The oil and gas industry in Romania has long been beneficial to the country and its population since its inception in the mid-19th century. In fact, it was well established by 1857, when Bucharest became the first city in the world to be illuminated by kerosene lamps. Today, its products are important in our everyday lives, from the supply of energy to power industry, to heat and light up our homes and businesses, providing fuel for transportation, plastics, clothing, fertilizer, and many other items we use on a daily basis.
The industry is a major employer of Romanians, covering a wide range of disciplines from engineers, earth scientists, environmental, health and safety specialists, lawyers, accountants, and many others too numerous to describe here. The industry makes a major contribution to the economy in terms of tax revenues, manufacturing and technology transfer, and exports.
The Romanian oil and gas industry was nationalized soon after the end of World War II, peak production was reached in 1976, and it continued to be managed under the communist regime until 1989.
The first post-communism licensing round in 1992 attracted a number of international companies, but in the years that followed there was little foreign investment. The majority of the concessions within the country were held by the national oil (Petrom) and gas (Romgaz) companies for much of the next two decades, and investment in the oil and gas industry as a whole dwindled.
Partial privatization of Petrom led to the purchase of a majority share in the company by the former Austrian state company, OMV, in 2004. Foreign investment in the industry has gradually increased with the arrival of super-major, major, large to medium independent, and smaller companies all with a role to play in the development of the country’s oil and gas resources.
The responsibility of the government and industry is to ensure development of these valuable resources leads to a maximum benefit for the country and its people, in a timely, cost efficient, environmentally protective and safe manner.
Download: Gheorghe Buzatu - O istorie a petrolului romanesc [2009 - Romanian]
Over 150 years of oil in Romania » Brief history
“Who will have the oil will have the domination”, Henry Berenger wrote in a diplomatic note for Clemenceau at 12 December 1919, in the eve of the French-British Conference from London, regarding the Western Europe and the Asia Minor future: “The domination of the seas through oil, the domination of the air through light gasoline, of the continents through gasoline and kerosene, the domination of the world through financial power …. the nation that will be the owner of this precious fuel will see billions.”
The beginnings of oil industry in Romania
Oil exploitation in our country has a long history. The first attestation dates from the II century a.H. and continues in the next centuries, being proven by the numerous potteries with marks of crude oil on them, dated in the II-XVI centuries.
In all this time, Romania and Romanians have gathered up an experience envied by many states of the world even the ones with o modern civilization.
As a natural consequence of our country concern for oil exploitation was that Romania has decisive contributed at the achievement of 3 oil world premieres in 1857:
- The first country in the world with a petroleum production officially registered in the international statistics
„The Science of Petroleum” certifies in 1938 the fact that Romania was the first country in the world with an oil production of 275 tones officially registered in the international statistics. It was followed by the United States in 1859, Italy in 1860, Canada in 1862 and Russia in 1863.
- The world’s first refinery
In our country the first processing equipments of petroleum are considered the “oil pumps” from Lucacesti-Bacau, belonging to N Choss in 1840 and M. Heimsohn in 1844. This were only simple handmade workshops, equipped with rudimentary methods which were using for refining a system similar to the one for obtaining “tuica” in a rustic boiler.
Distillation on industrial way starts with the refinery built by Mehedinteanu brothers at the periphery of Ploiesti city, near the South Station, on 174, Buna Vestire Street.
The refinery installations were quite primitive, all the equipment being build up from iron or raw iron cylindrical vessels, warmed up directly with wood fire. This equipment was ordered in Germany from Moltrecht company which was building boilers for bituminous shale distillation, and in December 1856 starts the construction of the gas factory from Ploiesti, on the name of Marin Mehedinteanu.
- Bucharest, the world’s first city public illuminated with kerosene
The oil offered by Mehedinteanu brothers for public illumination had incontestable properties: colorless and with no smell, burning with a light flame, with a constant intensity and shape, without smoke and without ash or resinous compounds in the wick. This important properties of the product as well as the offer of 335 lei per year for each street lamp had practically excluded all the competition, the other offers which proposed as a fuel the rape or nut oil were taking the costs up to 600 lei per year.
Teodor Mehedinteanu’s offer was approved on the 8-th October 1856 and so Bucharest would have been illuminated with 1000 street lamps. At 1-st April 1857- the date for coming into operation of the contract for the capital illumination - everything was ready and working perfectly.
The main oil companies of that time
The bases of important oil companies were set up during the 150 years of oil industry in Romania: Steaua Română, Româno-Americana, Vega, Astra Română, Concordia, Creditul Minier.
This strong companies have been thrown into relief through the extraction, processing and commercialization activities from a number of 104 existing societies in 1914. As a matter of fact, these companies will be the ones that will promote the Romanian oil production growth, from 275 tones in 1857, to 15.900 tones in 1880, date until which only Romania and USA were registered in the oil producers’ countries statistics. The production will grow at 250.000 tones in 1900 and will reach 1.783.947 tones in 1914.
Outstanding personalities from the oil history
In our country the oil history remembers remarcable names:
- ing. Virgiliu Tacit - patented the blow-out preventer
- ing. Andrei Dragulanescu - the one that have drawn up and experimented the unique column oil well tubing
- dr. ing. Ion Basgan the one that using the sonicity principle have licensed in 1934 in Romania and USA a new drilling system: “Method for improving the efficiency and perfecting the rotative drilling through percussive rotation and hydrodynamic pressure absorption.” Basgan procedure had made a fulminant carrier in USA being used in Romania too after 1944 without its merits being recognized.
- Lazar Edeleanu elaborated a method of kerosene refining and later other oil products too, through selective refinement, using liquid sulphur dioxide.
Other important personalities from the oil industry history were: Gogu Constantinescu, Victor Dumitrescu, Ludovic Mrazec, Petru Poni, Valeriu Patriciu, Constantin I. Istrati, Constantin Alimăneştianu.
- The deepest oil well drilled in Romania
The company’s Creditul Minier oil well number 1, at Chitorani, had reached a depth of 3300 m (1934), taking the second place in the world, being at a distance of 158 meters from General Petroleum Corporation’s oil well from California, oil well with a record depth of 3458 meters. (“The world’s deepest oil wells“, article from Moniteur du Petrole Roumain, nr. 17/1938, page 1085)
- The world’s first School of Driller Foreman
In 1904, the first school in the world of driller foreman was set up in Campina, diversified later for training the distiller foreman. The school has given to the Romanian oil industry high professional preparation foreman, asked even from 1914 to work abroad.
- Romania was the first country in the world which exported gasoline from 1900
Facts about oil
- Oil or petroleum, together with coal and natural gases are a part of the biogenic deposits which are found in the earth crust
- Raw oil (not refined) contains over 17 000 organic complex substances, reason for which is the most important raw material for the chemistry industry (paint, drugs, plastic materials) and the fuel producing
- As a curiosity, it could be mentioned that some types of petroleum become phosphorescent in the presence of ultraviolet light
- Oil was already discovered a few thousand years ago, through the fact that it has a lower density than the salted water, being found in caverns and in regions with calcareous, argillaceous or sandy sedimentation layers, at the surface, for example around Honovrei and Braunschweig from Germany
- The oil layers situated at the surface through oxidation transform in asphalt, this one being already discovered almost 12 000 years ago in Ancient Mesopotamia. People have learned to use the asphalt, by mixing the sand and other materials which makes the air-tight for the ship walls
- From the time of Babilon originates the name naptu (nabatu= illuminate) which indicates us the fact that oil was used for illuminate, this was mentioned in the Laws of Hammurabi in 1857 a.Ch. being the first written historical proof for regulating the oil use
- Petroleum is a word with roman origin which comes from “oleum petrae”= stone oil, name which the Romans had taken from Egyptians which discover oil at the surface of the earth in Suez Bay’s Mountains. It is supposed that in Antiquity Romans used the oil as a lubricant for the roman axle cart or in the time of the Byzantine Empire the oil was a part of the Greek fire, a feared weapon in the formerly naval battle
- Oil was used in the ancient medicine too, being sold as a miraculous universally cure
- Inextinguishable fire maintained by the gases which were bursting from the ground in the Apseron Peninsula oil field - where there are now the exploitation from Baku - have giving birth, in ancient times, to Zoroaster cult, the cult of fire
- Massif exploitation of the oil begins in the XIX century as a result of spreading the use of oil in illumination, which gave a better light producing less smoke comparing with the whale oil lamp or the waxen candles
- Asia holds the first place in the world for oil reserves and production
- Saudi Arabia is the biggest oil producer on the globe
- “The Science of Petroleum” certifies in 1938 the fact that Romania was the first country with an oil production of 275 tones officially registered in the international statistics. It was followed by the United Stated in 1859, Italy in 1860, Canada in 1862, Russia in 1863.
- The first refinery in the world was set up in Ploiesti, built by the Mehedinteanu brothers in the city’s outskirts, near the South Station
- The first School of Driller Foreman from Romania and from the world was established in 1904, in Campina
- In 1907, in Ploiesti was set up Concodia plant for repairing and producing the oil equipment
- In the first world war in Romania were destroyed 1677 oil well, from which 1047 productive, oil refinery, oil derrick and refinery with all their annexes equipment and a quantity of oil derivates of 827.000 tones
- Starting with 1929 and since 1938, all the oil based products obtained in the greatest Romanian refineries Concordia (Vega), Steaua Romana, Unirea (Orion and Speranta), Columbia, Creditul Minier (Brazi, Doicesti), Prahova (Petrolul Bucuresti), Xenia, Dacia Romana and Petrol Block (Standard) were asked for export
- A table regarding the world probably reserves (including the certain ones) sets Romania in 1937 on the 7th place in the world after: Russia, USA, Iraq, Iran, Venezuela, Dutch Indies
- Romanian Scientist, Lazar Edeleanu, had managed, for the first time in the world, to refine oil based products with sulphur dioxide, in other words separation from the oil of some hydrocarbon groups, without their chemical alteration
- Ing. Virgiliu tacit and ing. Valeriu Puscariu had built up a valve, remained in the oil history under the name “Tacit Valve”, which adapted to the blowing out oil wells, could close them hydraulic from any distance, even if the eruptive oil well was on fire. It applies to the free eruptions with a maximum pressure of 100 atm. The valve was licensed in Romania on 15 May 1912, then in Germany, Austria-Hungary and Mexico and its license was asked in other countries in which the oil was exploited.