Oil is the largest segment of our energy raw materials use, being 40 percent, while coal use accounts for 27 percent, gas 21 percent, and hydroelectric/nuclear 12 percent. Although there are 20,000 petroleum fields known worldwide, more than half of the known reserves are contained in the 51 largest fields. The Middle East has 66 percent of the known world reserves. The United States has only 2 percent of the known world reserves. But which was the first oil well and who drilled it ?

The credit goes to Edwin Laurentine Drake who was an American oil driller and drilled the First Oil Well in Pennsylvania, USA in 1859. Born on March 29, 1819 in Greenville, Greene County, New York, Edwin Drake was a railroad conductor who devised a way to drill a practical oil well.

First oil well

.Edwin Drake was hired by the Seneca Oil Company to investigate suspected oil deposits in Titusville, Pennsylvania. Drake befriended James Townsend and others who were involved in oil discovery efforts. During his work, Drake constructed a derrick (a large crane) to drill for oil. He and Uncle Billy Smith drilled three feet per day. On August 27,1859, the drill dropped into a crevice at 69 feet and slipped down six inches. The men pulled out the drill; Drake went to town to observe the Sabbath. When Smith visited the well later, he found oil pooling from the earth's surface. The Drake well would remain a "pumper" and oil had to be mechanically pumped from the ground. Within two years there was an oil boom in western Pennsylvania, with wells that produced thousands of barrels of oil a day. The price of oil dropped so low that Drake and his employers were essentially put out of business. But Drake's efforts showed that drilling for oil could be practical.

Other wells were constructed, and because Drake never patented his idea, anyone could use his methods. In fact, Drake himself only drilled two more wells before leaving the oil business and living out most of the rest of his life in poverty.

The Drake Well Museum collect and preserves artifacts related to the birth of the American oil industry in 1859 by "Colonel" Edwin Drake along the banks of Oil Creek in Cherrytree Township, Venango County, Pennsylvania in the United States. The first practical use of salt drilling techniques for the extraction of petroleum through an oil well was demonstrated by the reconstructed Drake Well. The museum is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums and is located in Cherrytree Township, 3 miles south of Titusville on Drake Well Road.

Drake never benefited financially from his discovery of oil. His health also quickly declined. By some accounts, he suffered from muscular neuralgia (a disease of the nervous system) as early as 1860. By 1873, he lost most of his money. In recognition of Drake's efforts, the Pennsylvania legislature voted to award Drake a pension in 1870, and he lived in Pennsylvania until his death in 1880.