Digboi is a small town in the North-East state of India’s Tinsukia district of Assam. As per 2011 census, the total population of the town is 21,736 with an area of 4.03km2. The nearest airport connecting Digboi is that of Dibrugarh at a distance of 65km by road and the nearest railway station is 34km away in Tinsukia. It both a historical and an industrial significance. It has certainly brought laurels to the industrial capacity of India. Digboi is a globally acclaimed town for its oil wells. It is known as the “Gangotri of the Indian Hydrocarbon sector” and also as the “Oil City of Assam” as well as the “Birthplace of Indian Oil Industry”.

As per the historical records, the earliest signs of oil was discovered by British officer, Lt. R Wilcox of the 46th Regiment Native Infantry at Supkhong about 40 km from Digboi. He reported to have observed that there were great bubbles of oils and gases rising to the surface and odour of petroleum present in the jungles. There were numerous reconnaissance missions conducted in this area by the British military and business forces after defeating the 800-year-old rule of the Ahoms in 1824. As coal was majorly used in those days therefore, little importance was paid to the sightings of petroleum in the area.

Geological Survey of India (GSI) was set up in 1851 and was then entrusted with the responsibility of surveying and making record of other resources such as minerals and petroleum in the area. Petroleum by then was slowly gaining importance with the more discoveries made in the United States with respect to its uses. The world’s first oil well was drilled in Pennsylvania in the USA in 1859 by Edwin L Drake. Following this establishment, a British businessman named Goodenough mechanically drilled a borehole in Makum situated 25km from Digboi and struck Asia’s first mechanically drilled oil well in 1867. But the same was closed as the product and drilling was not financially viable.

In 1889, again an oil well was drilled and oil was obtained on 19th October from Digboi’s oil well no.1. This was the first oil well that was used for commercial purposes. With the increase in productivity- extraction and refining, emerged the need to establish a proper set up for extraction and refining of oil. As a result of which Assam Oil Company was formed in 1899 in London. On 11th December, 1901 India’s first oil refinery came into force-producing about 350 barrels per day. Gradually the consumption rose and Assam Oil Company was overtaken by the more experienced Burmah Oil Company in 1921.

On 14th October, 1981, Indian Oil Corporation Ltd took over the Digboi oil venture. The chapter of Digboi is a perpetual moment of pride for every Indian that projected India as a self-sustaining oil consumer for quite a long time. Currently, it is operating at a capacity of 0.65 million metric tonnes per annum oil production capacity.

To commemorate the success of this venture spanning for over more than 100 years, Digboi Oil Centenary Museum has been established in Digboi. It is with the development of this oil refinery that Digboi gradually became a major tourist destination of Assam which is a leading tea producing state of India.

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