Monday, November 19, 2007


Okay -- I needed to backtrack a bit. This is California Gov't site. It's obviously written with some slightly younger researchers in mind -- but it's been a long day -- I was glad for simplicity.

Here's what I learned today that I find interesting, though: oil was used for medicine. Both by the ancient Egyptians and by the Native Americans -- who taught (see below) George Washington's troops how to cure frost bite with the stuff. I just imagine all of that oil up in Alaska... I'd like to know what the properties are that are healing -- probably similar to putting butter on a burn, I suppose. Sealing. Hydrating.

And also thinking about the idea of death and decay becoming fuel.
Wondering what happens to the holes in the earth where the oil was.

Also not valid sources are any pink websites.

Oil or Petroleum

Picture of oil formation

Oil is another fossil fuel. It was also formed more than 300 million years ago. Some scientists say that tiny diatoms are the source of oil. Diatoms are sea creatures the size of a pin head. They do one thing just like plants; they can convert sunlight directly into stored energy.

In the graphic on the left, as the diatoms died they fell to the sea floor (1). Here they were buried under sediment and other rock (2). The rock squeezed the diatoms and the energy in their bodies could not escape. The carbon eventually turned into oil under great pressure and heat. As the earth changed and moved and folded, pockets where oil and natural gas can be found were formed (3).

Oil has been used for more than 5,000-6,000 years. The ancient Sumerians, Assyrians and Babylonians used crude oil and asphalt ("pitch") collected from large seeps at Tuttul (modern-day Hit) on the Euphrates River. A seep is a place on the ground where the oil leaks up from below ground. The ancient Egyptians, used liquid oil as a medicine for wounds, and oil has been used in lamps to provide light.

The Dead Sea, near the modern Country of Israel, used to be called Lake Asphaltites. The word asphalt was derived is from that term because of the lumps of gooey petroleum that were washed up on the lake shores from underwater seeps.

In North America, Native Americans used blankets to skim oil off the surface of streams and lakes. They used oil as medicine and to make canoes water-proof. During the Revolutionary War, Native Americans taught George Washington's troops how to treat frostbite with oil.

As our country grew, the demand for oil continued to increase as a fuel for lamps. Petroleum oil began to replace whale oil in lamps because the price for whale oil was very high. During this time, most petroleum oil came from distilling coal into a liquid or by skimming it off of lakes - just as the Native Americans did.

Picture of Edwin Drake and well.

Then on August 27, 1859, Edwin L. Drake (the man standing on the right in the black and white picture to the right), struck liquid oil at his well near Titusville, Pennsylvania. He found oil under ground and a way that could pump it to the surface. The well pumped the oil into barrels made out of wood. This method of drilling for oil is still being used today all over the world in areas where oil can be found below the surface.

Oil and natural gas are found under ground between folds of rock and in areas of rock that are porous and contain the oils within the rock itself. The folds of rock were formed as the earth shifts and moves. It's similar to how a small, throw carpet will bunch up in places on the floor.

To find oil and natural gas, companies drill through the earth to the deposits deep below the surface. The oil and natural gas are then pumped from below the ground by oil rigs (like in the picture). They then usually travel through pipelines or by ship.

Picture of oil rigs circa 1900, Santa Barbara.

Picture of oil rigs.

Oil is found in 18 of the 58 counties in California. Kern County, the County where Bakersfield is found, is one of the largest oil production places in the country. But we only get one-half of our oil from California wells. The rest comes from Alaska, and an increasing amount comes from other countries. In the entire U.S., more than 50 percent of all the oil we use comes from outside the country...most of it from the Middle East.

Oil is brought to California by large tanker ships. The petroleum or crude oil must be changed or refined into other products before it can be used.

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