There is an analysis on Youtube of how the need for oil for German’s Panzer tanks, Luftwaffe planes and industrial war production shaped WW2. There was also a 2011 US Air Force Command paper by Major Shawn P. Keller called Turning Point (A History of German Petroleium in WW2 and its Lessons for the Role of Oil in Modern Air Warfare.)
It has been well known that the German and Japanese economies need for more oil which were significant factors in the initiation of their war efforts.
Germany needed oil to sustain their war effort and the Soviets had the most oil in the Eurasian area at the time. Germany would have run out of oil in months if they did not attack the Soviets in 1941. There has been other research which indicated that Stalin was planning to attack Germany in 1942. This is likely the reason that the Soviet troops were poorly positioned for defense by being too near the border where they were overrun and destroyed.
In 1938, Germany’s was using 44 million barrels of oil per year. Great Britain was using 76 million barrels, Russia was using 183 million barrels, and one billion barrels used by the United States.
Germany had 15 million barrels at the start of the war. They added 5 million barrels when they defeated Norway, Holland, Belgium, and France. They imported from 4 million barrels in 1940 and 1.6 million barrels in 1941 from the Soviets. In May 1941, Germany’s monthly military requirements were 7.25 million barrels and imports and home production of 5.35 million barrels per month. German would run out of oil in August 1941. The 26 percent shortfall would be captured from Russia. Germany attacked for the Russian oil fields in the Caucasus mountains, Ukrainian grain and Donets coal in June 1941.
The Russian Maikop and Grozny oil fields were each producing approximately 18.3 million barrels of oil annually. The Baku oilfield was capable of churning out a staggering 176 million barrels per year. This oil would have provided a permanent solution to the German oil crisis. It would also be a deathblow to Soviet war production and allow Germany to continue the fight against its growing list of adversaries, which now included the United States.
Stalingrad was a key to getting and holding the Russian oil. Germany captured 90% of the city. Most of the German casualties were from fighting outside Stalingrad. Germany misallocated reinforcements. Giving only 100,000 reinforcements to armies in the Stalingrad and Caucasus area out of 500,000 that were available.
Germany had to take and keep Stalingrad and the oil and the farms to have a chance. The USA would still likely have won in the end but a Germany that beat the Soviets would have been a far tougher opponent. US would have had to build up an army several times the size that they did.
Ford’s cars and Standard Oil monopoly and technical innovation
How did the US end up having 70% of the world’s oil production during WW2? why was it such an industrial powerhouse?
A large part of the reason was Henry Ford and John Rockefeller.
There were other competitors to both Henry Ford and Rockefeller, but I think it is reasonable to think that the innovation and aggressive business leadership of those two increased US manufacturing and oil production by 2 or 3 times.
Henry Ford’s creation of mass production factories and production of cars created increased demand for oil. In 1908 Henry Ford’s mass-produced automobile started a demand for gasoline and initiated an oil boom.
John D Rockefeller and Standard Oil were a significant part of accelerating the US to become the dominant oil producer by the start of WW2. The US was producing 70% of the World’s oil.
Hermann Frasch was born in Germany in late 1851, emigrated to the United States in 1868. He worked for Standard Oil. He developed key techniques to remove sulfur from oil and early methods of what would become fractional distillation.
Frasch bought Ontario oil at a cheap price. The rights were inexpensive because the high sulfur content led to product failures and expensive lawsuits. Frasch solved the problem in 1885-1888. He proposed an array of metal oxides to absorb the sulfur and precipitate it from the refined oil. Standard Oil purchased Frasch’s Empire Oil and his patents. Frasch help solved Standard Oil’s high-sulfur Lima problem.
Around 1912, using traditional methods, petroleum refiners had trouble extracting enough gasoline to meet the rising demand from cars. A new process for obtaining a much higher fraction of gasoline from a barrel of crude oil — thermal cracking — was invented around 1909 by William Burton, Frasch’s former assistant and in 1909 head of production at Standard Oil Company of Indiana.
Faster Planes and fuel for the Luftwaffe
A breakthrough in gasoline technology occurred in the United States in 1935. It was technically possible to produce aviation gas of up to 100 octane instead of 75-80. By 1939, both the U.S. Army Air Corps and the RAF were using this higher-octane gasoline, allowing them to develop more powerful engines such as the Rolls Royce Merlin. The net result was that U.S. and British aircraft were now able to fly 15 percent faster, increased their long-range bomber distance by 1,500 miles, and lifted altitude ceilings by 10,000 feet.
In the first half of 1941 prior to the German invasion of the Soviets, the Luftwaffe used an estimated 148 million gallons of aviation fuel. From June through December that amount more than doubled to 307 million, just slightly less than the 309 million gallons of fuel used by the Luftwaffe for the entire year in 1940.40 Total German production of aviation fuel in 1941 was only 326 million gallons—a significant deficit in light of the 456 million gallons used for the year. Luftwaffe fuel reserves fell dramatically from 219 million gallons in January 1941 down to 91 million by December.
I will follow this up with an analysis of how energy and technology matter and shape current and future planning and world power.