Petroleum Resources of Japan
- J. Morgan Clements
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Transactions of the AIME
- Publication Date
- December 1923
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 1,097 - 1,104
- 1923. Original copyright American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum Engineers, Inc. Copyright has expired.
- 7.4 Energy Economics
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Petroleum has been known in Japan since at least 668 A. D., for a pictureshows the presentation, during that year, to the Emperor Tenchi (Tenji) of"burning water" and "burning earth" by his subjects from EchigoProvince, which today is the largest producer of petroleum in Japan. Theburning water was doubtless petroleum and the burning earth either bituminousshale or oil-soaked earth or rock from near the oil seepages.
The early methods of getting the oil were simple and similar to methods usedtoday in Japan and in China. Where the seepages occurred, trenches or shallowwells were dug along the seepages and allowed to fill with oil, which was thenbailed out; in some cases, they filled with oil and water and overflowed.During the 300 years following 1500 A. D., the use of petroleum in EchigoProvince seems to have increased considerably, as compared with earliercenturies, and records show that in 1818 the depth of the wells had beengreatly increased. Doubtless, they passed through the seepages and tapped theshallow oil-bearing strata; probably some of these deeper wells were dug beforethat time.
The real value of petroleum was not recognized until early in the Meiji era,which began in 1868, when the Japanese learned that the kerosene that was beingimported was derived from petroleum. Guided solely by information obtained frombooks, they refined the oil and increased the depth of their wells in order toincrease the production. The deepest well, dug by hand, about this time was 894ft.' (273 m.) and by 1874 the recorded production reached 3499 barrels.
In 1876, Benjamin Smith Lyman prepared geological maps of the Echigo oilfield, which were the first of such geological maps made in Japan, and based onthese a more enlightened development of the oil fields began; the Japanese,however, still dug the wells by hand. Toward the end of the '80s, an Americanwell-drilling outfit was secured, but the efforts to use it failed from lack ofexperience by the operators.
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