Industry Education

7 surprising facts about the oil industry

You rely on it every day, but how much do you really know about the oil industry? Maybe after reading the following facts, you start to think you don’t know as much as you thought you knew.

Did you know…?

… A reservoir is not a huge underground pool

Contrary to popular belief, an oil field is not a huge pool of underground fluid that can easily be sucked into the surface. Instead, the oil is trapped in the pore gaps between the rock crystals and soil grains.

Think of an oil tank as a giant sponge soaked in oil. It all depends on how oil is formed, ie of burying, compressing and heating dead organisms under sedimentary rocks over millions of years.

… Sludge is cleaner

Mud is generally considered undesirable and is associated with dirt. Not so in the oil industry. Think about how felling produces sawdust. Something similar happens when you drill a hole in the ground. Countless rock chips are produced.

You can easily sweep the sawdust off, but how do you handle the loose material far underground? By mixing clay and water in pre-defined proportions, drilling mud pumped into the hole is created. Carries loose chips with it.

… 40 percent of the world’s ocean cargo is oil

It’s huge. It is difficult to appreciate the sheer size of the oil industry, but this statistic goes a long way in painting a picture. It is these huge dimensions and the huge infrastructure built around it that have made it very difficult to find a worthy replacement to power the world.

We are still many years away from solar energy, for example, instead of oil. This is even before considering the many non-energy uses of petroleum products.

… The oil rig workers are very skilled and paid

It’s a dirty job that is physically demanding. No university education is required. And yet, oil rig workers are paid better than the vast majority of professions. In 2011, the average annual salary of the oil rig worker was nearly $ 100,000.

The youngest role on a rig (roustabout) averaged $ 34,680, about the average wage of all workers in the United States. The oil rig workers are highly paid by any measure. However, the recognition must be contextualized. Rigs are a dangerous work environment. Employees also spend long periods away from family and friends.

… Most of the world’s oil is unlikely to be recovered

Much of the world’s oil will probably never be recovered. The term “oil reserves” refers to the amount of oil in a field that can be extracted technically and economically. Recoverable oil is usually between 10% and 60% of the tank (see page 34 here).

So why is it nearly impossible to extract such a large percentage of the oil? It depends on the rock permeability, natural pressure and viscosity of the oil. Although there have been major technological advances (fracking is one), it is difficult to see a mechanism for extracting all or most of the oil from the ground in the near future.

… Oil has a much wider use than motor vehicles, aircraft, power plants and home heating

Petroleum has wide application in the pharmaceutical and medical industries. Petroleum products are also used in the textile industry, especially in the production of synthetic fabrics such as acrylic, vinyl, nylon and polyester.

It is used in the manufacture of plastics that make up camping equipment, sports equipment, toys and electronics such as computers, tablets, smartphones and televisions. It is a key component in shipbuilding, trains and aircraft parts. Petroleum products are part of the synthesis of fertilizers, chewing gum and perfumes.

… Fire is not the leading cause of workplace deaths from oil and gas extraction

Surprise you? Given that an oil rig is built around a large amount of combustible material, you would think that fires would be the biggest killer. Yes, as many tragic accidents over the years have shown, an uncontrollable fire is the last thing you need on a platform.

Fortunately, decades of refining safety procedures have seen a significant reduction in deaths or injuries from “major” risks. In 2015, the first cause of death on an oil rig was the fall of an object. In 2015, deaths from fires and explosions accounted for less than 20% of workplace deaths in the oil and gas extraction industry.

These 7 facts hardly scratch the surface of the incredible knowledge of the oil and gas industry. However, it does give a preview of how many things strangers may not know.


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