“…and the one day he was shootin’ at some food, and up through the ground come a bubblin’ crude.”
Thanks to the 1960s sitcom, ranked among the top 20 most-watched programs on TV, Beverly Hillbillies – where the Clampetts, a poor backwoods family, strikes oil on their land to become rich and move to Bevery Hills – we know and understand that ‘crude’ is the shortened form of ‘crude oil,’ but when it comes to what crude actually means or what makes oil crude, that may take some explanation.
Thankfully, it doesn’t involve any complex diagrams: crude just means something in a raw, natural, or unrefined state.
Therefore, crude oil is simply oil in the state that it comes out of the ground. To put it another way, crude oil is the raw material form of the oil before it is processed through a refinery and refined/separated into more familiar products, such as fuel, heating oil, propane, asphalt base, etc.
As for the word crude, it derives from the Latin word crudus, which essentially means ‘raw or rough’, to enter the English language circa 1300 and be first recorded in print in 1386, in one of the Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.
The first known use of our word, in reference to oil, comes from The Atlantic Monthly (now The Atlantic), who wrote in 1865 of: “Wagons laden with crude oil for the refinery.”
Followed by Petroleum; a treatise on the geographical distribution and geological occurrence of petroleum and natural gas, written by Boverton Redwood in 1896, which is also the first source to use the term crude petroleum.
Unlike what happened while Jed Clampett was hunting, crude oil doesn’t usually just bubble up from the ground.
Typically, it is extracted through a process of identifying potential sites, testing, and drilling wells.
However, as oil prices steadily rose in the late 2000s and early 2010s, extracting crude oil from previously unviable sources such as oil shale and oil sands started to occur.
And while the term oil shale appeared first in Samuel Harries Daddow’s Coal, Iron, and Oil; or, the Practical American Miner from 1866, the oil shale gas was recoded in only 1921, when Charles Buckingham filed a request to be granted a U.S. patent for the invention of a new and improved Retort furnace and condensing apparatus for the eduction of oil and fuel gas from oil shales and oil sands.