History of oil transportation

The benefits of crude oil and commercial investment into exploration and building oil wells date back to 1860s. Oil had to be transported to refineries across quite a distance, so the railroad system was used extensively.

The first method of transporting drilled oil to rail stations was in wooden barrels on horse and/or donkey drawn carts. In the United States, special converted whiskey barrels were used. The transport was slow, inefficient and very costly. To avoid these costs, simple wooden pipelines were created that brought the crude oil to the stations. As the demand for oil increased, iron and eventually steel pipelines were constructed to speed up the process.

In the 1940s, tanker truck were used extensively to transport oil to refineries. Field storage tanks on raised platforms were built at the well site and visited periodically by tanker trucks. The first trucks could carry 40 to 50 barrels, but they gradually grew larger and stronger, eventually being able to carry up to 220 barrels.

Eventually, the tanker truck transport system reached its capacity limits and long-distance pipeline systems were considered. At first pipeline transportation was viewed as too unpredictable, with high risks of clogging the pipes in case of lower temperatures. This could be avoided by burying the pipeline at least 160 cm into the ground, but this increases the construction costs. Finally a solution came along in diluting the crude oil by a natural gas condensate. Pipelines are currently considered as the most economical way of transporting large quantities of oil across land. The high costs of building pipelines below the sea result in using oil tankers for sea transportation.