The History of the Oil and Gas Industry in Kentucky

When you think of oil and natural gas in America, what springs to mind? Many of you may have been thinking about vast oil fields in Texas, or maybe the trillions of cubic tons of natural gas sitting in Pennsylvania, New York, and a good portion of the Mid-Atlantic. Kentucky usually isn’t people’s first choice when they think about energy resources, but at David Stewart Heartland Resources Inc., we know that it should be. Kentucky’s department of the Division of Oil and Gas has records of 136,286 wells stored online, and they claim that as of 2009, over 165,000 wells have been drilled in Kentucky for the purposes of production. The oil and natural gas industry in the state has been growing, and there is a lot of interesting history behind it.

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The true beginning of the oil and gas industries started millions of years ago, between the Ordovician and Devonian geologic periods (meaning roughly between 485.4 – 358.9 million years ago), when the limestone, shale, and dolomites we extract resources from would have been formed. The Division of Oil and Gas states that most of the state’s oil is produced from Mississippian (a subsection of Carboniferous Period, 358.9 –323.2 million years ago, approximately) limestone and sandstone that is found in the eastern and western parts of the state. Ordovician limestone and dolomites in the southern part of the state also help produce oil. The majority of the natural gas produced in the state is produced from Devonian black shale that is also found in the eastern part of the state.

The state’s wealth of natural resources has been there for millions of years, but the industry really took off in the state towards the beginning of the 20th century. In 1919, oil was discovered near Pellville in Hancock County, and that fortuitous discovery set off an oil boom in the western part of the state. Once news got out that there was oil in Kentucky, people from around the country were flocking to the state in hopes of buying land rich with oil.

After the oil rush occurred, some people in the state banded together to form organizations to ensure that people from out of state and current residents would benefit from the newly-discovered crude. The Western Kentucky Oil Men’s Association and their eastern Kentucky counterpart were formed to protect oil interests in both regions of the state, but eventually the two groups merged into the Kentucky Oil and Gas Association in 1930. Since their formation, there have been a variety of regulations passed to ensure that the industry is safe and profitable for everyone involved.

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