History of the petroleum industry and petroleum geologists
This chapter presents a collection of first-generation Swiss geologists, who, around 1900, went abroad in order to work for oil organizations, both public and private. With the rise of oil exploration after 1900, the demand for experienced oil geologists grew rapidly. Oil companies started hiring trained geologists from different parts of the world, which led to an increasing number of Swiss geologists finding employment abroad. One of the first to start his career abroad was Carl Schmidt (1862–1923) from Basel, highly esteemed and later renowned for his achievements as a teacher of younger oil geologists. Another was Josef Erb (1874–1934), who accomplished an unparalleled career at Royal Dutch Shell. Other examples include Hans Hirschi (1876–1964), who worked for the Union des Pétroles d’Oklahoma for a few years, and Arnold Heim (1882–1965), working nearly 50 years for major oil companies. Many more followed over the decades to come, so that virtual successions took place between them: specific territories and specific companies were ‘handed down’ between geologists of the same nationality. Where once the Swiss were employed, others took over; the pioneers acted as door-openers for future generations.
Figures & Tables
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.