This section of the website
has been created to assist non-technical visitors with general
information about producing oil and gas. Areas include how this is
its purpose, where does it come from, and why certain aspects are required.
What is the purpose of
Oil and Gas?
Oil and natural gas are
chemical fuels that help us with common aspects of our life. They
allow us to go short and long distances in vehicles, keep us cool in the
summer and warm in the winter to name a few items. Many chemical
products are manufactured from these raw chemical ingredients such as
plastics, pharmaceuticals, cleaners, materials for clothes, and many
other articles that are used everyday.
With the world population
expected to grow 1.6 billion in the next 15 years or so (circa 2020), places such as
China are growing at incredible rates. With automobiles alone,
there is a 20% growth of vehicle sales per year.
Natural gas is a cleaner
fuel which has lowered the level of smog in major cities. During
the mid-century when most homes and factories used coal, smog and health
problems were reaching all time highs. During the mid-century,
natural gas was also called 'nuisance-gas' because is was largely
unwanted, and was usually burned in the field or vented straight to the
atmosphere. With an increased demand and price for energy, natural gas was sent
to major cities by pipelines and hooked up to houses which also lowered
smog and local health problems related to the urban air. Currently,
liquid natural gas (LNG) is so versatile that it is placed in a compact liquid
form that can be used to fill up transportation vehicles.
Oil is available in many
forms, including gasoline (or petrol), Diesel, motor oil, grease, and
much more. With the many recycling programs available, old motor
oil and grease can be chemically changed to gasoline or diesel or a
variety of other chemical products.
Where does Oil and Gas
Natural gas and oil are
created from the natural biological and chemical degradation of prehistoric plants and
animals. When the remains of these life forms settled to the
bottom of seas, they were covered with various material such as rocks
and sand. Over many years, these remains were continuously covered
by many layers of rocks and sand which left them deep in the earth.
The increased pressures and temperatures that exist in the earth
chemically changed this material into petroleum. The petroleum
contained in the pores of this rock is commonly called source rock. The
trapped oil in source rock is referred to as reservoirs. Crude oil
usually contains various concentrations of natural gas, oil and water.
How do you find
Since most crude oil
is located deep beneath the earths surface, most scientists and
petroleum explorers use sound waves to determine the size and
volume of the formation. Chemicals (in
the form of explosives) are regularly used to produce waves that
travel through the earth and reflect off the various rocks or
sand made up of various chemicals.
Wave receivers are
placed at equal distances along the surface of the earth which
detect the reflected size, type, and intensity of the waves. This
information is then sent to a computer where the data is
analyzed and viewed on the screen. Many programs can show
a version of the various underground layers in three dimensions
How do you Produce
Some rocks have
large enough spaces to allow oil and gas to be produced.
Some rocks in the reservoir are tough to recover since the
spaces between the rock are quite small. Chemicals are
injected to increase the amount and volume of oil that can be
removed from the formation.
Before oil can be
removed from below the earth surface, a drilling rig is brought
to the site and a hole is drilled to the reservoir. A
larger pipe, called the casing, is placed down the hole and is
cemented into place. Cementing the casing prevents
different formations from mixing with one another. A pipe
with a smaller diameter is placed down the centre of the casing
and is cemented in place which are usually called packers.
The centre pipe is called the tubing and is the main line
for bringing fluid to the surface.
are usually under pressure. In order for the fluids to
rise to the earths surface, there has to be enough pressure to
push the liquid through the long tubing to the top of the pipe.
When the well has been freshly drilled, it has the highest
formation pressure. A Christmas Tree or wellhead is
placed at the top of the tubing to control the flow of oil and
gas from the formation.
Over time, the
underground pressure decreases and can be brought to the surface by
the assistance of chemicals or a mechanical pump. Addition of chemical foamer's reduce the pressure, and can eliminate the added
expense of running pumps, maintenance, and fuel. Using
chemicals or pumps to move oil to the surface is called
artificial lift. The most common pump is a
horsehead pump since they resemble a horse's head that
moves with the pump.
A new well will
initially produce oil at a low level, and then will rapidly
increase its production rate of oil in a short period of time.
As the well ages, the production rate slowly declines until it
requires further assistance to send the fluids to the surface.
Addition of chemicals can keep the production rate higher for a
longer period of time. The long slow drop in production
from the highest level is called the decline curve, and
the highest level of production is called the production peak.
Chemists have many
option to increase the production rate and length of time in
which a well can produce oil. A workover is a
cleaning of the wellbore of stubborn fluids (usually paraffin,
asphaltene, or scale). With a clean wellbore, the fluids
can flow through the pipeline easier. This increases the
pressure and production flow of oil and gas to the surface.
The formation can also be fractured (frac job).
This is always performed with chemicals in the form of nitrogen,
acids, proppants, and other liquid and solid materials.
method, called waterflooding is performed when some of
the wells are used to inject water into the formation instead of
producing fluid from the formation. The water moves oil
from the formation to other producing wells. In addition
to the chemicals used to remove oil from the water, additional
chemicals can/are added to enhance production of oil from
injected water in the formation. The use of chemicals
increases the production of oil and gas to all time high's.
This is typically called enhanced oil recovery (EOR).
Once this mixture of
oil and water is brought to the surface, the oil must be
separated from the water, and vice versa. Chemicals and
heat are added to separate these two fluids. Once the oil
has a low concentration of water (usually called dry oil),
it is then sent to refineries where chemists aid and assist with
the creation of gas, diesel, motor oil, and many other
What is the Role
of Chemical Technology in Gas and Oil Production?
When people ask about
Chemists, or Chemistry, they often think about their pharmacist or of
producing medicinal drugs that Medical Doctors give them a prescription
for. Although this is one of the many fields in which Chemists are
involved, we are involved in over 95% (directly or indirectly) of the
materials, methods, and products used to help, aid, and assist all
aspects of oil and gas production. When looking at a wellsite, the
oil and gas themselves are chemicals, along with the pipe (made of
metals which are chemicals), valves (again made of metals), have
corrosion inhibitors (more chemicals), and the employees themselves wear
Personal Protective Equipment (plastic ear protection, fire resistant
clothing made of chemicals), drive to a wellsite in a vehicle half made
of plastic chemicals, and metal chemicals.
It is safe to assume, that
the everyday items which are manufactured and used in everyday life are
chemicals. When chemists make new chemicals, and/or increase the
level of chemical technology, the entire world is influenced.
What Other Professions
does the Chemist Work With?
Biologists - With the ever
increasing importance of chemical molecules such as: Deoxyribosenucleic
acid (DNA), Ribosenucleic acid (RNA), hormones, enzymes, cells,
membranes, nutrients, vitamins, and more.
Geologists and Geophysicists
- Chemicals compose of all the matter that these professionals study.
Different types of rock exist which are all made up of, and studied from
the laws of chemistry.
Engineers - Everything that
has any aspect of engineering is directly related to chemistry, from the
matter of the which makes up metals, wood, plastic, and other physical
material is all created from and by chemists. This can be in the
form of electronic wires, cement, building materials, piping, petroleum,
Forestry Professionals - All
living organisms (from bugs, to trees) which make up everything that
touches a Forestry Professional deals directly, or indirectly with the
Environmentalists - When the
environment needs help in one way, shape, or form, the environmentalists
come to the rescue with a team of chemists to help them out with their
tasks. The chemists determine what a system currently has, and has
many methods of treating and helping environmentalists to assist mother
Government - When the earth,
air or water are involved, governments rely heavily on chemists to make
their economies soar, which increases taxation, budgets, and helps the
Other professionals - If it
is physically created, modified, or viewed, chemistry has been involved.
From the ultra high-tech planes which defend countries, to the food we
eat, and the glasses we drink from, every aspect has chemists and
All forms of matter are
created from various combinations of elements from the Chemists Periodic
Table of Elements.
What are Various Titles
As technology increases and
forms more specialists, more titles are recorded. Here are a few
of the titles that immediately come to mind:
Inorganic Chemistry - This
extremely wide area of chemistry deals with all matter of an inorganic
nature. For example, iron, carbon, salts, and much more
Organic Chemistry - As a
general rule of thumb, organic chemists deal with Carbon, Oxygen, and
Hydrogen elements. This vast area of chemistry deals with
pharmaceuticals, living matter, and much more.
Physical Chemistry - Any
material that interacts with another form of matter and the expression
of laws and forces of nature are largely of this category.
Nuclear Chemistry - This
seems to be self explanatory. Any energy radioactivity, or nuclear
medicine has chemists widely involved in this area. This could be
a nuclear reactor, to radiation treatment for cancer patients.
Metallurgical Chemistry -
Although this area combines areas of the aforementioned disciplines, it
is largely focuses on metals and their many combinations.
Industrial Chemistry - Creation, modification, or treatment of any industrial product involving the previous categories on a large scale.
Chemistry - This fascinating area of chemistry has a focus on molecules
interacting with each other from an electrical/magnetic perspective.
From new computer chips, to anodic and cathodic corrosion protection and batteries.
Solar Cells which are an alternate source of energy are a good example
of the benefits of Electronic Chemistry.
Water/Wastewater Chemistry -
When you turn on the tap for a fresh glass of water, or have consumer
water (from your dishwasher) placed down the drain, a chemist must
ensure that it meets environmental regulations, and treats the water so
that it meets the specifications for discharge. This is the basis
of the American Water Works Association (AWWA).
Chemistry - Once chemicals have been created to a suitable form,
chemists are involved to ensure that these materials meet certain
specifications or guidelines. This is a necessary part of ISO 9000
Corrosion Chemistry - Within
industrial chemistry, is the protection and treatment of materials.
There are almost more chemists involved in the North American Corrosion
Engineers (NACE) than other professionals.
Environmental Chemistry -
New regulations have passed which further widen the scope of chemistry.
When dealing with site reclamation, Environmental chemists are involved.
Process Chemistry - In
manufacturing matter, most business's have a process chemist which
guides and monitors chemical processes .
Agriculture Chemistry -
Modified strains and nutrients provided to farmers are created from and
by Agriculture Chemists. This could be from the manufacturing of
pesticides, application of pesticides, to nutrient and growth
monitoring/stimulation of all forms of life in the wide field of
Pyro/Demolition Chemistry -
This widely respected field is used in work (mining rocks) and enjoyment
(fireworks and firecrackers), and war (firearms, munitions, etc).
Polymer Chemistry - This
very wide area of chemistry involves the
manufacturing/extrusion/creation of polymers or plastics.
Chemistry - When people take medication from a medical doctor, the
interactions between conflicting medications must be monitored and
Analytical Chemist - Process
chemicals and materials need to be monitored for performance. It
is the analytical chemist who can separate molecules into its basic
building blocks and provide the information to people.
Instrument Chemist - The
equipment that aids and assists all chemists eventually needs repair.
Instrument chemists provide this technical service.
Sales Chemist - Where would
business's be without the sales chemist? Wherever chemicals are being
sold, you will find a sales chemist to provide help with your unique
Lubricant Chemist - The next
time that you get an oil change, the thousands of hours required for
research and development of the lubrication products are created by
these hardworking chemists.
Fuel Chemists - With the
wide expanse of hydrocarbons and any nations increased need for energy,
these chemists are available to create and monitor needed fuels for
automobiles, transport ships, airplanes, heating oil, and more.
Chemists - When matter is to be reused, (such as recycling glass or
plastic) the chemist determines the working parameters, efficiency, and
material balance of the systems.
Chemistry - Any chemical simulation program which is created by a Computer
Eugene for more information.