A brief story of Baku oil timelineSaturday, March 25, 2023
Azerbaijan has been linked with oil for centuries, even for millennia. Medieval travelers to the region remarked on its abundant supply of oil, noting that this resource was an integral part of daily life there.
By the 19th century, Azerbaijan was by far the frontrunner in the world's oil and gas industry. In 1846 - more than a decade before the Americans made their famous discovery of oil in Pennsylvania - Azerbaijan drilled its first oil well in Bibi-Heybat. By the beginning of the 20th century, Azerbaijan was producing more than half of the world's supply of oil.
Arab historian Istahri-Abu Iskhak described how the people of Baku used soil soaked in oil as fuel.
After visiting Absheron, Arab historian Muhammad Bekran wrote about the shaft extraction of oil in Balakhani (today, a suburb of Baku).
Right: Camel caravans in Baku late 1800s. Oil Baron Taghiyev imported the first car to Azerbaijan. By 1911, Baku had 11 cars. Photo: Azerbaijan National Archives.
At the suggestion of V.N. Semyonov, a member of the Caucasus Head Management, a 21m well was drilled in Bibi-Heybat for oil exploration. This event marked the first time in world history that an oil well was successfully drilled. More than a decade later, on August 27, 1859, "Colonel" Edwin L. Drake (1819-1880) struck oil on American soil for the first time, in Titusville, Pennsylvania.
Vasily Kokarev, Peter Gubonin and German baron N.E. Tornow built the first factory in Surakhani, close to the Fire Worshippers' Temple. The factory was used to produce kerosene out of "kir", an asphalt-like substance.
The Nobel brothers built the world's first oil-carrying steamship, naming it "Zoroaster" after Zoroaster (628-551 BC), a great religious reformer and the founder of Zoroastrianism, which predated Islam in the region.
Oil pipeline construction was completed between the fields in Sabunchi and Black City.
On May 18, the Oil Production Fellowship of the Nobel Brothers established the Nobel Frere Petroleum Company.
Balakhani's first power station, built by the Caucasus and Mercury Joint Stock Company, began operation.
On May 16 the Rothschild Brothers established the Caspian and Black Sea Oil Industry and Trade Society.
The Alexander Benkendorf Oil and Trade Company was established in Baku.