In Albania there are hydrocarbons in the solid state (asphalt and bitumen) and in the liquid state (oils) in oil lines in the SSE-NNO direction. The most interesting bituminous areas are those of Selenizza, about 30 Km. From Valona and those in Malakastra, near Bérat.
For oil, there are oil zones in various parts of the sub-coast strip, in an internal strip that, starting from Scutari, reaches Delvino and the Coriza basin. As well as along the Devoli river, traces of oil are found in Tepeleni, the Krabi pass between Elbasan and west Tirana of Lake Ohrid.
The most productive places are those between the Skumbi and the Vojussa, namely: Drasciovizza, Selenizza (Selenicë), Pathos, Cucciova (Devoli), Greshie, Dumreja and Penkowa.
The first oil field in Albania was started by Italian, French and English engineers during the First World War. In the 1922 the requests for concessions began from Italian, French, English and American companies. But these requests had no outcome until 1925, the year in which the Ferrovie dello
Italian state managed to secure a vast field of exploitation of 50 thousand hectares in the Cucciova area.
In the 1926 other 100.000 hectares were reserved for Italian research in the same area, along the Devoli river, while other concessions were granted to the Anglo-Persian Oil Company in the Malacastra area, the Syndacat Franco-Albanais and the Standard Oil Company.
Costanzo Ciano, Minister of the Colonies, sensed the importance that the oil researches in Albania could have and proposed the establishment, in the General Directorate of the State Railways, of an autonomous body: the Italian Petrol Agency Albania (AIPA), which was in business from the 1935 to the 1943.
From the first extractions it was found that the Albanian oil had a high percentage of asphalt and a very high sulfur content, which made it unsuitable for refining.
AIPA, in collaboration with the Politecnico di Milano, studied the problem and found a solution in subjecting the Albanian oil to a hydrogenation process, a chemical reaction with which hydrogen is introduced into a compound. In particular in the petroleum industry the hydrogenation treatment - called hydro-refining - is carried out under high hydrogen pressure in order to improve the characteristics of use of the product. Hydro-refining gave excellent results and is characterized by a very high yield (up to 80%) and, of particular importance, is the elimination of sulfur from the extracted crude oil.
To exploit this chemical process, the ANIC company was established with a plant in Bari, specifically destined for refining the oil extracted in Albania, while the ANIC plant in Livorno was specialized in the processing of Tuscan lignites.
The AIPA had a concession of 164.000 hectares along the Devoli river and here, in the locality Cucciova (renamed Petrolia) the first drilling was carried out.
The area of the wells, along the Devoli river, is flanked by that of the plants, of the houses for workers and employees, of the distilleries and of the various services that were being built in the area of the field: hospital, schools, church, telegraph, places of leisure .
A large workshop repaired the machinery and maintained it: the energy was produced on site by a dynamo powered by diesel engines, whose fuel came from the same oilfield.
An oil pipeline was built, the length of 74 kilometers, from the production area (Devoli) to the port of Valona. The pipeline, served by four pumping stations was capable, with its 200 mm diameter, of disposing of 1.000 and even more tons of oil per day.
In Valona oil was collected in large underground tanks and the loading on tankers was carried out by submerged pipes, in a vast area of the port reserved for AIPA
It may be interesting to provide some statistical data on AIPA oil production over the years from 1934 to 1939:
- Year 1934 Tonn. 9.200
- Year 1935 Tonn. 12.400
- Year 1936 Tonn. 48.330
- Year 1937 Tonn. 87.910
- Year 1938 Tonn. 126.820
- Year 1939 Tonn. 200.000
We now give some data on the activity of excavation of wells and oil extraction taken from the publication “Albania in 10 demonstrative maps compiled by Ing. Francesco Pollastri, Head of the Geographical Office of the Central Statistical Institute ”published in the 1939.
In the map "ALBANIA - Geology and mines" in the section dedicated to the main mining productions of the year 1938 we report the data communicated by AIPA
«From the beginning of the activity to 31 December 1938: wells performed with Rotary N. 442 devices; 306.632 perforated meters (depth of the base of the oil series variable from a minimum of 550 m to a maximum of 900 m with an EW orientation); in the year 1938 only: 148 wells; 101.802,80 meters.
Production: From the beginning to the 31 December 1938: tonn. 24.700.export 216.870; in the year 1938: tons 126.820, exported 97.426 ».
The passage of AIPA to the AGIP
With the 27 Law of May 1940 N. 580, promulgated by Vittorio Emanuele III and signed by the Head of Government, the Minister of Finance, Thaon di Revel, and the Minister of Communications, Host Venturi was established on “Passage of the Italian oil company Albania (A.IPA) to the Azienda Generale Italiana Petroli, a limited company (AGIP) "
With this law the special autonomous management called Azienda Italiana Petroli Albania, entrusted with R. 8 July 1925, N. 1301, to the Administration of the State Railways was transferred from 1 July 1940 to the General Italian Petroleum Company, company anonymous with registered office in Rome.
The unpublished photographic documentation that accompanies this article demonstrates the great activity of excavating wells, creating infrastructures and the whole organization of the Devoli oil field.
The memorial of a technician who lived in Albania in Devoli in the 1930-1950 years to the dependence of AIPA
It may be interesting to bring back some excerpts from the writings of Arnaldo Canciani "Memories and memories of Albania 1930-1950" published in Crema in November 2001.
In the preface the author writes: "This part of my memoirs, which covers a period of twenty years from 1928 to 1949, I dedicate to all those who lived with me in Albania, to the inhuman sacrifices and my parents, to all my family".
Arnaldo Canciani's family was forced to emigrate and in 1928 his father left for Albania, where his family joined him in January 1930.
Arnaldo Canciani attended elementary schools in Tirana and in 1934 his father left Tirana to move to Cucciova, where AIPA had started oil searches in the concession area.
His father worked in an Italian company to build houses, warehouses, offices. In Devoli a canteen, offices and some wooden houses had been built. In 1937 the works for the construction of a new school, hospital, church and after work were started in Cucciova and many families arrived from Italy: the village of Devoli had become an Italian island, inserted in the Albanian context.
In the 1937 Canciani began working as an apprentice in a workshop in Tirana and in the 1938 he was hired by the AIPA as an apprentice in the workshop. The workshop description is interesting: a right-hand shed along 120 meters, divided into various departments (machine tools, adjustment and motorists). On the left an identical shed, divided into carpenters, blacksmiths and welders. Bordering various warehouses used as warehouses and equipment depots.
A small railway station - with narrow gauge railway tracks - was in front of the workshop and from there branched off the tracks that reached all the wells.
A photograph of the workshop and sheds, taken in the 1994, represents the sheds repaired after the destruction of the war, but - says the author - they were practically identical to the original ones of the 1934.
The story continues with the description of everyday life, and with the news that enriched the small city. The company library had 800 volumes of various subjects and Canciani helped the person in charge.
In the 1940 the war against Greece began and the situation immediately became more difficult, also due to the well-known events of the Greek Campaign.
At the time, the AIPA construction site produced one-tenth of Italy's national oil requirement. Devoli then became a point of strategic importance but, writes Canciani, "for about a year life still flowed fairly serene and tranquil, food was not lacking, the influx of soldiers from all arms continued and increased".
The story continues with the events after the 8 September 1943: Albania came under the command of the various German departments, a new company was created (Albania Oil Company with Austrian management). Thus began the raids of allied bombers, which caused enormous damage to homes, workshops and fuel depots.
Several pages follow on the events after the retreat of the Germans and the arrival of the partisans.
During the 1945 there were negotiations for the repatriation of the Italian soldiers remaining in the various countries after the 8 September 1943 armistice. Authorization was granted for the repatriation of almost all the ex-soldiers considered prisoners, but the Albanian authorities asked and obtained to retain all the civilian personnel specialized in the various branches of the industry, former employees of various companies that operated on site, from them deemed indispensable for the reconstruction of the country.
Only in the early months of the 1948 were some Italians, who had been detained in Albania, allowed to leave the country. After the expulsion of Yugoslavia from the Cominform, small changes occurred in the Albanian government's behavior in relations with Italians, with greater economic compensation for Italian workers, which allowed them to improve living conditions.
Finally, in April of 1949, he was authorized, along with his father, to leave Albania and return home, landing in Brindisi and returning to Gemona. Finally from 1 December of the 1950 was taken by AGIP in Crema: where he began a new life.
The photographs in this article are part of the personal archive of Franco Tagliarini, Director of Albania News. The article was originally published on 16 July 2012.
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