Oil in Italy: untimely discoveries

Oil in Italy: untimely discoveries
It was on such ships that the entire military power of Italy rested. This is the tanker Franco Martelli. 10 tons. She did not sail for long: she entered service in April 535, and was sunk on April 1939, 18

In military-economic stories The Second World War has an interesting point, which is that one of the active participants, Italy, was both in dire need of oil and petroleum products, and did not know that it actually had significant reserves of oil and gas. It’s just that these deposits were discovered after the war, albeit on the basis of long previous and unsuccessful searches.

Italian fascist leader Benito Mussolini was seriously unlucky in that these reserves were not discovered at the right time. The road is a spoon for dinner. Who knows how history would have gone if Mussolini had obtained the oil field that was later discovered in the south of Sicily. The entire history of the war could have gone a different way, and even now Italy could occupy a completely different place on the world political map.

Produces, but not enough

There is oil and gas in Italy. Moreover, today Italy is an oil and gas producing country. In 2022, 4,95 million tons of oil and 3,4 billion cubic meters of gas were produced. Oil production began in 1860. However, it turned out that oil reserves were too small for the country's rapidly growing needs. Before the First World War, say, 10,3 thousand tons of oil were produced, and 217 thousand tons were imported.

The Italians quickly realized that they clearly did not have enough mineral resources for industrial development. Therefore, energy, transport and industry began to develop completely differently than in other European countries. Italy was characterized by a focus on hydropower, electrification of railways, as well as the rapid development of electrometallurgy. This did not save them from large imports of coal, oil and petroleum products, but it significantly reduced the need for imported fuel.

At the very end of the 1894th century, natural gas was added to Italy's fuel sources. In 12, 1909 thousand cubic meters were extracted, and in 9 - already 11,1 million cubic meters. This is approximately 13 thousand tons of the best coal or 14-XNUMX thousand tons of its marketable grades.

Italy had significantly more gas reserves than oil, but its use was then seriously hampered by the poor development of gas technologies. However, even attempts have been made to use natural gas to fuel cars.

Import dependency

The rapid development of motorization during the First World War and immediately after it put Italy in an even more difficult situation. There was a great need for petroleum products, primarily gasoline, which was covered by imports. In 1925, Italy imported about 920 thousand tons of petroleum products.

Benito Mussolini, who came to power, decided to change the situation and not depend on the import of finished petroleum products, but to process imported oil ourselves. On March 19, 1926, l'Azienda Generale Italiana Petroli (AGIP) was created, which began developing its own oil refining. If in 1930 only 30 thousand tons of gasoline were produced in Italy, then already in 1933 - 155 thousand tons of gasoline. In 1933, a total of 501,3 thousand tons of crude oil were processed and 441,7 thousand tons of petroleum products were produced, which accounted for 23% of consumption in Italy.

In subsequent years, through the efforts of various large concerns, oil refining developed rapidly and in 1940 reached a capacity of 2,3 million tons. There were 8 large refineries in Italy - in La Spezia, Livorno, Venice, Fiume, Trieste, Fornovo, Fiorenzuola and Milan.

In principle, these capacities would have been enough to supply Italy with petroleum products in those years. The only question was what to recycle. In 1926, Italy produced 5,4 thousand tons, and in 1932 - 27 thousand tons of oil. There were virtually no own raw materials. Foreign suppliers, primarily from the USA, France and Great Britain, were not at all going to miss the Italian market for petroleum products and limited supplies of crude oil. In 1938, of the 1,9 million tons of petroleum products consumed in Italy, 1,1 million tons were produced at Italian refineries from imported oil, the remaining 800 thousand tons were imported.

Since without oil the Italian navy, army and aviation could not go anywhere, it turns out that all the Italian conquests in Africa that happened in the pre-war years were actually with the connivance of the USA, Great Britain and France.

Persistent searches and untimely discoveries

The Italians tried to look for oil in the captured territories, in particular in Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia. But these searches then did not yield results.

Searches were actively conducted in Italy itself. In general, there were signs of the presence of oil and gas fields - surface outcrops of oil and bitumen. AGIP drilled several deep wells in different places at the end of the 1930s, but only managed to find a new deposit in one place in southern Italy.

Bitumen sometimes leaked into various mine workings, as in this photo of a working in Abruzzo

In 1940, the then new method of geophysical exploration was first used in Italy. In 1941, a promising structure was thus opened in Caviaga, in Lombardy, north-west Italy. In 1943, drilling showed that this was the largest natural gas field in Europe at that time - 12 billion cubic meters. But the war was already going on, northern Italy was occupied by the Germans, and they had no time for gas fields.

AGIP drilling rig in Kawiyaga. They didn't care about the safety of the population at all.

Italy entered into an alliance with Germany mainly for coal. If this gas field had been discovered earlier, it would have been possible to take a completely different path, since gas could largely replace coal.

But after the war, a series of discoveries began. In 1949 - the Cortemaggiore natural gas field in Piacenza, in 1951 - Bordolano in Cremona, and a number of fields in other places. So much gas was discovered that in 1954 the average production in Italy was 12 million cubic meters per day or 4,3 billion cubic meters of gas per year, the equivalent of more than 5 million tons of excellent coal. Despite the fact that in 1943, 55 million cubic meters were produced per year. In 1953, a large oil field was discovered in Ragusa, in southern Sicily, the largest in Europe at that time. Already in 1956, production increased to 493 thousand tons, and in 1958 - to 1437 thousand tons. In addition to this field, several other small oil fields were found in Sicily.

Interestingly, in this very Ragusa there was an asphalt production plant that exploited local bitumen deposits

This is a good example of how the development of even seemingly highly specialized sciences, such as geology or drilling technology, powerfully influence the course of historical events, in particular, pushing the country to where it should not have been. It would be much more profitable for Italy to remain on the side of Great Britain and the United States than to enter into an alliance with Germany. But energy difficulties forced us to make the wrong choice, despite the fact that we had the necessary resources in our own depths.

Geology is a serious but underestimated factor in the history of war.
Dear reader, to leave comments on the publication, you must sign in.
  1. 0
    7 March 2024 06: 12
    Italy entered into an alliance with Germany mainly for coal.
    And in WWII, why did she abandon the alliance and take the side of the Entente? That in the promised Trieste, there were coal mines?
    1. +5
      7 March 2024 06: 35
      Quote: parusnik
      And in WWII, why did she abandon the alliance and take the side of the Entente?
      Because the Entente promised Italy more post-war benefits than the Triple Alliance wink
  2. +3
    7 March 2024 06: 28
    Very interesting article, thanks.
  3. +5
    7 March 2024 08: 27
    Who knows how history would have gone if Mussolini had obtained the oil field that was later discovered in the south of Sicily. The entire history of the war could have gone a different way, and even now Italy could occupy a completely different place on the world political map.
    Author Do you seriously believe what you wrote in this article? Mussolini's main goal was:
    In foreign policy, Mussolini's main goal was to recreate the Roman Empire within its borders.

    And the reason why Mossolini came to power in Italy was:
    At the end of the First World War, Italy did not receive the territories promised to it by the Entente. In fact, it was the victorious country, but was practically deprived of all privileges when the peace treaty was signed.
    The industrial base that developed thanks to the war was unable to quickly adapt to a peaceful rhythm of work and soon fell into decay. Two million people were unemployed.
  4. +2
    7 March 2024 10: 16
    What if they knew about oil in Libya? Here, in general, the whole war could have gone differently.
  5. +2
    7 March 2024 11: 13
    Italy entered into an alliance with Germany mainly for coal.

    The article is good, but this thesis does not correspond to reality. Italy could receive coal from other countries without any problems. Britain also offered to satisfy all of Italy's coal needs in exchange for Italian weapons. But Mussolini, after bargaining, still preferred Germany.
    1. 0
      7 March 2024 14: 31
      The percentage of alternatively gifted items on the site has reached a catastrophic level.
  6. +8
    7 March 2024 13: 23
    As an Italian, I say that this article deals with an interesting and little discussed topic here in Italy, especially in terms of percentages and statistics. I can only say that the largest gas and oil deposits were present in Libya, but with the technology of that time they were never discovered. If today the main oil wells are in Basilicata, in southern Italy, and they talk about 50-70 thousand barrels per day
  7. +5
    7 March 2024 15: 46
    4,3 billion cubic meters of gas per year, equivalent to more than 5 million tons of excellent coal.

    4,3 billion gas is equivalent to at least 6 million tons of best coal.
    In addition to Italy itself, oil and gas were found in Libya and Albania, also in the Italian sphere of domination before the war. But they were unable to open it and use it either.
  8. 0
    10 March 2024 03: 41
    The author forgot to indicate another oil supplier to Italy. This is the USSR, not surprisingly.
    1. 0
      10 March 2024 15: 53
      All at once - this will be a book, not an article.
  9. +1
    10 March 2024 13: 29
    J.V. Stalin, speaking at the XV Congress of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks) in December 1927, emphasized: “It is impossible to fight without oil, and whoever has an advantage in the matter of oil has a chance of winning the coming war.” Therefore, the Italians searched everywhere and the Germans dreamed of gaining a foothold in Iraq. And the Japanese accumulated a reserve of oil and petroleum products for several years. There was a war of engines ahead. The Germans partially got out of the situation due to large reserves of coal and synthetic gasoline from it, but it was not enough.
    1. 0
      11 March 2024 16: 58
      Since the Japanese imperial fleet needed oil most of all, it won the fight against the imperial army, which looked at the USSR as a target for attack. And the fleet looked south, to the oil fields in the Dutch East Indies.
  10. 0
    11 March 2024 13: 19
    If in Libya they could not find oil and gas before the war, then in Albania everything was already open and in exploitation: the largest in Europe, Patos with 2 billion barrels of oil reserves in operation since 1930, Kuchova 500 million barrels reserves today in exploitation since 1930 g, and Driza 1,4 billion barrel reserves have been in operation since 1939.
    In addition, Albania has a lot of hydropower - today they produce 5-6 billion kilowatt-hours every year. Italy failed to use this potential in the war, but it could have solved most of their problems by developing their military potential.