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When Russia Conquered the World With White Oil

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Russia is one of the world’s hydrocarbon superpowers, rich in coal, oil, and natural gas. The autocratic state’s economic and political power relies heavily on these natural resources. This history goes back to the early nineteenth century, when the Tsarist empire began conquering the Caucasus and Transcaucasian regions, capturing the oil-rich Baku region from the Persians.

Russian oil production boomed after the 1870s, and by 1900 Russia was the world’s leading producer. After 1917, the cash-strapped Bolsheviks, who had nationalized production, sold as much as they could from facilities devastated by the civil war. They imported American and European capital and technology to do so. American companies purchased Russian oil for distribution in third countries, even though the U.S. did not recognize the Bolshevik state. The allied period of World War II, however, saw official cooperation. Then, in the early 1970s, after the coldest period of the Cold War, U.S. banks and energy companies began to invest in the Soviet oil and gas sector again. This has continued into the post-Soviet era.

Attempting to make their own Vaseline, Russian engineers instead produced the odorless, colorless, and tasteless white oil.

For a long time the story has been about technology and money flowing into Russia, oil and gas flowing out. But as Hans Schindler tells us, the Russians did create a famous distillate of oil that dominated the market for decades. White mineral oil, or white oil, is a mixture of pure hydrocarbons with many uses in pharmaceutical and cosmetic products. (As a reminder: because of the remarkable chemistry of the long-chain hydrocarbons that make up crude oil, it can be turned into everything from fertilizers to fabrics, fuels to plastics, explosives to candle wax.)

White oil is similar to petrolatum, which is better known by its brand name, Vaseline, a jellied mixture of solid and liquid hydrocarbons first manufactured out of Pennsylvania crude oil in 1872. Vaseline took the pharmaceutical world by storm after the 1876 Centennial Exposition, so much so that “Vaseline” is now virtually a generic name for petroleum jelly.

Attempting to make their own Vaseline, but with a chemically different kind of oil, Russian engineers instead produced the odorless, colorless, and tasteless white oil. It was similar to Vaseline (and was known as Vaseline Oil in Europe), but Russian Oil (as it was originally called in the U.S.) was an even bigger hit in industry.

White oil is still made and goes into baby oil, laxatives, and perfumes, among other things. Considered “food-safe,” it’s used as a lubricant on food-production lines and as a plasticizer. In fact, its main use today is in plastics manufacturing. You can thank the organic chemists and oil refiners of Baku for even the plastic wrapped around your vegetables in the supermarket.


15 Comments on "When Russia Conquered the World With White Oil"

  1. brough on Mon, 9th Jan 2017 9:50 am 

    Nice history lesson
    Not sure what its doing on Peak Oil site.

  2. BobInget on Mon, 9th Jan 2017 10:08 am 

    Did you learn anything? I did.

    Most sites are filled with adverts longer then actual content. Here that Vaseline plug snuck in
    so cheerfully one hardly felt a thing.

    Check to see if your sore, I’m not.

  3. Sissyfuss on Mon, 9th Jan 2017 11:45 am 

    Oil price falling, why ain’ Short a calling?

  4. rockman on Mon, 9th Jan 2017 12:24 pm 

    “Not sure what its doing on Peak Oil site.\” They did a poor job of pulling the facts together. Around 1900 the US and Russia produced 90% of the world’s oil. But Russia hit its PO for purely political reasons: nationalization as a result of the socialist revolution. A very short history:

    “Oil exploration in Russia began in the late 19th century. The entrance of Russia into the world oil trade broke Standard Oil’s monopoly in the 1870s. By 1900, the oil field of Baku were producing almost half of the world’s oil – with over 3,000 oil wells. Control of Baku was one of Germany’s main reasons for invading Russia, alongside Ukraine’s abundant and rich agricultural land. Some historians and many wargamers assert that the idea of Germany being able to capitalize upon Baku oil was some sort of fantastic, impossible pipe dream. That the Axis forces failed to achieve their objective gives their position some merit. The main argument is that even had the German Army reached Baku, getting all that oil back to Germany to be refined was beyond their logistical capability. Secondly, by the time the German Army even reached Baku, all of the oilfields would have been blown – much like they had with Maikop.

    Soviet dumping of cheap oil in the 1960s led to the formation of OPEC. After the break up of the Soviet Union, oil and natural gas provided 80 percent of Russia’s hard currency exports.”

  5. Anonymous on Mon, 9th Jan 2017 1:46 pm 

    Nice try rocky. But ‘socialism’, or nationalization have little much bearing on much oil a country can extract from the ground. The uSgov is a wholly owned subsidiary of the corporate uS oil-cartel, that in turn, gives uS oil corporations a free hand to act and do as they will, yet the uS is out-produced by Russian, Arab, and other NOC’s. You know, all those nationalized and or socialist NOC’s are doing better than the uS by far these days. Your first statement is pure opinion dressed up as ‘fact’, and the ‘history lesson’ part, is not even relevant.

    Nor did ‘OPEC’ have anything to do with soviet ‘dumping’ in the 60’s. That is a claim I have heard exactly once, from you, just now. It’s no more credible than the your ‘faux history lesson’ or opinions on nationalization.

    BTW where did you lift that quote you failed to provide a source from?

    Trying to capitalize on your hydro-carbon cred and hope no notices when you post complete nonsense?

  6. rockman on Mon, 9th Jan 2017 4:06 pm 

    “But ‘socialism’, or nationalization have little much bearing on much oil a country can extract from the ground.” You do understand the conversation is about Russian oil production at the beginning of the 1900’s, right? You might want to brush up on Russian history before you make foolish statements.


    “In 1898, the Russian oil industry produced more than the U.S. At that time, approximately 8 million tons were being produced (160,000 bopd). By 1901, Baku produced more than half of the world’s oil (11 million tons or 212,000 bopd), and 55% of all Russian oil. Approximately 1.2 million tons of Baku kerosene were also sold abroad.

    Revolution and Soviet Republic – Several oil crises jolted Russia around 1903, when constant strikes, violence and ethnic strife during Russian Revolution of 1905 led to fall in the oil production from the peak of 212,000 bbl/d. The relative calm of the early 1910s was disrupted by World War I, when production of oil steadily decreased to reach the lowest level of just 65,000 bbl/d by 1918 and then dropped even more catastrophically by 1920. As a result of civil unrest no oil export was possible, oil storage facilities were damaged and wells were idle. The government of Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan was unable to restore the damage done to the oil industry during its time in office between 1918 and 1920.”

    And as the chart shows Russia went from being the largest oil producer on the planet to producing almost ZERO OIL by 1930 after the revolution. It then took about 50 years for Russian production to regain that title when it reached its second peak oil by 1980:

  7. Boat on Mon, 9th Jan 2017 4:09 pm 


    Oil cartel in the US? Once again a foreigner thinks they have an idea of the US. Dumb ass foreigner at that. In the US all those independent oil companies have to compete with each other and the world. Control? Not only do governments have regulations but each state has their own. California is different than say Texas. Lol No gov gives them credit. They have to find investors and banks for funds if they need them. They are capitalism 101, only the strong survive and feast on the carcass of the failed.

  8. Nony on Mon, 9th Jan 2017 5:53 pm 

    The article is mostly about white oil (a refinery product), not about exploration and production. The Russian production stuff is just background discussion, not the main area of discussion for the article.

    See here:

  9. dissident on Mon, 9th Jan 2017 6:11 pm 

    “Russia is one of the world’s hydrocarbon superpowers, rich in coal, oil, and natural gas. The autocratic state’s economic and political power relies heavily on these natural resources.”

    Some truth mixed in with two gross lies.

    1) Autocratic must be the new word for democratic. Real elections with real choices on the ballot. People in glass houses (two-party paradise called the USA) should not go around throwing bricks.

    2) Heavily dependent if you believe that 1+1=3. Russia’s GDP depends at the 13% level on the oil and gas industry and the consolidated tax collection from this industry makes up 24% of the total. Must be a crime for the government to tax natural resources instead of Russian taxpayers who pay 13% flat income tax. Again, people in glass houses should not run around throwing bricks.

  10. BobInget on Mon, 9th Jan 2017 6:25 pm 

    I guess it has to be said. Russia, once again the world’s largest crude oil producer.

    Next Putin Allie in the new OPEC, Libya has the biggest stash of light oil in Africa.

    China run Venezuela, also cursed with the largest PROVED reserves on the planet.

  11. Davy on Tue, 10th Jan 2017 3:16 am 

    Yea, Bob, China is cursed with bankrolling a Venezuelan failed state. Russia has their failed state in Syria to support. The US is stuck with Afghanistan and Iraq. See a pattern?

  12. Anonymous on Tue, 10th Jan 2017 4:37 am 

    Yes, exceptionalist, I do see a pattern. The uS has had a direct hand in the current tragedies all four nations currently face. All that death, chaos and suffering, planned and carried out by the exceptional nation.

    Oh, hey, forget to add Ukraine, and Libya to the list.

  13. Davy on Tue, 10th Jan 2017 5:10 am 

    Good job boy wonder. For a hateful obsessed 22 year old anti-American Canadian who hasn’t left his mom’s basement yet great work. Now go back downstairs and play your grand theft auto and leave the real thinking to the adults LOL.

  14. Dredd on Tue, 10th Jan 2017 9:18 am 

    Oil-Qaeda runs Russia too.

  15. Cloggie on Tue, 10th Jan 2017 10:44 am 

    Oil-Qaeda runs Russia too.

    Hey, this must be the first post where Dreadd doesn’t promote his blog with his usual one-liners.

    “Oil-Qaeda” does not refer to anything meaning so we are left to guess what he could mean by that.

    Russian oil industry run by Jihadists?


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