In North America, the first oil well was drilled in 1858 by James Miller Williams in Oil Springs, Ontario, Canada.
In the United States, the petroleum industry began in 1859 when Edwin Drake found oil near Titusville, Pennsylvania.
How about in Indonesia?
Indonesia also has a very interesting history of early oil drilling, and it was not too far behind North America in finding its first oil wells in the 19th century.
In Indonesia, Dutch officials noted there were 53 oil seepage locations across Indonesia in 1869. The first oil well drilling in Indonesia began in 1871 in West Java. Several years later, oil was discovered in Pangkalan Brandan in Sumatera in 1885 and Sanga-Sanga in East Kalimantan in 1892.
The First Oil Discovery in Java
“Knowledge of oil on Java and Sumatra was reported as early as the year 954 and in 1596 a Dutch voyage reported a well in Sumatra producing a balm used for treating rheumatism and for lighting purposes (Van Bemmelen, 1949).”
“In 1869, Von Baumhauer recorded 44 oil seeps in Java, drilling for oil started in West Java in 1872 and the first oil company started operations in East Java in 1887 (Van Bemmelen, 1949).”
“Early exploration wells in West Java onshore were drilled by Jon Reesink who was a storekeeper in Cirebon (Courteney and others, 1989). He visited the United States, collected drilling equipment and skills, and began drilling at Cibodas in 1871 with the financial backing of Nederlandsche Handel Maatschappij (the predecessor of Royal Dutch Shell) (Courteney and others, 1989).”
“Sub-commercial oil was found in two of his first four wells, which were drilled using water buffalo for power. He resumed drilling in 1874 with steam equipment, but the next 5 wells were unsuccessful, which discouraged his backers. However, other drilling ventures were conducted with encouraging shows, and the first commercial oil field was discovered at Randegan in 1939 (Courteney and others, 1989).”
The First Oil Discovery in Sumatera
In 1883, tobacco planter A.J. Zijkler obtained the first petroleum exploration rights in North West Sumatera from the Sultan of Langkat. He then discovered the first commercial oil well in Indonesia in 1885.
The discovery well – Telaga Tunggal 1 – was discovered in Langkat near Pangkalan Brandan. Oil was found at a depth of 121 meters and the field produced more than 7 million barrels of crude oil for more than 50 years.
The First Oil Discovery In Kalimantan
Oil was discovered in Balikpapan, Kalimantan in 1897 when Jacobus Hubertus Menten, a Dutch mining engineer observed oil seepages in the area.
With the help from Sir Marcus Samuel from Shell Transport and Trading Ltd, they drilled the famous Well Mathilda B-1 on 10 February 1897. The well was drilled to 222 Meter and it flowed initially at 184 barrels per day. This oil discovery in Balikpapan took place 38 years after Sir Edwin Drake drilled the world’s first oil well in America.
With the discovery, Jacobus Hubertus Menten and Sir Marcus Samuel formed Nederlandsch Indisch Industrie en Handel Maatschappij (NIIHM), and it continued to discover other oil fields away from Balikpapan. 10 February 1897 is considered the birth date of Balikpapan.
This article consists of excerpts from the article “Petroleum Systems of the Northwest Java Province, Java, and Offshore Southeast Sumatra, Indonesia” written by Michelle Bishop published by USGS in 2000 and information from several other sources.
The article is written by Jamin Djuang, the author of The Story Of Oil and Gas: How Oil and Gas are Explored, Drilled and Produced.