Though immeasurably important to the American oil business, Kier’s refining enterprise at Pittsburgh was not the first petroleum refining enterprise. James Young patented a course of in England in 1850 that carried out fractional distillation of petroleum from a seep at a coal mine and later from oil shale. Young could be considered the principal founder of the world’s oil refinery industry (Dickey, 1958).
More than for some other objective, crude oil at first was refined to improve its use as an illuminant. Lighting, in itself, created the good demand for oil that led to the frantic drilling of the pioneer oil wells along Oil Creek and elsewhere. Other uses soon increased the overall demand.