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100 Years: A Timeline of Innovation

  • American Petroleum Institute is founded.

    API offices were established in New York City, and the organization focused its efforts in several specific areas: advocacy, industry statistics, equipment standardization and taxation.

  • API develops authoritative program of industry statistics.

    As early as 1920, API began to issue weekly statistics beginning with crude oil production. The report, which was shared with both the government and the press, was later expanded to include crude oil and product stocks, refinery runs and other data.

    API statistics remain one of the most credible sources of industry data and they are used worldwide.

  • API publishes first industry-wide standards for oil field equipment.

    During World War I, drilling delays resulted from shortages of equipment at the drill site, and the industry attempted to overcome that problem by pooling equipment. The program reportedly failed due to lack of uniformity of pipe sizes, threads and coupling. Thus, API took up the challenge of developing industry-wide standards, and the first standards were published in 1924.

    Today, API maintains nearly 700 standards and recommended practices covering all segments of the natural gas and oil industry to promote the use of safe, interchangeable equipment and proven and sound engineering practices.

  • First API Monogram license issued.

    The first edition of API Standard 5L for the manufacture of line pipe was developed in 1927, with the first license issued in 1928. The first edition of the standard listed pipe sizes, minimum tensile and chemical content requirements, sampling rates, internal pressure tests, thread configurations, identifying marks to be stamped on each pipe, and a list of approved manufacturers who were to be licensed to "monogram" pipe as API Line Pipe. Subsequent editions of the standard as well as supplements are still published periodically to reflect changes and technological advances, with the latest edition – the 46th – issued in 2018. Over the years, the API standard has gained worldwide acceptance.

  • First oil discovery using reflection seismography.

    After successful tests in the early 1920s, reflection seismic technology was first used to find oil on December 4, 1928. The Petroleum Corporation drilled a well into the Viola limestone formation near Seminole, Oklahoma. It was the world’s first oil discovery in a geological structure that had been identified by reflection survey. Other discoveries soon followed as the technology revealed dozens of mid-continent oilfields.

  • Discovery of catalytic cracker brings new advances in refining.

    In 1937, chemists discovered a new advance in refining, the catalytic cracker. Employing a variety of new approaches, the catalytic cracker substantially increased the quality and yield of gasoline from each barrel of crude oil. The advancement provided the higher quality fuels needed to meet the increasingly specific requirements of new automotive engines.

  • Oil discovered in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

    Saudi Arabian oil was first discovered by the Americans in commercial quantities in 1938 at Dammam Oil Well No. 7 – a site named after a nearby village – in what is now Dhahran.

  • Petroleum surpasses coal in U.S. energy supply for first time.

    Due to the tremendous increase in natural gas and oil consumption after World War II, petroleum supplied more of our nation’s energy than coal for the first time in 1946. By 1950, natural gas and oil were supplying 57.8 percent of U.S. energy requirements.

  • First offshore oil well out of sight of land.

    The modern offshore natural gas and oil industry is born on November 14, 1947, when an exploratory well strikes oil in the Gulf of Mexico. It is the first successful offshore oil well out of sight of land.

    Image credit: American Oil & Gas Historical Society

  • First commercial application of hydraulic fracturing.

    On March 17, 1949, a team of experts converge on an oil well about 12 miles east of Duncan, Oklahoma – and make history by performing the first commercial application of hydraulic fracturing.

  • World’s first LNG tanker arrives in England from Louisiana.

    On February 20, 1959, after a three-week voyage, the Methane Pioneer – the world’s first liquefied natural gas tanker – safely arrives at the world’s first LNG terminal at Canvey Island, England, from Lake Charles, Louisiana, initiating commercial LNG shipping.

  • The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) founded.

    The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) was founded in Baghdad, Iraq, with the signing of an agreement in September 1960 by five countries – Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela.

  • 3-D seismic technology developed.

    The development of 3-D seismic technology completely changes the way the industry searches for natural gas and oil resources. Coupled with the use of parallel computers in seismic imaging, 3-D seismic imaging has sharply reduced exploration costs since the 1980s while increasing accuracy.

  • Kerosene fuels Saturn V rocket that carries Apollo 11 to the moon.

    A 19th century petroleum product – kerosene – made petroleum history when it fueled the first stage of the Saturn V rocket that carries Apollo 11 to the moon, where astronaut Neil Armstrong announced on July 20, 1969, “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.”

  • OPEC embargoes shipments of foreign oil to the United States.

    In 1973, U.S. dependence on foreign oil – and the danger it created – was made clear when the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) decided to embargo shipments of oil to the United States, causing shortages and raising energy costs.

  • Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975 bans exports of crude oil.

    Following the OAPEC embargo, Congress passed the EPCA in December of 1975 in an attempt to stifle the impact of future oil embargos by foreign oil producing countries. The law required the president to ban crude oil exports, with a few exceptions. While oil imports dropped after the enactment of EPCA, they rose again a decade later.

  • 4-D seismic imaging emerges.

    By 1995, 75% of U.S. onshore surveys use 3-D seismic imaging. The same year brought the emergence of 4-D seismic technology – the comparison of 3-D seismic surveys over time. Time-lapse seismic reservoir monitoring greatly increases the ability to image fluid movement between wells, improves the quality of reservoir characterization, identifies movement of fluid interfaces and helps operators locate bypassed reserves.

  • First application of modern fracking.

    In 1997, Mitchell Energy performed the first slickwater frack. This method substantially lowered the cost of hydraulically fracturing wells, leading to a boom in North American oil and gas production. Over the next ten years this technique was perfected and coupled with advancements in horizontal drilling. The resulting production, combined with the global economic slowdown at that time, led to an 85 percent drop in domestic natural gas prices – from over $13.00 per mmBtu in 2008 to under $2.00 in 2012.

  • Dawn of the U.S. shale energy revolution.

    The marriage of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling brought dramatic changes in the trajectory of the U.S. oil and gas markets. From 2005, U.S. natural gas production rose for 10 straight years. The previous production record set in 1973 was obliterated as production grew 50 percent from 2005 to 2015 to reach 27 trillion cubic feet. In the process, the U.S. became the world’s largest natural gas producer.

  • U.S. oil production increases at record pace.

    U.S. oil production started to rise in 2008, and the next seven years marked the fastest oil production increase in U.S. history. Production of U.S. crude natural gas and oil liquids increased by six million BPD. Net imports of crude oil and products to the U.S. fell from 12.5 million BPD in 2005 to 4.7 million BPD in 2015.

  • Congress lifts 40-year ban on oil exports.

    Thanks to the U.S. shale revolution and the resulting rapid increase in the production of natural gas and oil, the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975 (EPCA) – and it’s ban on crude oil exports – was rendered unnecessary. At the end of 2015, Congress fully liberalized exports of all grades of U.S. crude oil, removing obstacles to market-based flows and pricing.

  • API turns 100.