1857 – THE START OF ROMANIA’S GOLDEN AGE

September 20, 2020

Romania prides itself in having an oil and gas history that goes back more than 150 years. The country claims it had built the first oil refinery ever. It also claims that Bucharest was the first city to be illuminated with kerosene lamps.
The first record mentioning oil from the Romanian province of Wallachia situated north of the Lower Danube and south of the Southern Carpathians, is dated 1517. In the beginning, crude oil exploitation simply meant collection from the shallow wells and ditches in the outcrops of the Sub-Carpathian area. The technique involved digging small holes where oil seeped and then was channelled through ditches towards a collecting pit. Deeper oil mines, sometimes over 30 meters deep, were dug by hand from the late 16th century to the 19th century. Until the second half of the 19-th century, the use of oil was restricted to lubricate the wheels of the wagons, to the empirical treatment of the animal diseases and sometimes even for human illness.
Recent Romanian Petroleum history began in 1857 when Romania registered 250 tonnes of oil production. A refinery in Ploiesti was put into service and in 1858.
The Golden Age of the Romanian oil industry began. On April 1st, 1857, Bucharest was illuminated by 1000 lamps lit with a colorless gas with no smell, burning with a light flame, with a constant intensity and shape
At the beginning of the 20-th century, Romania’s oil production registered a spectacular rise; hence in the year 1900, the volume of the extracted crude oil was 250,000 tons, representing 1.22 % of the world production. In 1908 the first manufacture of oil equipment and repair workshops in Ploiesti became operational and the first BOP manufactured in 1912. First natural gas was produced in 1913. In 1914, there were 104 oil companies established in Romania.
In 1904, at Campina, was founded the first school for master driller in the world, to which was added also the school of master refiner. The new masters trained here were called to work also abroad, being appreciated for their high level of training and professionalism.
During the period 1911/1920, Romania occupied the second place in Europe (after Russia) and the fifth in the world (after USA, Russia, Mexico, Dutch Indies) with a production of 13 million tons of oil. Romania was also the first Black Sea country to tap into its offshore resources spudding its first offshore well back in 1981.
The largest oil production ever recorded in Romania was in 1977, of 313,541 barrels a day. The golden age ended slowly from that date with an inexorable production decline. In 2017 the daily production was down to 74,000 barrels.
(Source: Ropepca, Imperial Transilvania – Image: Romanian oilfield in winter 1937)