Crude Oil and Gas
Since the earliest recorded
history, there have been accounts of crude oil and natural gas seeping to the
earth's surface. The oil was used to caulk boats and buildings, grease wheels
and dress the wounds of people and animals. Until the refining process was
developed in the 1850s, oil was not commonly used as fuel because of its
Natural gas fed the celebrated
"perpetual fires" at Delphi in Greece, Baku on the Caspian Sea and
other sites in the ancient world. In the third century AD, the Chinese
transported gas in bamboo pipes to light their temples. They also used natural
gas heat to extract salt from water.
of oil and natural gas became more common in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as
people dug deeper wells in search of water. "Rock oil" or petroleum (from the Latin roots petra for rock, and oleum for oil) was once
a popular patent medicine in Canada and the U.S.
natural gas was gaining popularity, it was coal gas that provided the "gas
lights" in nineteenth century cities in some parts of Europe and North America.
Coal was heated in a closed vessel to produce a mixture of hydrogen, carbon
monoxide and methane. Coal gas first lit the streets of London, England, in
1807; Montreal in 1836, and Toronto in 1841.
tapped safer, cleaner-burning natural gas for the same purpose as early as 1821
when it was piped through hollow logs to Fredonia, New York"the best-lit
city in the world." However, natural gas was not widely used until the end
of the 19th century when better drilling techniques and cast iron pipes were
The demand for
improved lighting also led directly to the first widespread use of crude oil.
The need was urgent. By the 1850s, the best available lamp oil, obtained from
whale blubber, was selling for $2.50 U.S. per gallon, or 66 cents per litrea
lot of money in those days. Growing demand for this oil decimated whale
populations, putting some species at risk of extinction.
Petroleum Communication Foundation. Our Petroleum Challenge: Exploring Canada's Oil and Gas Industry, Sixth Edition. Calgary: Petroleum Communication Foundation, 1999. With permission from the Centre for Energy.
Gas Discovered at Medicine Hat
Drilling for water near Medicine Hat leads to the accidental discovery of Natural Gas in 1883...
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