Neft Daşları, the world's first offshore oil platform

An industrial settlement 100 miles off the coast of Baku, the Neft Dashlari oil platform remains inhabited to this day

In September 1956, photo reporter Peter Bock-Schroeder reaches Azerbaijan on his one-year journey through the Soviet Union. It is the time prior to the construction of the settlement on Neft Daşları on a grand scale.

Azerbaijan's oil and gas industry

Workers on Oil Platform Neft Daşları
Azerbaijani oil rig in the Caspian Sea, Neft Daşları

The oil and gas resources are Azerbaijan's most important economic pillar. In the Middle Ages, people were already using the existing oil. At the end of the 19th century, Russian colonial rulers advocated massive extraction of the country's mineral resources, thus making a significant contribution to the industrialisation of the country. Prosperity grew, entire cities developed around the oil production sites - such as the world's first offshore oil platform Neft Daslari in the Caspian Sea

Into the western Caspian Sea

Workers on Oil Platform Neft Daşları
Azerbaijani oil rig in the Caspian Sea, Neft Daşları

After the Second World War, the Soviet Union's existing oil reserves were virtually exhausted. The country needed to find new oil, regardless of location and cost. Soviet geologists carried out the first drilling from a ship in the middle of the Caspian Sea; on a group of rocks known to local fishermen as "Black Rocks".

Soviet-Era Floating 'Oil City'

Workers on Oil Platform Neft Daşları
Azerbaijani oil rig in the Caspian Sea, Neft Daşları

110 Kilometers from mainland Baku, they discovered huge oilfields at a depth of only 1000 meters. However, it was extremely difficult to extract oil in the middle of the sea. The rocks were much too small for a pumping plant. Consequently, seven discarded tankers and warships were sunk, including Ludwig Nobel's "Zoroaster," the world's first oil tanker, served as the foundation of the main settlement of the oil platform town of Neft Daslari.

Mounted on the carcasses of sunken ships

Workers on Oil Platform Neft Daşları
Azerbaijani oil rig in the Caspian Sea, Neft Daşları

The "island of the seven sunken ships" serves as accommodation for the first drilling crews. In 1949, the Soviet Union began building the world's first oil platform without a connection to the mainland. 2300 German prisoners of war were involved in the construction.

Life on the Black Rocks

Workers on Oil Platform Neft Daşları
Azerbaijani oil rig in the Caspian Sea, Neft Daşları

Starting in 1951, a system of over-sea freeways were built, making even the most distant drilling rig accessible in all weathers. Between 1952 and 1956, 16 two-story dormitories, a dining hall with 100 seats, a library with 25,000 books, a club, a bathhouse, an administration building, a cinema for 300 spectators and many smaller, technical buildings were built.

The city was to become a flagship for the Soviet Union and a symbol of its technological progress to the west. It was given the name "Neft Dashlari", "The Rocks of Oil". The Neft-Dashlari site and the development of Azerbaijan's offshore oil industry continued until 1969.

Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, became rich in the middle of the 19th century. At that time, tankers delivered around half of the world's oil from their port.

The region was already known in the 12th century for its oil baths, where people bathed for medicinal purposes. The oil from Naftalan already reached many countries in the Middle East via caravans at this time and travelers from Turkey, Persia, Afghanistan and other countries came to visit the baths. Marco Polo wrote about these oil baths.

In the 19th century, Azerbaijan was the leader in the global oil and gas industry. In 1846 - more than a decade before the Americans made their famous discovery of oil in Pennsylvania - Azerbaijan drilled its first oil well in Bibi-Heybat. At the beginning of the 20th century, Azerbaijan produced more than half of the world's oil supply.

During its early oil boom, between 1885 and 1920, Azerbaijan benefited from the expertise of well-known chemists and geologists from Europe and Russia. The rich oil barons of Baku sought the advice that the scientific world had to offer and sought the advice of important personalities such as the German chemist Carl Engler and the Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev. For example, for the first time, innovative new techniques such as rotary drilling and gas lift were tested in Azerbaijan.


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