Bóbrka - The Oldest Oil Mine, Bóbrka
Narodowy Instytut Dziedzictwa pl

Bóbrka - The Oldest Oil Mine

Bóbrka

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The history of the Bóbrka mine is part of the creation and development of world oil mining industry in the second half of the 19th century. The year 1854, when the first systematic mining works began in the area of natural oil spills, is recognised as the beginning of the mine and the industrial use of oil. It happened thanks to the cooperation of Tytus Trzecieski, a landowner and initiator of the undertaking, Karol Klobassa-Zrencki, the owner of Bóbrka, and Ignacy Łukasiewicz, a pharmacist, inventor of the oil lamp, father of the Polish oil industry, without whose involvement the creation and development of the mine would not be possible. In 1861, Trzecieski, Łukasiewicz and Klobassa-Zrencki formally established a company, thus starting the first oil enterprise in the world involved in the exploration, exploitation and processing of petroleum. The mine grew very fast – apart from numerous oil wells and the use of the most modern drilling equipment, new buildings were erected, necessary for servicing the booming enterprise. All this was largely thanks to Ignacy Łukasiewicz and subsequent plant managers who used the knowledge and experience of outstanding specialists and researchers, the authorities in the field of geology and drilling. Among people working in the mine were persons inseparably connected with the history of the oil industry and the technical transformations in oil mining. This group included Henryk Walter, Albert Fauck, Wiliam Schutte, Juliusz Noth, Adolf Jabłoński, Zenon Suszycki, and William Henry Mac Garvey.

The mine and the oil company in Bóbrka were among the best-performing enterprises in the new oil industry, in both economic and social spheres. It was there that many precursory solutions originated and were then successfully used in other mines, it was there that the first staff of oil specialists was formed and a modern management system and employees’ privileges were introduced. At the end of the 19th century, Canadian drilling method was applied in the mine. This contributed to a significant increase in oil production. For a very long time the Canadian technique was the most popular drilling method, perfectly suited to the difficult local geological conditions. To a large extent, thanks to this innovative method enabling deeper drilling, new oil deposits were discovered, and soon after its introduction Galicia came third in the global production of oil (after the United States and Russia).

In 1893, the owners passed their shares in the mine under the management of an oil entrepreneur, William Henry Mac Garvey, who came from Canada. In 1895, the mine became the property of the Galician Carpathian Petroleum Joint-Stock Company. It operated continuously during World War I and in the interwar period. In 1939–1944, it was taken over by Germans and incorporated into German oil companies. After World War II, it was nationalised. Currently, it is part of PGNiG SA, the state-owned company subject to the supervision of the Mining Office. The mine has been operating continuously for over 160 years, and crude oil is still extracted even from the oldest wells drilled in the times of Ignacy Łukasiewicz.

In 1961, thanks to the efforts of oil, gas and refinery communities, an open-air museum was established – the Ignacy Łukasiewicz Museum of Oil and Gas Industry in Bóbrka. Within the mine, an area was designated for a museum, renovation and conservation works were carried out on historic objects and mining equipment, and exhibits from other mines and oil industry plants started to be collected. At the same time, the process of collecting various types of historical, iconographic and photographic documents, books and magazines was initiated. The year 2004 marked the establishment of the Foundation of the Ignacy Łukasiewicz Oil and Gas Industry Museum at Bóbrka. Its main purpose is to run the museum which is located near Bóbrka, on the edge of a large forest, in the area of a historic, still active mine, where there are buildings and installations dating from the pioneering times of its operation and the personal involvement of Ignacy Łukasiewicz.

Three groups of objects can be distinguished in the museum. The first group are historic buildings, dug-out shafts and mining equipment from the second half of the 19th century. These elements of the highest historical and scientific value are the determinants of the uniqueness of the place. They constitute the original, preserved in an unchanged state, remains of a historic mine – a testimony to its beginnings and development. In this group, the most precious objects are: Franek Shaft (or pit) from 1860 – a unique document of the oldest phase of the mine’s operation, still exploited Janina Pit from 1878, wooden 19th century buildings: a forge from 1856, a workshop from 1864, a boiler house from 1867, a storehouse and a treadmill for collective pumping of borings dating back to 1875, and an administrative building from 1864, the so-called Ignacy Łukasiewicz House, in which there is a museum exhibition. This group also includes: an obelisk founded in 1872 by Łukasiewicz to commemorate the establishment of the mine, an oil circulating Drapper-type pump from the 19th century, and a treadmill pump prototype from the second half of the 19th century – one of the oldest devices for group-driven drill pumps. The second group of the objects includes reconstructed devices. The reconstructions are based on 19th-century drawings, historical accounts and mining textbooks, as well as on what has been remembered by people associated with oil mining. These include: a manual drilling rig made according to the Doms prototype, a Canadian drilling rig with a traction engine and a Polish-Canadian drilling rig – a replica of a drilling rig imported by William Henry Mac Garvey and adapted by Polish specialists for drilling in difficult Carpathian conditions. In addition, dug-up shafts have been reconstructed in their former places (Wiktor, 635 Błażej, 634 Mineralna, 632, Cecylia, Paweł). These elements constitute an important complement to the original mine infrastructure of the 19th century. The third group of the objects consists of devices from the 20th century, which were brought to the museum from other plants and mines. They testify to the technological changes that have taken place in the oil industry.

All the components – buildings, shafts and equipment of the 19th-century oil mine as well as the reconstructed objects and exhibits illustrating the development of the oil industry in the 20th century – are integrated into the landscape arrangement, creating a logical and coherent whole.

The Bóbrka oil mine is a unique place of an exceptional historic value for a number of reasons, the place where the industrial extraction of the raw material began, which has played a key role in the development of our civilization. The Bóbrka mine is the oldest functioning oil mine in the world, operating continuously since its inception in 1854. Petroleum is extracted here from, among others, one of the oldest shafts, built in 1878. It is a phenomenon on a global scale. Preserved original and reconstructed technical monuments show Polish contribution to the development of the oil industry, they also constitute an outstanding testimony of engineering art. This is the place strongly associated with Ignacy Łukasiewicz, a man who contributed greatly to the socio-economic development of Polish lands, as well as with many other pioneers of the oil industry – mining engineers, geologists and entrepreneurs.

General information

  • Type: technical monument
  • Chronology: 2. poł. XIX w.
  • Form of protection: Historical Monument
  • Address: Bóbrka 167
  • Location: Voivodeship podkarpackie, district krośnieński, commune Chorkówka
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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