What is a barrel?

I saw the oil price zooming past US$120. It's really amazing how the oil price keeps going up. One strategist for Goldman Sachs predicted it will even reach US$200 per barrel. The intersting bit is that how do we measure oil barrels? I am recycling this entry which I wrote two years ago.

One of the interesting thing you find about Bruneians is that a lot of us don't know much about oil which is the lifeline of this country. Practically everything we touch in Brunei owes its existence to oil. And yet there is so much about the oil industry that we don't know. All we know now is that the world oil price is about US$70 per barrel. And yet ask this question - how do we export oil? It's priced in barrels. So, do we still use barrels to store oil and export it?

It is true that previously oil is stored in classic wooden barrels. In America, back in 1859, customers paid by the barrel, but there was no standard size. Different oil buyers would get different amounts when they filled up from the stock tank at the well. The barrel most commonly used for oil was 40 gallons, the same size as a whiskey barrel. As production increased, a standardized oil barrel became more important, both for businessmen and for government tax collectors. Some wells were putting out more than 3,000 barrels of oil per day, and coopers were producing large numbers of brand-new containers just for oil. At around the same time, the then American government enacted new tax laws to help finance the Civil War. A standard measure of oil helped the tax collectors make its collections.

By 1870, the oil barrel size was set at 42 gallons. And by then, oil was so cheap at 10 cents per gallon that the empty barrel cost as much as the oil. That helped to set the development of the first oil pipeline. At the same time, wooden tank cars and later steel tank barges start hauling oil through the traintracks and ships, each tank car holding around 80 barrels. With each development, the barrel became more and more obsolete. However, the 42-gallon barrel is still a standard unit of measurement in the oil industry. Other units, such as cubic meters or imperial gallons, can be converted to the U.S. barrel. Even though the 42-gallon barrels is no longer in use, companies still ship some oil in 55-gallon steel drums although the volumes for these are still given in 42-gallon "barrels."

I guess the next question would be - do you know how our oil people find oil?


Al-Qadr said…
On behalf of all browsers, I must thank you for recycling your old articles, BRo. I have always told my school-going kids and other youngsters to log onto your weblog for their general knowledge. This particular piece would be of great interest to the younger readers.

What interested me was the fact that after almost a century oil was first found in America, by the blessings and the will of God the Almighty, the 'black gold' made its appearance on Brunei soil in 1929. And 45 years ago (the year we were both born), oil and gas were discovered 10 miles off the coast of Kuala Belait - all praises and thanks be to the ONE and ONLY God - ALHAMDULLILLAH!

Let's say 200 dollars per barrel of oil and we are producing like what? 250,000 barrels or 300,000 barrels of oil per day now?

50,000,000.00 or 60,000,000.00dollars per day (minus many millions in production costs, of course) and that would roughly be the daily income to feed a total population of 338,383 (plus/minus) Bruneians!:) SUBHANNALLAH!

An average Bruneian can live with 10 dollars a day, maybe, just maybe. So 338,383 x 10.00 = 3,338,383.00 dollars per day only.

Amazing how hundreds of our own people who are subjects of His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam are still struggling to look for a decent job and to make ends meet...
Some have even committed suicide!:(
Al-Qadr said…
naSo sorry, boss! 338,383 x 10.00 = 3,383,830.00 dollars per day lah...

So 50 million minus 3 million plus, there is still more than 40 million left. Okay, most probably 20 million goes to producing the oil on a daily basis, God the Almighty Wealthiest still blesses the Abode of Peace with another 20 million to spare per day. Wrong?!
Unknown said…
We had learned how oil and gas is produced during lower secondary (or was it primary). How the gas was condense? I remember drawing the layers and tar residue was labeled at the bottom.

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