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A Brief History Of The American Petroleum Institute (API)

Founded in 1919, the American Petroleum Institute, better known as API, is the largest trade association in the United States focused on the oil and natural gas industry. It represents close to 700 different corporations throughout the industry and was formed with the purpose of influencing public policy to support and grow this segment both in the US and around the world.

The Early Years

The American Petroleum Institute was founded in New York City in 1919, almost 80 years after oil was first discovered in the state of Pennsylvania. The stated goals of the organization at the time were to “afford a means of cooperation with the government”, “to foster foreign and domestic trade in American petroleum products”, “to promote in general the interests of the petroleum industry”, and “to promote the mutual improvement of its [API’s] members and the study of the arts and sciences connected with the oil and natural gas industry”. Those remain at the core of the organization today.

Petroleum industry

API Standardization

Perhaps the single most important thing that American Petroleum Institute has done is to foster standardization for oil production, formulation, and packaging in the US. However, due to the scale of the US industry, this standardization has also spread around the world. According to the API’s website, “American Petroleum Institute has developed more than 700 standards to enhance operational safety, environmental protection, and sustainability across the industry, especially trough these standards being adopted globally”.

700 API standards for environmental protection

One of the most critical standards set by the organization is the standard for energy conservation of motor oil. The current standard at the time of this writing is API SN, which supersedes the previous standard, API SM. This standard applies to engine oils used in any application where there is a spark-ignited engine (internal combustion engine, or ICE).

Other important standards set by the American Petroleum Institute include oil drilling and production standards. These include everything from pipe size to threading type and size and more. This effort stemmed from drilling delays and production shortages during WWI due to a lack of uniformity in pipe sizes and couplings, which made it challenging to drill and pump continually without leaks, spills, and breakdowns.

Energy API Certification

Because of the influence and importance of the API around the world, many people recognize adherence to the organization’s standards and specifications as hallmarks of quality and performance when it comes to petroleum-based products. Energy API certification is granted only to products that meet these stringent requirements. At Armor Lubricants, we’re proud to offer a wide range of API-certified products, including transmission fluid and engine oil that meet or even exceed API specifications and requirements.

API Today

Today, the American Petroleum Institute has moved its headquarters to Washington D.C., in order to better position itself to lobby government and exert influence over the oil and natural gas industry. It remains one of the largest trade associations in the US and the world and continues to set policy and standards that reach around the world.

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