Oil field

Petroleum natural seepage in the forest of Bóbrka had been seen for ages but only in 1854 an oil well was set up and the upstream industrial production began. The pioneers of the oil industry and founders ofthe oil field in Bóbrka were Ignacy Łukasiewicz – a quiet and Modest pharmacist; Tytus Trzecieski – a landowner and initiator of establishing the oil field and Karol Klobassa-Zrencki – the owner of the Bóbrka village.
Their cooperation,energy and business-like approach led to setting up the world’s first comprehensive upstream and downstream petroleum company. Before Łukasiewicz tied his life with the oil field in Bóbrka, he had worked in “Pod gwiazdą” (“Undera Star”) pharmacy in Lvov, belonging to Piotr Mikolasch. From 1852, together with Jan Zeh, he made experiments with petroleum. The first attempts at distillation were focused on obtaining Oleum Petrae album, a medicinal preparation.
Later, the assistant pharmacists directed their research towards isolating from petroleum a substance which would be suitable as a fuel for oil lamps.They succeeded in obtaining kerosene fraction, tapped within the temperature range of 200-250°C,devoid of light naphtha and petrol and also separated from heavy hydrocarbons, which are components of technical oils. When he had kerosene, Łukasiewicz commissioned Adam Bratkowski, a Lvovian tinsmith, to construct a lamp which would be suitable for physical and chemical properties of the new product.
For the first time kerosene lamps were lit publicly on 31st July, 1853 in a Lvovian hospital in the Łyczaków borough. The new lighting was used during a successful surgical operation and the date of 31st July, 1853 was recorded in history as a symbolic date of birth of the Polish oil industry.


Kopanie szybu

Soon afterwards, Łukasiewicz left Lvov and settled in Gorlice. There, he became a tenant of a pharmacy and, as Gorlice were located close to the petroliferous (oil bearing) area, he could continue his experiments with crude oil and work on impro­vement of kerosene lamps.
In 1854 Łukasiewicz was invited by Tytus Trzecieski to visit Bóbr­ka, where petroleum natural seeps were found; in the 19th century the name of the oil was “rock oil” (Lat­in: petroleum). Trzecieski suggested establishing an oil company which would start production from the oil reservoir in Bóbrka. The first dug wells (in Polish called: kopanka) to pump the crude oil from were star­ted. In 1855 in the “Wojciech” dug well there was a large inflow of cru­de oil. As a result, in 1856 a distil­lery (refinery) in Ulaszowice (today: a borough of Jasło) was built.

In 1861 an official company, tho­ugh concluded orally, was created. Trzecieski invested a cash contri­bution, Klobassa offered the land to organize the oil field on and Łu­kasiewicz took over the manage­ment of the entire business. Then, it was an extraordinary enterpri­se; it was a model of harmonious cooperation. Łukasiewicz took ca­re of modernization of the oil field facilities and improvement of fur­ther refineries and the profits we­re distributed evenly. The oil field brought substantial revenue. With the money he earned, Łukasiewicz bought the village of Chorkówka and built a manor house there, whe­re he lived with his wife Honorata.

The thriving enterprise was dis­solved on the Łukasiewicz’s initia­tive in 1871 as he waived 1/3 of the share in the company but he still held the position of the managing director. He still ran the refinery and bought the feedstock from his part­ners to distil it in the refinery, but he did not take any income from the oil field. The oil field facility was famo­us for its perfect organization and modern methods of oil production. The labour came from local villages but they were trained to work as oil field operators by experts coming from Germany and Transylvania.

A ditch, 120 m long and 120 cm de­ep, dug in the area called Wrzan­ka (meaning in local Polish: Boil­ing Ground), where abundant se­eps of petroleum or “rock oil” were observed, was the beginning of the oil field. Łukasiewicz improved the enterprise, using professional advi­ce given by then experts in geolo­gy and drilling. Help in improve­ments in drilling methods was gi­ven by Adolf Jabłoński and Henryk Walter, who introduced percussion drilling, using Fabian’s fall appara­tus. Then, Albert Fauck introduced a steam engine, which was a great improvement as it substantially eli­minated human physical effort and labour and provided a possibility of drilling to a depth of 240 m.


Kopalnia Bóbrka

In 1868 mineral waters were enco­untered in the wells in Bóbrka and used in a newly opened health resortbusiness.
The waters turned out to be curative and used successfully in tre­atment of rheumatic diseases, skin diseases, bladder ailments as well as bronchitis in adults and children. However, inflows of crude oil into the wells put an end to the plans of developing a health resort in Bóbrka.

Łukasiewicz focused entirely on crude oil processing and, consequ­ently, he obtained high quality types of kerosene, which interested global players in the oil industry. He distri­buted petroleum products in shops in Tarnów, Cracow and Warsaw. He personally advertised kerosene pro­ducts, taking part in domestic and international exhibitions. He com­bined his industrial business with public activities. In 1866 he esta­blished „Kasy Brackie” (Brotherly Funds), which were the first in Po­land and Europe insurance institu­tions to provide assistance in the event of diseases and disability. He also started „Kasy Zapomogowe” (mutual assistance funds or savings and loan associations), which gran­ted short-term but interest-free loans and helped the local community to get liberated from the rule of usury.

When Łukasiewicz died, Adolf Ja­błoński became the director of the upstream business, then succeeded by Zenon Suszycki. The oil field in Bóbrka survived both World Wars and in the 1950s it experienced a short revival when a new reservo­ir of crude oil was found on the so­uthern fold of the anticline. Unfor­tunately, the original reservoirs of Bóbrka are not as abundant as they were in the 19th century, though the pump jacks or nodding donkeys (in Polish: kiwony) are still working and pumping “black gold” as they did in pioneer old days.

Załoga kopalni Bóbrka



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