History of oil and gas industry in Slovakia dates back to 1913. Before that time, there were pessimistic views as to the possibility of discovering extractable oil reservoirs of the territory of presents Slovakia. The turning point was the discovery of the oil deposit at Gbely before the outbreak of World War I.
In 1910 Ján Medlen, an inhabitant of Gbely, dug a drainage trench on his land and found burning gases. He built a primitive reservoir and brick main up to his house, where he used the gas for house heating and forging. It was early in 1913, when the manager of the train station at Gbely reported to Railroad Administration that in the cottage of Jan Medlen, some 30 meters away from the railroad tracks between Gbely and Kúty, a gas explosion occurred. The explosion, which shattered his house and scattered it for 20 m around, brought about the interest of geologists. Based on their recommendations, the Hungarian royal mining research office was authorised to commence a drilling program at Gbely. The assembly of the drilling rig began on August 5th 1913. The first well was drilled on 28 October 1913 using a mobile Trauzl hand-drilling rig. At a depth of 163 to 168 meters, a reservoir of rare heavy crude oil was found. After successful pumping tests, the Austrian – Hungarian Empire started to produce oil commercially on 13 January 1914. Based on the results of the positive well, a drilling program in the whole region started in 1914 and the Staré pole deposit was developed. Between 1914 and 1918, 56 positive probes were drilled in this deposit of Staré pole in Gbely. The year of 1914 is generally considered to be the beginnings of the oil industry in the Slovak territory.
At the beginning of World War I, there was a serious shortage of oil and its products in the Austria – Hungarian Empire. The oil was very precious and its price was rapidly rising, therefore the Austro – Hungarian government kept increasing the extraction. While in 1914 they extracted 1,631 tons of crude oil, in 1927 it was as much as 9,146 tons. The pre-war and war period significantly contributed to the development of the oil and gas industry.
The inter-war period was not very favorable for the development of geological exploration. After disintegration of the Austrian – Hungarian Empire, a large number of experts have left with technical documentation, information and experience. From this period are interesting some facts, which affect the further existence of geological exploration activities in Slovakia:
- Over the years 1926-1927, near Gbely, the first geoelectric measurements were carried out by a Swedish company.
- Geoelectric methods contributed to discovery of deposit “Nové pole”, which came into production in November 1928. In the following year the production increased by 2,500 t and reached 12,465 t in 1930.
- In the years 1925 – 1932, the deepest well drilled in Czechoslovakia territory. This well, called H-6, reached final depth 1,564, 4 m.
In the period before the Second World War, annual oil production reached 10,000 tons.
Accompanying product of production - natural gas, was used only to a limited extent. Processing of natural gas started in 50s, when usage of gas lighting declined and the network of gas pipelines expanded. Due to successful exploration activities and by increasing the intensity of opening of new deposits during the 50s, the production increased to 60 000 tons of crude oil per year. Since the beginning of the 1950s, they also started to utilize natural gas, which was previously considered rather a by-product of oil production. At that time, in addition to lighting train wagons and its usage in chemistry, it was used for household heating. In 1952 new exploration methods as seismic measurements helped to discover important oil and gas fields Láb, Suchohrad – Gajary and joint Austrian-Slovak gas field – Vysoká Zwerndorf.
The production of natural gas peaked between 1958 and 1962, when 1.1 - 1.3 bcm was produced annually, until the beginning of the 70s, when 900 - 700 mcm of natural gas was produced per year. The peak of oil production was attained in 1963, 0.63 mmb yearly. Year 1966 was the beginning of natural gas production also in Eastern Slovakia in Trhovište oil field. In 70´s and 80´s, there was another significant discovery in production of hydrocarbons on the territory of our country. The deepest oil well in Slovakia, drilled in 1975 was Šaštín 12 with depth 6, 505 m.
An important historical milestone was the discovery of new extensive oil and gas reservoir in Gajary-Baden in 1973. It started producing gas in 1977 and three years later the production of oil from this reservoir. In 1983 began the production from the deepest reservoir Závod Mesozoic in Slovakia. The depth was more than 4 km.
The significant milestone in exploration of hydrocarbons and the development of the concept of converting depleted fields into underground gas storages was the implementation of 3D seismic measurements. The first mentioned measurement was realized in 1988. Over 1,500 square kilometres were covered by 3D seismic methodology. Until now, was acquired 15 blocks of 3D seismic data in the Vienna Basin East Slovakian and in the Danube Basin.
In the second half of the 60s of the last century, intensive discussion regarding the development of the concept to use depleted gas fields for storage started. The commissioning of the transit oil pipeline Bratstvo (Brotherhood) from Russia across the entire Slovakia in 1970 was an important impulse, which was then followed by the development of underground storage facilities in the Vienna Basin in western Slovakia.
1973 was the crucial year for natural gas storage as natural gas started flowing to depleted gas fields. Trial operation of The first stage of underground storages was completed in 1977 with annual storage capacity of 200 mcm and barely 2 years later, the storage capacity stood at 350 mcm. In 1984, thanks to the third stage of underground storage facilities at Lab, storage capacity grew by 1 bcm of gas. Further development of storage facilities means that from 2003 until 2012, the capacity reached 2.4 bcm. The recent completion of the second stage of the Gajary-Baden project and the start of operation of the Central Area at Gajary, the new connection to the transmission system and further important structures was a significant milestone. After the final completion of the Gajary-Baden project in 2014, the storage capacity of NAFTA shall total up to 2.5 bcm.
Production of hydrocarbons plays an important role in the history of energy industry in Slovakia. Presently production of hydrocarbons has already 105 years tradition. Over the past 100 years, fields with a total capacity of more than 27 billion m³ of recoverable reserves of natural gas, 3.7 million tons of oil, and nearly 0.4 million tons of gasoline have been discovered on our territory. Production of gas in Slovakia currently totals around 90 mcm. Production of oil is concentrated mainly in the Zahorie Basin, mainly near Malacky and Gbely and in the Eastern Slovak Lowland. So far, approximately 2 860 wells have been drilled in the Vienna Basin and approximately 340 wells in the East Slovakian Basin.