For at least two thousand years, the Chinese of Sichuan, in south-central China, have dug or drilled holes to tap a briny aquifer, the trapped remains of an ancient inland sea. They boiled down the brine to make crystals of sodium chloride – salt – a food preservative and seasoning so critical in the days before refrigeration that whole civilizations flourished or waned based on its commerce.
The story goes that one day a lightning bolt struck one of the wells, sending a pillar of fire tens of meters into the air. Excited locals named the phenomenon "Wells of Fire." They didn't yet realize it, but they had discovered that natural gas is often associated with salt resources. Continue reading "How Rockefeller Parlayed Pipelines into Billions"