Why oil is measured in barrels

At the moment, "black gold" is the most important resource on the planet. The cost of a barrel of oil appears in daily financial reports around the world. Have you ever wondered why oil is measured in barrels? It turns out that the origin of the oil barrel as a unit for measuring the volume of oil production is hidden in the haze of the distant past. But we do know something from history.

Initially, oil production was carried out in small volumes. And, of course, there was no standard container for transporting oil. Somewhere oil was transported in wooden barrels, somewhere - in wineskins. As long as the volumes of oil transportation and trade were negligible, this was not a big problem.

The rapid development of oil production in the second half of the 19th century led to a severe shortage of tanks for storing and transporting oil. All available barrels of various purposes and sizes were used to transport oil. Since it was convenient to set the price for oil per barrel, the use of barrels of different sizes caused great inconvenience to buyers. With the increase in trade volumes, the lack of a standard capacity for oil supplies led to the fact that the process of calculating the supplied volumes of oil became more and more time-consuming and laborious.

In August 1866, at the height of the oil boom in northwestern Pennsylvania, a handful of American independent oil businessmen met in the town of Titusville. One of the issues that was discussed at this meeting was the agreement on a standard container for the supply of oil to consumers. As a result, the 42 gallon volume was agreed as a standard oil barrel.

Why is it that 42-gallon barrel has become the standard in the oil industry?

By the 1700s, day-to-day practice in Pennsylvania and experience had led to the fact that a sealed 42 gallon wooden barrel became the de facto standard container for transporting fish, molasses, soap, wine, oil, whale oil and other goods.

The 42-gallon barrels, when filled with oil, were just about the weight that one healthy person could handle. Larger barrels could no longer be handled by one person, and using smaller barrels was less cost-effective. In addition, the 20 42-gallon drums fit perfectly on typical barges and railroad platforms at the time.

Thus, choosing a 42-gallon barrel as the industry standard was a logical and natural step for early oilmen. In 1872, the American Petroleum Producers Association formally approved a 42 gallon barrel as a standard.

At present, of course, oil is no longer transported in any barrels. It is transported by tankers and oil pipelines. But the oil barrel as a unit of measurement has remained in the practice of world oil trade.

Interestingly, the oil barrel is traditionally called blue. This is because the British, and then the Americans, did not standardize their measures at that time, so the size of the barrel (barrel) could vary from 120 to 160 liters, and even now there are several types of barrels of different sizes. Therefore, in order not to confuse the oil barrels, they began to be marked in blue. Since that time, the oil barrel was called blue or BBL (Blue barrel).