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History of Drilling

Petroleum became a major commodity following the oil discovery in Pennsylvania in 1859. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the US was the largest oil producing country in the world and now holds the third spot, preceded by Saudi Arabia and Russia. However, due to the recent oil boom due to both shale play and deepwater discoveries, it is predicted that the U.S. will surpass both Saudi Arabia and Russia and become the world’s largest oil producer sometime around 2017-2020. This historical timeline represents just a handful of pivotal moments in the rich history of the oil & gas drilling industry.


The first commercial natural gas production and use in Fredonia, NY. This well was drilled to 27 feet by William Hart. The gas produced was piped through hollow logs to fuel adjacent houses.

William Hart. N.d. Photograph. Observer Today. 19 Sept. 2010. Web. 10 Feb. 2014.


Preston Barmore drilled two gas wells on Canadaway Creek near Fredonia, NY. He used an 8-lb charge of gun powder at a depth of 122 feet to ‘frack’ the well – this was the first record of artificial fracturing.

Preston Barmore. N.d. Photograph. AAPG Explorer. Eileen & Gary Lash, Sept. 2011. Web. 10 Feb. 2014.


Colonel Edwin Drake was hired by the Seneca Oil Company to explore oil deposits in Titusville, Pennsylvania and struck oil 69 feet below the surface of the ground. Drake is also famous for pioneering a new method for oil production; to prevent borehole collapse, he drilled using piping allowing for the drill to penetrate deeper into the ground.

Edwin Drake. N.d. Photograph. The Richest. TheRichest, 10 Apr. 2011. Web. 10 Feb. 2014.


Thomas Fitch Rowland accepted the first U.S. patent for an offshore drilling oil rig.

Thomas Fitch Rowland. N.d. Photograph. Civil War Iron Clad. Son of the South. Web. 10 Feb. 2014.


Offshore drilling began off the coast of Summerfield, CA – south of Santa Barbara. Peak production was reached in 1902, but years later, the wells were eventually abandoned.


Standard Oil builds the first oil refinery in Neodesha, KS.

Standard Oil Refinery. N.d. Photograph. Neodesha, KS. American Oil & Gas Historical Society. American Oil & Gas Historical Society. Web. 13 Feb. 2014


Spindletop Gusher blew out on January 1st near Beaumont, Texas – drilled by Captain Anthony Lucas. This blow out heralded the birth of the Texas oil industry.

Spindletop Gusher. N.d. Photograph. The Epoch Times. 6 June 2012. Web. 10 Feb. 2014.


Howard Hughes received a patent for his dual cone roller (rotary rock drill bit).

Howard Hughes. N.d. Photograph. American Oil & Gas Historical Society. Web. 10 Feb. 2014.


The Santa Rita No. 1 was discovered in west Texas, revealing the Permian Basin.

Santa Rita Well. N.d. Photograph. University of Texas at Austin. 31 Jan. 2011. Web. 10 Feb. 2014.


First ‘slanted’ well was drilled – this was a precursor to horizontal drilling.

Slanted Well. N.d. Photograph. Directional Drilling. 3 Mar. 2012. Web. 10 Feb. 2014.


First productive oil well was drilled by Kerr-McGee Oil Industries 10.5 miles off the Louisiana coast.

Kerr McGee Rig 16. 1947. Photograph. GeoExPro. GeoExPro, 2008. Web. 13 Feb. 2014.


After decades of only drilling vertically, modern technology began to allow for strongly deviated wells to become horizontal (this is known today as directional drilling).

Horizontal Drilling. N.d. Photograph. Stansberry Radio. 4 Oct. 2013. Web. 10 Feb. 2014.


George Mitchell’s Mitchell Energy (later acquired by Devon Energy) drills the first well in the Barnett Shale using conventional technology.

George Mitchell. N.d. Photograph. Houston Business Journal. 6 Dec. 2011. Web. 10 Feb. 2014.


Fracking is implemented in the Barnett Shale play.

Fracking Illustrated. N.d. Photograph. Popular Mechanics. 13 June 2012. Web. 10 Feb. 2014.


Offshore oil production reached 1.1 million barrels a day.


BP discovers Thunder Horse Oil field, the largest oil discovery in the Gulf of Mexico

Thunder Horse. N.d. Photograph. SRSrocco. 16 Oct. 2013. Web. 11 Feb. 2014.


First successful well was drilled in the Eagle Ford Shale.

"Eagle Ford Shale Play, Western Gulf Basin, South Texas." Map. Energy Information Administration. Energy Information Administration, 29 May 2010. Web. 11 Feb. 2014.


The United States is on the road to energy independence – thriving since 2008, oil production now exceeds oil consumption.