Petroleum Industry

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Petroleum Industry


the branch of heavy industry that includes exploration of oil and gas deposits, well drilling, extraction of oil and casinghead (by-product) gas, refining of casinghead gas, and pipeline transportation of petroleum.

The advent of mechanical drilling of oil wells (USA, 1859) is regarded as the beginning of the development of the petroleum industry.

In Russia the first wells were drilled by A. N. Novosil’tsev in the Kuban’ region in 1864, and in 1866 one of the wells, on the Kudako River, produced a gusher with an initial yield of more than 190 tons per day. The petroleum monopolies in Russia, which depended mainly on foreign capital, exploited the richest oil deposits. Mechanization of petroleum production during this period was minimal. In the early 20th century, Russia ranked first in the production of oil; maximum production in 1901 was 11.9 million tons. In 1913, oil production in Russia was 10.3 million tons, 95 percent of which was extracted by the bailing method.

After the nationalization of Russia’s petroleum industry in June 1918, the Soviet government took extraordinary measures to restore the enterprises destroyed during the Civil War of 1918–20. By 1928 oil production had reached 11.6 million tons. At that time, it was concentrated mainly in the old oil regions of Azerbaijan (Baku) and the Northern Caucasus (Groznyi and Maikop). Improvements in drilling and production technology and equipment took place along with the restoration of the petroleum industry. Rotary drilling gradually replaced the less efficient cable tool drilling. Bailing was replaced by deep-well pumping operations and by the compressor-lift (injection) method. Oil prospecting expanded in other regions of the country during the early five-year plans. Oil fields were discovered and put into operation in Perm’ Oblast, the Bashkir ASSR, and Kuibyshev Oblast, which brought about the development of a new, major oil-bearing region of the USSR, the “Second Baku.” New oil deposits were discovered in Middle Asia and the Kazakh SSR. By 1940 oil production had reached 31.1 million tons. During the Great Patriotic War (1941–45) oil production was curtailed because of war damages in the Northern Caucasus. The major oil fields of the Volga-Ural Oil-Gas Region were discovered and put into operation in the postwar period.

The next stage in the development of the Soviet petroleum industry was associated with the widespread use of systems of oil field development with maintenance of formation pressure; such systems, together with the discovery of new oil deposits, made possible a considerable increase in oil production (from 37.9 million tons in 1950 to 147.9 million tons in 1960). Technical reequipment of the entire sector was implemented (new drilling rigs, roller bits, turbodrills, and bottom-hole centrifugal electric pumps were designed and introduced; industrial borehole construction methods were developed), making possible a twofold increase in labor productivity in 1972 as compared with 1960.

The CPSU’s policy of advanced development of the oil and gas industry and of an increase in its role in the nation’s fuel-energy balance brought the USSR into second place (after the USA) among the world’s oil-producing countries in 1961. By 1972 oil accounted for 42.3 percent of fuel production. Beginning in 1958, the increase in Soviet oil production for each five-year period was more than 100 million tons. From 1961 to 1972 alone, oil production was more than 3.3 billion tons. This rapid growth resulted from the introduction of large new fields into operation, both in previously developed oil areas and in new regions (Western Siberia and offshore areas of Azerbaijan; Western Kazakhstan, Byelorussia, Orenburg Oblast, and the Udmurt ASSR). Of particular importance was the discovery of a unique oil and gas basin in Western Siberia, which has become associated with the creation of the largest oil-gas producing region in the USSR (the Western Siberian Oil and Gas Basin).

The dynamics of oil production in the USSR and its distribution between 1920 and 1973 are given in Table 1.

Table 1. Dynamics of oil production in the USSR by region (million tons)1
1Including gas condensate
Transcaucasia ..........2.922.317.920.218.3
Northern Caucasus ..........0.94.612.034.229.7
Volga Region and Urals ..........1.8104.3208.4219.8
Middle Asia and Kazakhstan ..........
Ukraine ..........2.213.514.1
Western Siberia ..........31.487.7
Other regions .......... 0.92.515.720.8
Total ..........3.831.1147.9352.5428.9

The USSR occupies a prominent position in explored oil reserves. The principal expected oil reserves lie in Western Siberia, the Volga-Ural region, Kazakhstan, Eastern Siberia, and the continental shelf regions; the oil fields discovered in the Komi ASSR and Arkhangel’sk Oblast in the early 1970’s have considerable reserves.

Great success has been achieved in the introduction of integrated automation of oil production, including tens of thousands of producing wells and all oil field facilities. Work is under way on the creation of an automated control system for the entire industry (1974).

Casinghead gas, a valuable raw material for the petrochemical industry, is extracted as a by-product in the recovery of oil. In the USSR, the production of casinghead gas alone rose from 7.7 billion cu m in 1960 to 26.5 billion cu m in 1973.

Petroleum is transported within the USSR by a network of trunk pipelines, which connect all major oil regions with oil refineries and with industrial areas and centers of the country.

Among other socialist countries, the petroleum industry is developed to the greatest extent in China (approximate annual oil production, 30 million tons) and Rumania (more than 14 million tons). More than 3 million tons of oil per year are produced in Yugoslavia, and about 2 million tons are extracted in Hungary.

Table 2. Production and reserves of petroleum in main petroleum-producing countries (not including USSR)
 Year production beganNumber of deposits being workedNumber of producing wellsKnown resources as of Jan. 1,1973 (billion tons)Production (million tons)
 Total to Jan. 1,1973192019401950196019722
USA ..........18599,157503,5054. 913,81960182266347467
Canada ..........186215517,1011.4768142673
Venezuela ..........19179311,2451 .93,9272573149168
Saudi Arabia ..........19381753518.82,2190.72762286
Iran ..........1908293138.92,154293352252
Kuwait ..........19461269211.21,9881782151
Iraq ..........192791323.91,1555374870
Libya ..........1959367634.1959106
Nigeria ..........1956717742.0319190
Algeria ..........1944315246.1416950
Indonesia ..........1893692,3441.46812872154
Table 3. Petroleum-producing regions and states of the USA
 Development of petroleum extraction in individual states by years
RegionTo 19001900–401940–73
East coast ..........Pennsylvania, West VirginiaPennsylvania, West VirginiaPennsylvania, West Virginia,Virginia, New York, Florida
Midcontinent ..........Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio, OklahomaIllinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Michigan, TennesseeIllinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Michigan, Tennessee, Ohio, Oklahoma, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota
Gulf coast ..........TexasTexas, Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico (1913, 1919–23)Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana,New Mexico, Alabama,Mississippi
Rocky Mountains ..........Wyoming, ColoradoWyoming, Colorado, Montana, Utah (1907–11, 1920, Utah (1948)1924–36)Wyoming, Colorado,Montana, Utah (1948)
West coast ..........CaliforniaCalifornia, Alaska (1912–33)California, Alaska (1958) Arizona, Nevada

The petroleum industry of the USA ranks first among the developed capitalist countries and the developing countries (see Table 2). The first oil well was drilled in the USA in 1859 by E. L. Drake, using the mechanical method. Oil production in the USA was 8.6 million tons in 1900, 182.4 million tons in 1940, and 467 million tons in 1972. The oil-producing regions in the USA are confined to the eastern seaboard, the midcontinent, the Gulf coast, the Rocky Mountains, and the west coast (see Table 3).

In view of its key role in the energy-fuel balance and the development of the petrochemical industry, petroleum is increasingly important for the present-day economy.


Neftedobyvaiushchaia promyshlennost’ SSSR: 1917–1967. Moscow, 1968.
Shashin, V. D. Neftianaia promyshlennost’SSSR. Moscow, 1971. (VIII Mirovoi neftianoi kongress: Obzornyi doklad OD-la.)
Lisichkin, S. M. Energeticheskie resursy i neftegazovaia promyshlennost’ mira. Moscow, 1974.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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