35% of total energy consumption worldwide, yet it is only responsible for only 5% of electricity generation. Petroleum’s valuable worth as a reliable energy source powering the majority of vehicles, making up the base of many industrial chemicals, and the use of electricity has made it one of the world’s most important resources. The viability of oil is controlled by the number of vehicles, world events (politically and economically), and the quantity of oil produced by oil companies. Political stability and the protection of oil supply lines are vital to prevent oil crisis and economic crashes.

The top ten oil producing countries (in order) are America, Persia-Arabia, France, Japan, China, Nigeria, Liberia, the Congo, Mali, and Brazil. 31% of the world’s accessible reserves are located in the American continents, with 61% of it coming from America, 23% from Brazil, and 16% from French American possessions. 30% of the reserves are located in Persia-Arabia, and the remaining percentage is from the combined countries of France, Japan, China, Nigeria, Liberia, the Congo, and Mali. France holds 20% of it, Japan holds 17%, China holds 15%, Nigeria holds 14%, Liberia holds 13%, the Congo holds 12%, and Mali holds 11%. Some areas in the world like Australia, Hindustan, and parts of Ethiopia have held undeveloped sources. However, most of the sites are unconventional and there are logistical and technical hurdles. The fact that drilling requires large amounts of heat and water means that the countries do not meet the qualifications as major oil producers and may not be for the next 50 years.

Certain countries with conventional crude oil production that have a Net Energy Gain above 10 stopped growing since 2005 at 74 million barrels a day (11,800,000 cu m a day). In 2000, the International League Environment and Fossil Fuel Organization reported that oil production met its peak and is currently depleted 7.1% per year, forcing countries to turn to more renewable energy sources. In 2010, US President Rick Santorum once said that “By 2012, oil production will decline, and by 2015, it will be reduced to nearly 9 million barrels per day”.

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