Oil field

Oil field
An oil field with dozens of wells. This is the Summerland Oil Field, near Santa Barbara, California, before 1906

An oil field is a region with an abundance of oil wells extracting petroleum (crude oil) from below ground. Because the oil reservoirs typically extend over a large area, possibly several hundred kilometres across, full exploitation entails multiple wells scattered across the area. In addition, there may be exploratory wells probing the edges, pipelines to transport the oil elsewhere, and support facilities.

Because an oil field may be remote from civilization, establishing a field is often an extremely complicated exercise in logistics. For instance, workers have to work there for months or years and require housing. In turn, housing and equipment require electricity and water. Pipelines in cold areas may need to be heated. Excess natural gas may be burned off if there is no way to make use of it, requiring a furnace and stacks, and pipes to carry it from well to furnace.

Thus, the typical oil field resembles a small self-contained city in the midst of a landscape dotted with drilling rigs and/or the pump jacks known as "nodding donkeys" because of their bobbing arm. Several companies, such as BJ Services, Bechtel, Esso, Schlumberger Limited, Baker Hughes and Halliburton, have organizations that specialize in the large-scale construction of the infrastructure and providing specialized services required to operate a field profitably.

More than 40,000 oil fields are scattered around the globe, on land and offshore. The largest are the Ghawar Field in Saudi Arabia and the Burgan Field in Kuwait, with more than 60 billion barrels (9.5×109 m3) estimated in each. Most oil fields are much smaller. According to the US Department of Energy (Energy Information Administration), as of 2003 the US alone had over 30,000 oil fields.

In the modern age, the location of oil fields with proven oil reserves is a key underlying factor in many geopolitical conflicts.[1]

The term oilfield is also used as a shorthand to refer to the entire petroleum industry. However, it is more accurate to divide the oil industry into three sectors: upstream (crude production from wells and separation of water from oil), midstream (pipeline and tanker transport of crude) and downstream (refining and marketing of refined products).

See also


  1. ^ Yergin, Daniel (1991). The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0671502484. 

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • oil field — ☆ oil field n. an area having valuable deposits of petroleum, often, specif., one with a number of active oil wells …   English World dictionary

  • oil field — oil′ field n. gel an area having large deposits of petroleum • Etymology: 1890–95 …   From formal English to slang

  • Oil Field — A tract of land used for extracting petroleum, or crude oil, from the ground. Although the exact origin of oil is still contested, most consider petroleum a fossil fuel, created from dead organic material often found in ancient seabeds thousands… …   Investment dictionary

  • oil field — naftos verslovė statusas T sritis chemija apibrėžtis Naftos telkinio eksploatavimo įmonė. atitikmenys: angl. oil field rus. нефтепромысел …   Chemijos terminų aiškinamasis žodynas

  • oil field — an area in which there are large deposits of oil. [1890 95] * * * …   Universalium

  • oil field — noun An area under which are reserves of petroleum, especially one with productive oil wells …   Wiktionary

  • oil field — noun : a region rich in petroleum deposits; especially : a region containing numbers of producing oil wells …   Useful english dictionary

  • oil field — noun Date: 1884 a region rich in petroleum deposits; especially one that has been brought into production …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • oil field — see oilfield …   English dictionary

  • oil-field — area where large amounts of petroleum have been found …   English contemporary dictionary

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