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Powered by natural gas, the Blue Flame set a world speed record at the Bonneville Salt Flats on October 23, 1970. The American Gas Association sponsored the rocket car.

Because driver now seek environmentally friendly but low-cost transportation fuels, today’s abundance of natural gas promises innovation. City buses, taxis and interstate trucks now burn it. But before these new clean-energy transporters, a speedy blue rocket car blazed the trail.

blue flame

The Blue Flame makes a spectacular debut at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah on October 23, 1970. The natural gas powered rocket car sets a new world land speed record of 630.388 mph.

Today there reportedly are more than 120,000 vehicles on U.S. roads powered by natural gas. Experts say engine design advances promise greater natural gas use for transportation. Historic pursuit of the world land speed record is the heritage of this “fuel of the future.”

blue flame

The 38-foot Blue Flame’s natural gas-powered rocket motor could produce up to 58,000 horsepower.

Throughout the 20th century, land speed records were set with vehicles powered by steam, electricity, and all manner of petroleum distillates. National pride was often at stake as British, American, French, Belgian, German, and Italian teams fielded competing machines.

The first record was set by a Frenchman in 1898. Count Gaston De Chasseloup-Laubat, driving an electric-powered car, achieved 39.24 mph. Read the rest of this entry »


The world’s first synthetic fiber is the petroleum product “Nylon 6.” It is discovered by a DuPont chemist who produces the polymer from chemicals found in oil.

petroleum product nylon

“Women show off their nylon pantyhose to a newspaper photographer, circa 1942,” notes historian Jennifer S. Li in “The Story of Nylon – From a Depressed Scientist to Essential Swimwear.” Photo by Dale Rooks.

petroleum product nylon

Du Pont models at the 1939 New York World’s Fair play tug-of-war with a nylon stocking to dramatize its strength.

Du Pont Corporation foresees the future artificial fibers “strong as steel.” The chemical company becomes a global giant as its scientist create consumer products out of nylon, rayon and lucite.

The world’s first synthetic fiber – nylon – is discovered on February 28, 1935, by a former Harvard professor working at a DuPont Corporation research laboratory. Later called Nylon 6 by scientists, the revolutionary product comes from chemicals found in petroleum.

Professor Wallace Carothers had experimented with artificial materials for more than six years. He previously discovered neoprene rubber (commonly used in wetsuits) and made major contributions to understanding polymers – large molecules composed in long chains of repeating chemical structures.

petroleum product nylon

DuPont names the new petroleum product nylon – although chemists call it Nylon 6 because the adipic acid and hexamethylene diamine each contain 6 carbon atoms per molecule. Durable petroleum-based polymer products are in common use throughout the world.

Just 32-years-old, Carothers creates fibers when he combines the chemicals amine, hexamethylene diamine, and adipic acid.

He forms a polymer chain using a process in which individual molecules join together with water as a byproduct.

However, the fibers are weak, explains a PBS series, “A Science Odyssey: People and Discoveries.”

“Carothers’ breakthrough came when he realized the water produced by the reaction was dropping back into the mixture and getting in the way of more polymers forming,” notes the PBS website. “He adjusted his equipment so that the water was distilled and removed from the system. It worked!” Read the rest of this entry »


The change from coal to oil-fired boilers at sea is another chapter in petroleum history.

Commissioned on March 12, 1914, with coal-powered boilers that were converted to use fuel oil in 1925, the U.S.S. Texas “was the most powerful weapon in the world, the most complex product of an industrial nation just beginning to become a force in global events,” says an historian at Battleship Texas State Historic Site.

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