The story of UK onshore exploration goes back to the days of World War I and was prompted by the increasing use of oil for the war effort. The war was drawing to a close as the campaign commenced in 1918. The UK government sponsored the drilling with a budget of £1 000 000 and the work was undertaken by S. Pearson & Sons, a UK engineering company owned by Lord Cowdray (Weetman Pearson). Pearson also had oil interests and he owned the Mexican Eagle Company that had had exploration success in Mexico. Pearson hired a team of American geologists to select suitable drilling locations in the UK. The Carboniferous rocks in the area surrounding the Derbyshire Dome in England and the Midland Valley in Scotland were chosen because of their similarity to the oil-producing areas of Pennsylvania and West Virginia in the USA. Eleven wells were sunk: seven in Derbyshire, two in North Staffordshire and two in Scotland. The first well to be spudded was at Hardstoft in Derbyshire in October 1918 and it was also the first oil discovery. The geological reasoning behind the selection of the drilling sites will be compared with the actual results from 1918–22.
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The history of the European oil and gas industry reflects local as well as global political events, economic constraints and the personal endeavours of individual petroleum geoscientists as much as it does the development of technologies and the underlying geology of the region. The first commercial oil wells in Europe were drilled in Poland in 1853, Romania in 1857, Germany in 1859 and Italy in 1860. The 23 papers in this volume focus on the history and heritage of the oil and gas industry in the key European oil-producing countries from the earliest onshore drilling to its development into the modern industry that we know today. The contributors chronicle the main events and some of the major players that shaped the industry in Europe. The volume also marks several important anniversaries, including 150 years of oil exploration in Poland and Romania, the centenary of the drilling of the first oil well in the UK and 50 years of oil production from onshore Spain.