The earliest occurrence of natural gas is not clearly known, but it is believed that it was observed in the earliest of times. Some accounts indicate that the Chinese used natural gas many years before the birth of Christ as a fuel for the evaporation of brine.

The inhabitants of Persia and the Russian Caucasus were a cult of fire worshippers who flourished for many years prior to 636 A.D., and it is reported that they used natural gas in certain religious rites. Eternal fires burned in the several temples that have been found at Surakhani near Baku, and at Daughan, some 60-miles southeast of the southeastern tip of the Caspian Sea.

A relatively recent description of the occurrence was presented by Sir Boverton Redwood of London, England, who wrote in 1922 about temples around the Caspian Sea where a constant flame issued from a low cliff in the rocks. "The flame is, in color and general nature, not unlike a lamp that burns with spirits, only more pure", he wrote.

One of the oldest references to natural gas in the United States is found in the diary of General George Washington, who noted in 1775, the burning springs along the Kanawha River about nine-miles above Charleston, W. Va. General Washington received this land, along with other tracts, from the State of Virginia as a reward for his military services. Upon his death, he willed 1 acre of ground around the burning springs to the public. A later account discloses that a Capt. James Wilson, in 1815, discovered natural gas in a well which he was deepening primarily for salt.

Fredonia, N. Y. bears the distinction of first using natural gas for the purpose of illumination. It is reported that gas arising from a fresh-water stream caught fire from the lantern of a housewife. A company was shortly organized, and a hole 1 1/2 in. in diameter wad bored to a depth of 27-ft to the rock beneath. A cone shaped gas holder was constructed over the hole with a capacity of 88 cu ft, and a wooden pipeline was built in 1821 to convey the gas to some 30 houses where it was used for lighting at a cost of $1.50 per month.

As the demand for petroleum grew, natural gas took on a"poor-relation" position in one of America's leading industries. The principle reason for this was the very limited demand for natural gas in comparison to oil. An early account relates that, when gas was found in the early wells that had for their objectives the discovery of new oilfields, the disappointment to the operator was comparable to that which attended the completion of a dry hole.

Usually the market for gas was limited in new fields, and the great majority of operators believed that, in order to salvage their capital outlay, it was necessary to open the wells wide and let the gas flow to the air. This was based largely on experience, which had shown that gradually the oil would enter the well and replace the gas. Very few operators at the time realized that, later, such a lavish waste of gas would actually reduce the total oil that could be recovered from the pool.

It was not generally understood that the source of oil and gas was a common reservoir, and poor practices on the part of the operator would lead to reduction in total recovery and loss by other operators.

Until after World War II if a well came in as a gas well, it was promptly plugged and abandoned. Now, years later, these locations are being eagerly sought out and these areas are again being drilled. Today, gas is not on proration, and gas production is limited only by the size of the market to which it is connected.


It is of interest to note that in 1856 the city council of Marietta, Ohio, allowed the gas company four years in which to build two miles of pipeline.

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