The Knowledge Nook

Hard Luck Tales Part of Rich History of the Energy Industry

Posted by Tami Russell on Mar 21, 2017 4:07:47 PM


The energy industry has a vibrant history and colorful vocabulary all its own.  PDI’s National Director of Sales Jim Hoffman shares some of that unique info with us here at The Knowledge Nook.

We’re pulling from Jim’s compilation of industry terms and dates found in the booklet, Oil & Gas Acronyms & Terminology, and filling in some little known details here.

Year: 1821.  Event: Date of first natural gas well dug in the U.S.

Background: The American Public Gas Association explains, “naturally occurring natural gas was discovered and identified in America as early as 1626, when French explorers discovered natives igniting gases that were seeping into and around Lake Erie. In 1821, William Hart dug the first successful natural gas well in the U.S. in Fredonia, New York. Eventually, the Fredonia Gas Light Company was formed, becoming the first American natural gas distribution company.”

Year: 1859.  Event: Date of the first oil well drilled in the U.S.

Background: Business Insider gives a little more detail about the fascinating life of “a hard-up wildcatter named Edwin Drake” who drilled the country’s first oil well. Life wasn’t kind to Drake.  He was a widower and was forced to retire early from a condition known as muscular neuralgia.  (Don’t worry, we looked that up as well!  According to the website HealthTap, muscular neuralgia is chronic muscle pain sometimes associated with trauma.  In Drake’s day, he would not have had access to modern day anti-inflammatories or pain killers.)

None of Drake’s many hardships kept him from devising a plan to bring oil from the ground.  (According to Business Insider, prior to 1859, “oil had been gathered by collecting whatever had seeped through to the surface.”)

Drake “realized that if he could grind down the rocks before simply drilling through them, he could better access whatever flowed up from the ground.”  He fashioned a drill bit that “smashed through a rock ledge” in 1859, and, the next day, “discovered an enormous pool of oil covering the ground.”

But there’s some more bad news for poor Colonel Drake.  He failed to “patent his method,” according to Business Insider.  Poor health and poverty followed him for the rest of his life, but he is remembered as the man who came up with the idea for drilling through rocks to bring oil to the surface.

Years: 2005 and 2008. Events: Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Ike

Background: The energy industry was particularly hard hit by two powerful hurricanes in recent memory – Ike and Katrina.  Ike went through the Gulf of Mexico in 2008, “resulting in the price of natural gas dropping,” according to Hoffman.  Ike also caused $29.5 billion in damages to the U.S., and an additional $7.3 billion in damages to Cuba. 

Katrina, a Category 5 hurricane, went through the Gulf of Mexico in 2005, “resulting in the price of natural gas nearly tripling.”  Katrina may best be remembered, however, as submerging the city of New Orleans.  Katrina caused $81 billion in property damages, and took a horrific toll on the lives of the people of the Gulf Coast.  An “estimated 1,833 people died in the hurricane and the flooding that followed,” according to the website LiveScience.

Year: 1975.  Event: Creation of the Energy Policy and Conservation Act, which led to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR)

Background: According to Hoffman, the Strategic Petroleum Reserve is “a federal program created by the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975 to establish a reserve of up to one billion barrels of crude oil and/or petroleum products in order to reduce the impact of disruptions in petroleum supplies.

Year: 347. Event: First Oil Well in the World (China)

Background: Although Col. Drake is given credit for the first U.S. oil well, the history of excavating oil from the land dates backs centuries.  One of the earliest recorded incidences is in China, in the year 347 AD (give or take a few years!)

According to The Surge, “credit actually goes to the Chinese.  The first oil wells were drilled using a series of bamboo poles and steel drill bits.”   

And that's just a few of the dozens of terms and tidbits to be found in Oil & Gas Acronyms & Terminology.  As you can see, the oil and gas industry is filled with rich history and colorful individuals. 

Throughout the past 40 years, PDI has played a major role in providing oil and gas professionals the tools and information they need to excel in the industry, through energy publications, national and international schools, comprehensive institutes, information-packed conferences, flexible classes and, most recently, on demand programming.  Learn more about PDI by visiting us at

For the latest edition of Jim Hoffman’s booklet, Oil & Gas Acronyms & Terminology, or to discuss comprehensive energy training for your organization, contact Jim at [email protected] or call 214.763.9644.

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Topics: energy

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