History of Oil Careers
Following are highlights of information found at www.GeoHelp.net. While many people take natural gas for granted when they turn on gas stove and cook today, they probably don’t know that the first natural gas was produced and sold in Fredonia, New York, in 1821. This well was drilled to a depth of 27 feet, and hollow wooden logs piped the gas to nearby houses. In 1859, Colonel Edwin Drake found oil at a depth of 69 feet in Titusville, Pennsylvania. By 1870, J.D. Rockefeller established the Standard Oil Company and controlled 10% of American oil refining. By 1872, he had increased his market share to 25% by taking over competitors, and by 1877, he held control of 90% of the refinery business. However, a few decades later, a Supreme Court ruling dismantled Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company in 1911.
In 1895, the combustion engine was invented, followed by Henry Ford’s first motorcar in 1896. The opportunities for oil industry careers flourished with the growth in popularity of the automobile. After the Spindletop gusher in 1901, Texas and the Gulf Coast gained a reputation for being good oil country.
In 1921, the oil industry began using seismic waves to take pictures of the land’s subsurface in central Oklahoma. In 1933, the Texas Company began using the first submersible drilling barge in the estuaries of Louisiana. The following year, offshore drilling was born when the first floating rig entered the Caspian Sea.
Oil production and refining soon became an international venture after oil was discovered in Bahrain in 1932. Six years later, Pemex, the national oil company of Mexico, gained control of all the oil assets in that country. During World War II, Japan’s oil supply from the Middle East was cut off, which helped lead to the victory by the allied powers.
As demand for oil increased, the countries that exported oil formed the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in 1960. At that time OPEC consisted of Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Kuwait, Iraq, and Iran. OPEC began to control oil prices by limiting production in order to raise prices.
In 1969 oil was discovered in the North Sea, which increased the offshore drilling objectives of many oil companies. Throughout the years many countries have nationalized their oil assets. These include Libya, Syria, Iran and Iraq. This has affected foreign companies who have lost their investments in these countries. Those involved in oil careers in these countries have also been affected by changes in governments that sometimes are quite hostile to foreign workers.
In 1977 the Trans Alaska Pipeline was completed. This project required a very different type of construction in order to protect the wildlife and the region. About 420 miles of the 800 mile line were built above ground rather than buried under ground. This was done to protect the unstable permafrost layer that would have melted when the oil flowed through the line.
Between 1979 and 1981 the price of oil rose from $13.00 per barrel to $34.00 per barrel. In response to perceived “windfall profits” the Windfall Profits Tax was enacted in 1980. This tax was intended to capture some of the profits the oil companies were making. It had the unintended consequence of reducing the capital oil companies could invest in future projects, and slowing the exploration and production of oil and gas in the United States.
In 1989 the Exxon Valdez ran aground off the coast of Alaska, creating a vast environmental disaster and requiring a cleanup. This type of spill and the BP Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010 created intense pressures to improve environmental protection and also increased opportunities for these types of oil careers.
In the 1990s consolidation of the oil industry was flourishing. BP planned to acquire Amoco in 1998. In the same year Exxon planned to acquire Mobil. Then in 1999 Atlantic Richfield (ARCO) was acquired by BP-Amoco, and Total Fina and Elf Aquitaine agreed to merge. In 2002 Conoco and Phillips merged. These types of mergers led to reductions in staff, as oil companies tried to eliminate duplicated positions, especially in administrative areas.
Oil prices are sensitive to world events, and by 2006 the price per barrel rose to $78.40 primarily due to concerns about world politics, especially nuclear development in Iran, concern about supplies from Iraq, Nigeria and other sources, as well as missile tests by North Korea. By 2008 the crude oil price per barrel was $147.27 because of concerns about supplies and the weak U. S. dollar. As the global recession became a reality in late 2008 and the first half of 2009, crude prices fell to $34 per barrel. The only true constant in the oil industry is change.