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The standard oil barrel is used in the United States as a measure of crude oil and other petroleum products. Elsewhere, oil is more commonly measured in cubic metres (m3) or in tonnes (t), with tonnes often being used by companies that ship most of their oil by sea.[citation needed]. International companies listed on American stock exchanges tend to convert their oil production volumes to barrels for global reporting purposes, and those listed on European exchanges tend to convert their production to tonnes.

The wooden oil barrel of the late 1800s is different from the modern day 55-gallon steel drum (known as the 44-gallon drum in Britain and the 200-litre drum in Australia). The 42-US gallon oil barrel is a unit of measure, and is no longer used to transport crude oil - most petroleum is moved in pipelines or oil tankers.

The 42 US gallon size of barrel as a unit of measure is largely confined to the American oil industry, since other sizes of barrel were used by other industries in the United States, and nearly all other countries use the metric system. Many smaller or poorer countries that do not have the technical expertise to develop their own domestic oil industry standards use the American oil barrel for the sake of convenience. It is important to note that not all contents of a barrel of oil may be used for purposes like gasoline. Rather, it must be refined first which leads to fewer gallons of oil than you started with.

The measurement originated in the early Pennsylvania oil fields. In the early 1860s, when oil production began, there was no standard container for oil, so oil and petroleum products were stored and transported in barrels of different shapes and sizes for beer, fish, molasses, turpentine, etc. Both the 42-US gallon barrels (based on the old English wine measure, the tierce (159 litres) and the 40-U.S.-gallon (151.4-litre) whiskey barrels were used. 45-gallon barrels were also in common use. The 40-gallon whiskey barrel was the most common size used by early oil producers, since they were readily available at the time.

The origins of the 42-gallon oil barrel are obscure, but some historical documents indicate that around 1866 early oil producers in Pennsylvania came to the conclusion that shipping oil in a variety of different containers was causing buyer distrust..................................................................More on Oil Barrels >
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