Episode 193: What cities used to be the nation’s centers for refining petroleum?
Have you ever wondered what cities used to be the nation’s centers for refining petroleum? On this week’s Energy Bite, Joel Tarr, a professor of Carnegie Mellon University has some answers.
- Oil Industry by History Channel
- How Oil Refining Transformed U.S. History & Way of Life by Katrina C. Arabe
- US Number and Capacity of Petroleum Refineries by U.S. Energy Information Administration
HOST: Have you ever wondered what cities used to be the nation’s centers for refining petroleum? On this week’s Energy Bite, Joel Tarr, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, has some answers.
JOEL: In the 1850s, oil was discovered in northwestern Pennsylvania near what is today known as “Oil City.” Oil City is in the northwest corner of Pennsylvania in Venango County and it became the nation’s first oil producing region. Oil was initially shipped on barges down the Allegheny River to refineries in Pittsburgh. By 1870, there were at least 20 refineries in Pittsburgh.
HOST: How have the location of refineries changed over the course of history?
JOEL: Refineries sprang up in Cleveland and by the 1870s there were more there than in Pittsburgh. The largest refiner, John D. Rockefeller, bought out the independent refineries and came to dominate the refining industry. Oil was shipped to Cleveland via railroad and Rockefeller was able to negotiate with the railroads for cheaper rates. Pittsburgh refineries gradually lost out and Pittsburgh interests blamed the Pennsylvania Railroad for prejudice against the city in its rates. Today there is no oil refinery in the city of Pittsburgh although there are two refineries still operating in the Oil City region refining Pennsylvania crude.
HOST: Did you know Pittsburgh was once the nation’s center for refining petroleum? Take our poll, see the results, and ask your energy questions at Energy Bite dot org.