Utah is one of the Rocky Mountain petroleum-producing states. The history of Utah's oil industry is one of slow development that can be divided into two distinct phases: a period of exploration, and a more recent time of commercial production. The exploratory period began in 1850 when Captain Howard Stansbury, while on a survey of the Great Salt Lake for the Army Corps of Topographical Engineers, discovered evidence of the existence of "petroliem" along the northern shore of the lake. Over the next forty years, Utah residents and visitors found other indications of oil in various parts of the region. Prior to 1890, gold prospectors traveling down the San Juan River in southeastern Utah noticed oil seeps along the river's steep embankments. Around the same time, two Salt Lake City businessmen found oil dripping from the crevices of rocks along the Green River, and ranchers and other residents of the Uinta Basin came across similar occurrences in the area around Vernal.
In 1891 members of an enterprise called the Utah Oil Company, whose incorporators included Simon Bamberger and C.J. Millis, sank a shallow well near the town of Green River, Utah. Not finding any oil, the company abandoned its well after drilling to a depth of 1,000 feet. During the remainder of the 1890s, oil and gas prospectors sank approximately twenty-five wells in various parts of the state.