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History

A proud heritage leading to future strength.

From humble beginnings nearly 120 years ago, Oklahoma’s oil and natural gas industry has helped meet America’s energy demand, while generating millions of dollars for our state's economy and thousands of jobs for Oklahomans. Our state’s history and our future are inextricably tied to oil and natural gas.

Oklahoma’s oil industry began in 1897, when a tower of gushing oil divided the Bartlesville sky. Known as the Nellie Johnstone No. 1, Oklahoma Territory's first commercially profitable oil well christened our state for greatness. 

From 1900 through the mid 1940s, Oklahoma ranked among the nation’s top petroleum producing states—producing more than 900 million barrels of oil worth approximately $5.28 billion in that period alone.

In the 1950s, Oklahoma's exploratory drilling slumped badly, brought on by federal controls on wellhead prices of natural gas dedicated to interstate commerce. 

The Arab Oil Embargo of 1973 painted a different picture, greatly increasing the demand for domestic oil. A new boom was on, this time aided by new seismic technology, advanced chemistry, computers and other advancements that allowed companies to drill at incredible depths of more than 30,000 feet. 

By 1982, the number of active drilling rigs in Oklahoma hit a record 882 and oil prices hit an all-time high of $37.60 per barrel. But plummeting world crude oil prices created an equally staggering bust in the mid-1980s. 

Despite the bust, natural gas production continued to grow, peaking in the early 1990s. And as petroleum prices rebounded, so did the number of petroleum-related jobs statewide. 

Petroleum remains a vital Sooner State industry. According to a 2014 study, the oil and natural gas industry in Oklahoma produced approximately $65 billion in gross state product. That’s one of every three dollars. The industry also supports 465,616 full and part-time jobs – one of every five jobs in the state.