top of page

Vienna Basin

Almost every country on the planet lay's claim to having drilled the first oil 'well' in the world, some, like China, as far back as the 5th century. Most of those wells however, appear to have been open pits, or mine shafts dug to very shallow depths near natural occuring bitumen seeps. The first actual wells drilled, mostly by spring pole perucussion means... appear to be in the Polish-German Basin of Eastern Europe and/or the Scythian Platform in Romania. The SPE believes the first oil well drilled in the world was in Baku in 1847.

I have visited the first oil well in the world site in Bobkra, Poland and below is the first well in the world drilled in Romania still producing in 1939, on artificial lift, I might add. Trinidad in the Carribean Sea claims to the have drilled the first well in the world in 1857 and lots of Americans believe the first well drilled in the world, or the only one that matters, was Edwin Drake's in Pennsylvania in 1859. If they knew it was not a shale well they would be disappointed, I am sure.

Eastern Europe leads the list, from my perspective.

Oil seeps near the Morova River, near the village of Hodonin in Slovakia led to the first oil wells being drilled in 1901 in the Vienna Basin. These pits were generally less than 30 feet deep, all encountered a prolific groundwater table just below the surface that bled oil. Oil was bucketed off the water and used for pitch. Cable took rigs drilled wells to 450 feet and encountered tight shales that oozed oil but the area was abandoned for the next decade.

The rig shown in the photo above drilled the first commercial well in the Vienna Basin in 1913, a few miles from the 1901 activity, near Gbely. It reached approximately 600 feet and produced 100 BOPD of sour, 34 Beaume gravity oil. The the left, Hodonin/Gbley Field in 1917.

World War I slowed oil development in the entire European theater to a crawl and it was as late as 1920 before the next signficant discovery in the Vienna Basin was made in the Czech Republic, near Nesyt. There was simply no money to spend on exploration during the post-war rebuilding campaign.

Oil and Gas Fields of the Vienna Basin

In 1925 Socony Vacuum (Mobil) moved into northern Austria and started mapping surface faults and oil seeps with Shell (RAG) as its 50% partner. Several wells were drilled, with oil and gas shows, but it was 1935 before signficant discoveries were made. By 1937 680 BOPD was being produced from Austria. Germany annexed Austria on March 13, 1938, the RAG concession fled the country, and Germany put over 100 rigs to work in Austria. By 1943 Austria was producing 27,000 BOPD, all of being used by the Nazi war effort.

B-24 Liberators from the 9th Air Force in 1945 bombing a large refinery near Vienna.

Between May 1944 and June 1945, when the war in Europe was over, Allied bombers launched 651 missions against German oil facilities and dropped 208,000 tons of bombs,

I am proud to say my father flew B-24's for the 9th in 1944-45; 24 missions over Germany.

After WW II, Austria became Austria again and in 1949 Europes largest oil field, Matzen, was discovered by Oesterreichische Mineraloelverwaltung (OMV), Austria's nationalized oil industry.

In July of 2023 OMV announced its biggest gas discovery in the Vienna Basin in 40 years at a depth of 16,430 feet and with estimated BHP of 18,000 PSI. The discovery is said to contain 1.6 TCF of natural gas and will extend Austria's gas supply/current consumption by 30 years.


There is something called the Petroleum Trail in Eastern Europe, complete with a sort of tour guide to follow when driving by automobile, that traverses most of Southern Poland across to the Ukraine. Bccause almost all the oil produced in Europe came from Southern Poland and what was then called the Kingdom of Galicia (circ. 1868) and it is full of museums, old well sites, abandoned refineries, etc. Often referred to as the "Polish Baku", numerous fields in Galicia produced as 40,000 BOPD in 1907. Much of the oil used in the Great War (WW I) came from this area until Russia invaded Germany in 1915 and burned the entire Galacia district to the ground.

The area of Galacia was divided into Poland and Ukraine in 1923 and subsequently contained many of Germany's WW 2-dated concentration camps, in part because of its very high population of Jewish people.

Galacia Oil Field, 1902

Active oil wells in Boryslaw, Ukraine, 2012.

Galacia deserves more attention; most of the oil development that occurred in the late 1800's was done by Jewish settlers to the region.

I've added all this to things we want to learn more about on oilystuff.


bottom of page