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Petroleum: The Inside Story

J.M. Syken

Course Outline

Through the viewing of several archival/documentary films produced in the 1930s/40s/50s, we will examine the history of Petroleum from the early use of Kerosene as a replacement for whale oil to the development of gasoline to power internal combustion engines.

We will examine the crude oil extraction process, refining (distillation) into derivative products such as lubricating oils, gasoline, natural gas etc. We will also examine the many products such as plastics, fertilizer, insecticides etc. that are derived from crude oil and we will review safety procedures for flammable petroleum products.

This course includes a multiple-choice quiz at the end, which is designed to enhance the understanding of the course materials.

Learning Objective

At the conclusion of this course, the student will:

Intended Audience

This course is intended for architects, engineers and other design professionals.

Benefit to Attendees

The attendee/s will gain an intimate knowledge and insight into the background, history, development, uses etc. of Petroleum.

Course Introduction

The course incorporates the viewing of several archival/documentary films broken down as follows;

Part 1 examine the origins of the Petroleum Industry, its development, extraction/ refining methods, transportation, distribution and the various products derived from crude oil. Part 2 examines the refining by distillation process that creates gasoline from crude oil and the supplemental methods developed to increase quality/production. Part 3 examines how gasoline provides motive power in an engine. Part 4 examines the necessary safety procedures/rules to be followed when handling flammable petroleum products.

Course Content

Part 1 – Industry Overview;
TITLE: Oil for Aladdin’s Lamp (ca.1949)
TITLE: Twenty-Four Hours of Progress (1950)
Part 2 – Making Gasoline;
TITLE: More Power to You (ca.1930s)
TITLE: Gasoline for Everybody (1944)
TITLE: The Story of Gasoline (1948)
Part 3 – Gasoline Power;
TITLE: Down the Gasoline Trail (1935)
Part 4 – Safety First;
TITLE: Farm Petroleum Safety  (1954)

Course Summary

It’s ironic to realize at this late date in history that gasoline was once dumped into America’s rivers and streams as an undesirable waste product of the petroleum industry. It’s also hard to believe that in the early oil-rush days, up to two-thirds of the oil in a well was left undisturbed because there wasn’t enough natural pressure for it to come to the surface on its own. Since necessity is the mother of invention, such wasteful practices were replaced with more efficient, environmentally friendly methods as the petroleum industry matured. By the middle of the 20th Century, the production of gasoline and other petroleum products provided the foundation upon which scores of other industries were based. Without petroleum, the world would literally grind to a halt.

Related Links

For additional technical information related to this subject, please visit the following websites:
(Film: The Story of Lubricating Oil - 22:04)


Once you finish studying the above course content, you need to take a quiz to obtain the PDH credits.

DISCLAIMER: The materials contained in the online course are not intended as a representation or warranty on the part of PDH Center or any other person/organization named herein. The materials are for general information only. They are not a substitute for competent professional advice. Application of this information to a specific project should be reviewed by a registered architect and/or professional engineer/surveyor. Anyone making use of the information set forth herein does so at their own risk and assumes any and all resulting liability arising therefrom.