Inventors, entrepreneurs, those who just refuse to give up—these individuals may be viewed as fools among their generation, until their folly turns to triumph. Now known as the ‘Father of the Petroleum Industry,’ Edwin L. Drake (1819-1880) was called Crazy Drake by residents who watched his many failed attempts to drill for oil. Given Drake’s initial impression of the task, he may have agreed with locals at first, but his unwavering persistence led Drake to drill, and drill, and drill—until he triumphed on August 27, 1859.
Which of the following statements about Edwin Drake is FALSE?
Edwin Drake discovered oil in Titusville, PA.
To drill his first well, Drake used a 6hp (4500 watt) steam engine, a custom built drill, and a stationary boiler.
Although he believed he would need to drill down as much as 1,000 feet, Drake struck oil at only 69 feet below the Earth’s surface.
The first oil well fire was started when one of Drake’s employees used an open lamp to inspect oil in a vat, setting the gases alight.
Drake’s first well produced 20-40 barrels/day, nearly doubling the world’s oil output.
(THE CORRECT ANSWER IS A)
Drake did not discover oil in Titusville; rather, he was the first to successfully drill for (or strike) oil. Drake was sent to Titusville by George H. Bissell and Jonathan G. Eveleth, founders of Seneca Oil Company, because seep oil in the area was generating 20-30 barrels annually. Drake was hired to inspect the oil springs on Seneca Oil property and report to stockholders on the viability of making money from selling the oil. Believing that production could be increased if oil was extracted from beneath the Earth’s surface, “Drake studied the techniques of drilling salt wells and decided to bore for the oil.”1
HERE are more facts.
The use of such equipment was based on Drake’s understanding of drilling methods for salt wells. Drake immediately encountered problems with his novel approach, however, as he found seeping groundwater and quick-sand flooding the drill hole, “causing the edge of the drilling pit to collapse. Drake hit upon an ingenious solution—a cast iron pipe which was driven 32 feet (9.8 meters) into the earth, with the drill bit inserted inside the pipe so as to be unaffected by flooding water or sand.”2 Although pioneering at the time, Drake’s drilling techniques remain the basis for modern day oil extraction.
“No one realized it at the time, but Drake had drilled in the only spot in the region where oil could be found at such a shallow depth as 69 feet.”3
The fired occurred on October 6, 1859, and “burned the derrick, all the stored oil, and the driller’s home.”4 The derrick and driller’s home were later rebuilt.
Oil wells began to emerge throughout western Pennsylvania (Titusville country), producing 4,500 barrels in 1959. “In 1860 wells in northwestern Pennsylvania produced several hundred thousand barrels and by 1862 production reached three million barrels.”5 These wells produced half of the world’s oil until the East Texas oil boom in 1901.