The Oil Industry of Germany
- Paul D. Torrey (Petroleum Engineer)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- June 1964
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 589 - 594
- 1964. Original copyright American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum Engineers, Inc. Copyright has expired.
- 1.6 Drilling Operations, 5.8.5 Oil Sand, Oil Shale, Bitumen, 2.2.2 Perforating, 5.2 Reservoir Fluid Dynamics, 4.6 Natural Gas, 2.4.3 Sand/Solids Control, 4.2 Pipelines, Flowlines and Risers, 4.1.5 Processing Equipment, 1.10.1 Drill string components and drilling tools (tubulars, jars, subs, stabilisers, reamers, etc)
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The German oil industry began shortly after oil was discovered in the United States, but the development of oil production was at a much slower rate because the early wells produced in small quantity. During World War II the existing fields were produced to their maximum capacity, but it was not until after the Federal Republic of Germany was formed, when the oil industry received the benefits of substantial protective tariffs, that extensive exploration for new fields was commenced. This work resulted in the discovery of new reserves of substantial size, and at the present time Germany has the largest domestic production of oil in Free Europe. Under the terms of the European Economic Community Treaty, the system of protective tariffs on imported crude oil, under which the German oil industry has flourished, were to be discontinued gradually and were to be eliminated by 1970. As it was faced with this prospect, the German oil industry appealed to its government form assistance, which was granted by a recent act of Parliament which provides for the payment of subsidies on domestic oil production in decreasing amount for six years. Also, low interest loans are to be made to German companies to enable them to prospect for oil in foreign lands.
The recent discovery of large gas reserves in The Netherlands and the commencement of the application of the European Economic Community Treaty relating to oil on Jan. 1, 1964, have had a profound effect on the oil industry of Germany. Germany is the most important oil country in Free Europe, so, because of the significance of these events, it is believed that a discussion of the petroleum geology of Germany, a description of the way that oil fields have been found, developed and produced, and a consideration of the impending changes in the fuel economy of the nation should be of interest to the United States engineers.
The German oil industry had its beginning at approximately the same time as in the United States, but development was at a much slower rate than in this country because the early wells produced oil in small quantity. Drilling was undertaken, just as was the case in northwestern Pennsylvania, because of surface seeps in the County of Celle, particularly in the vicinity of the Village of Wietze. Starting in 1876 in this area. heavy oil was produced from numerous shallow wells. Subsurface mining operations were commenced in the shallow Wietze field in 1920. In the beginning of this mining operation, oil was produced by seepage from the reservoir rock into the tunnels which had been excavated away from the central shaft. Subsequently the oil sand was excavated and brought to the surface where i was washed and the oil extracted by this process. A great mound of washed sand near the mine shaft indicates the magnitude of these underground operations.
It is estimated that recovery was increased from about 15 per cent of oil in place by the production obtained from wells to about 38 per cent by the mining operation. In recent years expansion of the Wietze mine was discontinued largely for economic reasons, but it has been used for several interesting oil recovery experiments. It was concluded as a result of these experiments that as much oil could be produced by various recovery processes using wells drilled into the oil reservoirs from the surface, so the mining operation was shut down in the summer of 1963. This operation was notable in that it provided the unique opportunity of direct inspection underground of a producing oil reservoir, and of direct observation of the effects of various recovery processes. Petroleum was of such insignificant importance at the time the General Mining Law of Germany was adopted in 1865 that it was not included with other minerals. Thus, up until 1934, when the first Petroleum Law was enacted and which vested title to all undiscovered oil and gas fields in the state, development of the oil fields and the production of oil was carried on by lease agreements between land owners and oil companies similar to the manner in which land is leased, wells are drilled and oil is produced in the U.S. The Petroleum Act of 1934 did not invalidate existing lease agreements and some oil, chiefly from the shallow fields of early discovery, is still produced under such agreements.
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