Although we can trace the beginning of oil itself to several million years ago, the oil industry is a comparatively recent development. Petroleum literally means “Rock oil”. It is the second most abundant liquid on earth. Oil and gas also provide two thirds of the world’s primary energy supplies. Oil and gas are also nonrenewable resources and our use of them has increased so much that we have worries about how long they will last, however improved technology in the oil and gas industry now means that each year we are finding more oil in the world then we are using.
First coal and now petroleum (which includes oil and gas) have played an essential role in changing our society, from an agricultural to an industrial one. It is almost impossible to find any synthetic item where petroleum has not had any part in the process of its manufacture.
There is evidence that humans have used petroleum products throughout history. Oil that had seeped to the surface would mostly evaporate and leave behind bitumen-the tarry component of the mixture of hydrocarbons from which it is composed. This has been used for thousands of years as a waterproofing agent, for plumbing boat building and brick bonding. There is reference to bitumen being used as a coating for Moses’ basket and Noah’s Ark being pitched inside and out with it.
Petroleum became a valuable commodity in the nineteenth century. The whaling industry was failing to provide enough whale oil to light the lamps of the world and a new source was needed. The first oil well was drilled in August 1859 by Edwin Drake in Pennsylvania, starting a new era in our history.
The users to which oil could be put extended as the supply grew. The invention of the internal combustion engine meant that the petrol fraction of the oil mixture was vital for transport. Then the blossoming of flight demanded fuel that could best be supplied from oil. In the 1940s the development of synthetic materials (such as nylon and polythene) made from oil brought the arrival of plastic industry, based on oil and gas as feed stock.
Over the last 25 years, various predictions have been made about the supply of crude oil. According to these figures we should have run out of oil by now. But at the moment we are finding as much oil as we are using. As technology improves, new oil fields are discovered and small fields can be exploited more economically.
People are also using energy more efficiently to heat their homes and factories- so using up less fuel. Oil companies are making sure that there is less waste in the production of oil from well. They are even collecting the Vapor from delivery tankers when storage tanks are filled. The world’s current proven reserves of oil stood at 1,034 billion barrels at the end of 1999. Proved reserves of oil and gas are those in reservoirs from which it is known with reasonable certainty that they can be extracted under current engineering and economic conditions. A fierce debate continues to range with in the industry over the question of when oil will begin to run out.