The Science of Oil Drilling
The skill of oil drilling is a relatively complicated scientific process. In layman’s terms, crude oil is extracted from oil wells. This oil is then sent to refineries where it is turned into gasoline, heating oil, kerosene and other products.
Formed between 10 million and 600 million years ago, oil is the remains of tiny plankton animals and plants that perished in the ocean. Once these small organisms died, they then descended deep into the sand on the bottom of the ocean. Over millions of years, these organisms decayed, which formed sedimentary layers. Oxygen was rarely present in these layers, which caused the decay to form an organic material or fine-grained shale. Over the years additional layers were deposited and intense pressured, combined with heat, distilled these organic materials into the natural resources we know as natural gas and crude oil.
Geologists are generally responsible for locating natural gas deposits. They analyze the earth’s formation and sedimentary makeup to determine areas that had ideal conditions to produce oil traps. Scientists use several methods to unearth potential natural gas deposits, including examining terrain, surface rocks and satellite images. Once potential deposits are mapped, seismic surveys are untaken to determine if waves reflect through or back to the surface. These shock waves can be measured using compressed-air guns, thumper trucks and even explosives. These waves travel at different speeds depending upon the rock’s density, which allows scientists to determine if gas or oil is trapped below surfaces.
Bureaucratic paperwork is abundant, but once red tape is cleared, the oil drilling preparation process begins. First, the land must be cleared and an appropriate roadway built. Ensuring the area has an adequate water source nearby follows this. If not, a deep well must be drilled. The oil crew then digs a large reserve pit, which helps to dispose of drilling mud and rock cuttings during the complicated drilling process. This hole is lined with plastic to protect the earth’s sensitive environment.
An oilrig is then built on site. This complicated system features large diesel engines, electric generators, a mechanical system, hoisting system, turntable, rotating equipment, swivel, kelly, rotary table, drill string, drill bits, casing, circulation system, pumps, pipes, hoses, mud-return line, shale shaker, shale slide, reserve pit, mud pit, mud-mixing hopper, derrick and a blowout preventer.
Once the oil is extracted, tests are performed to confirm the oil’s quality and flow. Once the oilrig is removed, a pump is placed on the wellhead. This helps create a suction that ultimately brings the oil to the surface. This unprocessed oil is known as crude oil. To process this oil into a product that is commonly used, such as petroleum gas, gasoline, lubricating oil, etc., the oil must undergo a refining process. Oil refining is simply the process of extracting and separating hydrocarbon chains by distillation. Different chains are extracted at different temperatures, which is why so many different types of products are derived from crude oil.
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