The History of Kentucky’s Oil & Natural Gas Industry


When many people think of oil and natural gas production, they think of states like Texas, Pennsylvania, California and New York. While many wouldn’t think of Kentucky as a hub for energy production, the state has a growing oil and natural gas industry. According to the Kentucky Division of Oil and Gas, 165,000 wells have been drilled in the state since 2009 for production purposes. Natural gas and oil consultants like David Stewart understand that Kentucky’s energy production industry is only going to continue to grow.

Let’s take a closer look at the history of Kentucky’s oil and natural gas history.

The oil and natural gas industries date back to over 350 million years ago during the Ordovician and Devonian geologic periods. At this time, the limestone, dolomites and shale from which we extract our energy resources were formed. According to the Division of Oil and Gas, Kentucky’s oil is mostly produced from Mississippian limestone and sandstone that can be found in the state’s eastern and western regions. The Mississippian period is a subsection of the Carboniferous Period that occurred over 320 million years ago. In southern parts of the state you can also find Ordovician limestone and dolomites, which are used for the production of natural gas. Most of Kentucky’s natural gas production comes from Devonian black shale that is found in the eastern area of the state.

While the state had the resources to produce oil and natural gas for millions of years, the industry didn’t take off until the early 20th century when oil was found near Pellville, Kentucky. This discovery in 1919 led to the boom of oil production in western Kentucky. As more people from around the country found out about Kentucky’s energy resources, many moved to the state in hopes of buying oil rich land.

Then, after the oil rush, some people in Kentucky joined together and built organizations aimed at ensuring people would benefit from the newly discovered energy resources. The Western Kentucky Oil Men’s Association and Eastern Kentucky Oil Men’s Association both formed at this time. They later joined together to form the Kentucky Oil and Gas Association in 1930. Since then, the organization has prompted many regulations to ensure the safely and profitability for all parties involved.


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