The various abbreviations for barrel are replete with conflicting definitions.
|Date||Form||Meaning||Occurrence and comments|
|to present||BO||barrel of crude oil||In use by the U.S. Dept. of Energy, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Texas Railroad Commission and others.|
|to present||BW||barrel of water||Used in the petroleum industry in describing volumes of water pumped from petroleum wells.|
|2000||b/d||“barrels per day”||
International Energy Agency.
|bbl/d||“barrels per day”||
U.S. Energy Information Administration.
“b” for barrel is described as not “a standard abbreviation.”
|2003||BBL||barrel(s)||American Petroleum Institute, Petroleum Industry Data Exchange (PIDX), Petroleum Industry Data Dictionary (PIDD): “Commonly abbreviated as BBL.”|
|2003||B or bbl||barrel(s)||
Petroleum Systems and Geologic Assessment of Oil and Gas in the
Uinta-Piceance Province, Utah and Colorado.
Agrees with U.S. Geological Survey World Petroleum Assessment 2000 — Description and Results, Chapter CF.
|BBL||Billion barrels of petroleum liquids|
|BL||Barrels of petroleum liquids; includes crude oil, condensate, and natural gas liquids.|
|BO||Barrels of crude oil|
|2000||Bbbl||billion barrels||Minerals Management Service, 2000 Assessment, page 627.|
|Bbo||billion barrels of oil|
|bopd||barrels of oil per day|
|1989||BBL||Barrel||U. S. Census Bureau, on adopting the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System.|
|1967||bbl.||United States Government Printing Office Style Manual, revised
edition, January 1967. Page 168. “The same form of
abbreviation being used for both singular and plural.”
The Chicago Manual of Style, 14th edition (1993), section 14.39. Section 14.36 notes “Abbreviations of units of measure are identical in the singular and plural.”
|1922||bbls.||Waverley Petroleum Handbook, 8th ed.
Page 133: “3 wood bbls. Oil or Grease...”, “Heavy steel bbls. measure...”
From the context, it is clear these are physical barrels, not the 42-gallon petroleum barrel.
|1872||bbl.||barrel||Derrick's Hand Book for 13 October 1872, reporting a resolution of the Council of Producers: “Resolved, ... that we will have $5 per bbl. of 42 gallons for our crude oil.”|
J. Smith Homan and J. Smith Homans, Jr.
See for example page 1421, a table describing goods coming into New Orleans from the interior, where “bbls” is applied to barrels of apples, bacon, beans, butter, cornmeal, cider, western coal, dried peaches, dried apples, flour, lard, western lime, molasses, oats, onions, linseed oil, castor oil, lard oil, pickles, potatoes, pork, porter and ale, sugar, tallow, whisky and wheat. (The same list includes a tierce of flaxseed.)
This example alone, predating as it does the petroleum industry, shows that the abbreviation “bbl” did not originate within that industry, contrary to Paul H. Gidden's ingenious “blue barrel” supposition.
The Magazine of Horticulture, January 1846.
Page 38: Extensive list of varieties of apples, priced “per bbl.”
Niles Weekly Register, June 15, 1816. Supplement.
“23,650 bbls. tar”; “6,015 bbls. flour”; etc
William Cobbett, Porcupine's Works, Vol. VIII, May 1801. Page 462
“The schooner Columbus, Mason, from St. Vincent's, for Kennebunk, was boarded by a French privateer, which detained her six hours, and took out of her 60 gallons of rum, a bbl. of sugar, &c."
Some Information Respecting America Collected by
Page 152: “Herrings, per bbl.” But page 151: “Beef, Boston, a bar. of 200lb.” “Flour, Superfine, per bar. of 196 lb.”
Pennsylvania Archives, page 217.
“eight barrells of bread, one bbl. of flour, one bbl. of Pease, four bbs. of beef, two bbs. of Pork”
If other examples can be found, this may perhaps indicate separate abbreviations for the singular and plural, which would throw some light on the origin of the abbreviation.
“A Subsidy granted to the King of Tonnage and Poundage and other summes of Money payable upon Merchandize Exported and Imported.”
“Apples vocat. Pippins or Rinnets the barll 9t. 3 bushells…
The petroleum industry and government agencies frequently use the prefix M for a thousand and MM for million, e.g, “MMbbl/d” is millions of barrels per day and “Mbbl/d” is thousands of barrels per day.
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Last revised: 21 April 2012.