A bit of history

For thousands of years, hunting and collecting vegetables were the main resources of mankind. Human beings could only consume energy, since they were unable to produce it. Approximately 7000 years ago, mankind discovered agriculture and eventually learned how to produce energy: it was food and muscle energy (produced by human beings and animals helping them), wind and water power (wind and water mills). Crafts, trade, transports were developed along with the exploitation of slaves, a new labour source to support economic development. The first contact between mankind and oil dates back to that period of history. Oil rarely emerges on the earth’s surface spontaneously: 5000 years ago Egyptians discovered its therapeutic virtues and used it to treat rheumatisms and circulation disorders, and to foster the conservation process of corpses (mummification). On the other hand, Persians and Romans used oil for illumination purposes and to manufacture firebombs. However, the use of oil remained episodic for many centuries and played a minor economic role. During the 17th century England went through en energy crisis owing to the excessive exploitation of wood as fuel and the price growth ensuing therefrom. Thus the energy potential of pit coal – in which England was rich – was discovered.  The “Industrial Revolution” started in 1709, when Abraham Darby used pit coal instead of charcoal for the first time. After a little longer than a century, pit coal became the most widely used energy source and new technologies simplified its extraction.
History speeded up. Starting from the second half of the 19th century, mankind started exploiting new resources: oil, natural gas, waterpower and atomic energy. The discovery of new energy resources accompanied the population growth and economic development.
Over thousands of years mankind lived off hunting and collecting the fruits of the Earth, almost exclusively using the energy of muscles: under those circumstances the planet could only support a population of 20 millions approximately.  With the development of agriculture and the discovery of new energy sources, the population grew rapidly. 16 centuries were necessary to reach the figure of 500 million inhabitants, but only two centuries (1600-1830) to reach the first billion.
At present the world population amounts to approximately 6 billions, and hydrocarbons, together with the development of the electric energy, provided a vital contribution to the development of human civilisation during the 20th century, and will continue doing so during the 21st century. However, the other side of the coin is inevitable: the large production of pollution and waste and the growing gap in terms of available raw materials and energy between the Northern and the Southern hemispheres. Only during the last decades of the 20th century did mankind start caring for the planet’s health, endeavouring to minimise the impact of its presence on Earth. As regards the gap between North and South, the Governments of the world will need to endeavour very hard to find a solution for a very difficult problem.

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From the Multimedia section

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    World oil reserves at 2018

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    Laying of a pipeline

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    Pipeline under construction

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    Men at work

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    Drilling of wells

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    Classification of reservoirs

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    World oil reserves at 2018

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    Laying of a pipeline

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Facts

  • Orimulsion

    In order to improve supply security, and therefore the diversification of sources to produce electric energy...

    Cracking operations

    At the end of the fractional distillation, long hydrocarbon molecules can be transformed into lighter molecules by means of more…

    Where does energy come from?

    Every day the Earth receives enough solar energy to satisfy the global energy need...

  • Electricity and electrons

    In all electric plants, excluding photovoltaic solar plants, mechanic energy is transformed into electric energy through the same basic procedure...

    Peat and peat-bogs

    The age of coal starts towards the mid 1600s, stimulated by the need for finding an alternative energy source to…

    Geographical distribution of energy

    Every day the Earth receives enough solar energy to satisfy the global energy need. Unfortunately we cannot exploit all this…

  • Some curiosities about methane hydrates

    The melting of the ice cells, not only brings about the release of methane gas, but it also produces another…

    Hydrogen from the sugar cane

    The Centro di Ricerca Interuniversitario per lo Sviluppo Sostenibile (CIRPS) carried out a study in Peru...

    Hydrogen from biomass

    Hydrogen is an energy carrier that allows to generate energy in an environmentally sustainable way...

  • 2 March 2011

    Orimulsion

    In order to improve supply security, and therefore the diversification of sources to produce electric energy...

    Cracking operations

    At the end of the fractional distillation, long hydrocarbon molecules can be transformed into lighter molecules by means of more…

  • Where does energy come from?

    Every day the Earth receives enough solar energy to satisfy the global energy need...

    Electricity and electrons

    In all electric plants, excluding photovoltaic solar plants, mechanic energy is transformed into electric energy through the same basic procedure...

  • Peat and peat-bogs

    The age of coal starts towards the mid 1600s, stimulated by the need for finding an alternative energy source to…

    Geographical distribution of energy

    Every day the Earth receives enough solar energy to satisfy the global energy need. Unfortunately we cannot exploit all this…

  • Orimulsion

    In order to improve supply security, and therefore the diversification of sources to produce electric energy...

  • Cracking operations

    At the end of the fractional distillation, long hydrocarbon molecules can be transformed into lighter molecules by means of more…

  • Where does energy come from?

    Every day the Earth receives enough solar energy to satisfy the global energy need...