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The purpose of this paper is to frame selected episodes in the establishment and development of the modern oil and gas industry in the Northern Apennines (Emilia-Romagna region), Italy. The research spans between the political unification of the Italian peninsula into the Kingdom of Italy (1861), and the outbreak of World War I (1914). In the attempt to delve into the socio-economic scenario of those times, we look to contextualize and describe the work of the geologists and engineers who contributed to developing the early scientific knowledge of practical utility on the oil-bearing formations of the Northern Apennines.

The history of the Emilia-Romagna oil industry was influenced and shaped by several episodes, and this paper discusses in particular two events that occurred during 1911. The first is an important and political act: the promulgation from the Italian authorities of the first regulation aimed at fostering the national oil industry, including the generous and criticized subsidies to support oil well drilling. The second is a technical–scientific landmark: the publication by Enrico Camerana and Bartolomeo Galdi (both engineers in the Royal Corps of Mines in Bologna) of the treatise I giacimenti petroleiferi dell’Emilia [The Oilfields of the Emilia Region], thanks to which Italian oil expertise made an important step forward. This seminal study on the state of the art of geological exploration of the oilfields of northern Italy represents the point of fracture between the empirical knowledge concerning oil and gas exploration and production and the development of the first national original research in the field of geosciences, to be fully developed in the decades to come.

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