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Energy Institute - Education Glossary
Category: Earth and Environment
Date & country: 15/12/2007, UK
rain with a pH of around 4, in which pollutants such as sulphur dioxide have been dissolved.
chemicals used in agriculture and horticulture, such as fertilisers and pesticides.
hydrocarbon molecules with the general formula C H + 2, containing only single bonds.
hydrocarbon molecules with the general formula C H which contain one or more double bonds.
bacteria which can live without oxygen.
Articulated loading column
is where tankers load a cargo of oil at sea. A tanker cannot manoeuvre close to a production platform so the oil is piped to a loading column. In the example illustrated below, this is 2 km from the production platform.
a term used in the oil industry as a measure of volume. The 'American Barrel' is 35 gallons or 159 litres and is a standard unit of measurement for oil in bulk, used throughout the world.
a material which can be broken down by enzymes.
a viscous material remaining after the volatile fractions of crude oil have been separated by distillation.
a covered hole in a tray of fractionating column through which vapour bubbles upwards through the liquid in the tray.
the saturated hydrocarbon (alkane) with four carbon atoms in its molecule (C4H10). A gas at atmospheric pressure and normal temperature but easily liquefied by pressure. See 'Alkanes'.
an impervious layer of rock which traps oil or gas beneath it.
a substance which alters the rate of a chemical reaction without being used up itself in the reaction.
changing the shape of the hydrocarbon molecules using a catalyst to speed up the rate of reaction.
a chemical which is used as the starting point for manufacturing other substances eg ethene is used in the manufacture of polythene.
oil which has not undergone any refining. Crude oil is a mixture of hydrocarbons with small quantities of other chemicals such as sulphur, nitrogen and oxygen.
one cubic metre is equal to 1000 litres.
a light oil fuel used in diesel engines.
a technique whereby a well is deliberately deviated from the vertical in order to reach a particular part of a reservoir. Using this method many wells may be drilled from one point. An illustration of the area that can be reached by directional drilling from one point
the products obtained by condensation during the fractional distillation process.
a drilling tool that cuts through rock. This is made of hardened steel and may be coated with diamonds.
an offshore structure from which wells are drilled. These are anchored to the sea floor and may be either a jack-up rig (resting on legs), a floating semi-submersible rig or (in very deep water) a ship.
the complete structure and machinery needed to drill a well . (open in new window)
the saturated hydrocarbon (alkane) with two carbon atoms in its molecule (C2H6). A gas under normal conditions. See 'Alkanes'.
the search for oil and gas by carrying out geological and geophysical surveys, followed by exploratory drilling in the most promising locations.
a fracture in rocks with movement of the rock layers on either side. Faulting is caused by movement in the Earth's crust that creates stress and tension. The photograph below shows layers of rock that have been offset along a fault.
where a layer of oil or gas bearing rock is faulted and brought against an impervious layer which prevents the oil and gas from moving upwards.
a raw material for the manufacturing process.
a geographical area under which an oil or gas reservoir lies and where a group of oil or gas wells is found.
the organic remains of plants, animals and bacteria which decayed and over millions of years formed crude oil, natural gas and coal.
a separation process which uses the difference in boiling points of liquids. (open in new window)
a heavy distillate oil used for power stations, industry and ships' boilers.
a medium distillate oil used to produce diesel fuel and to burn in central heating systems.
Gas processing plant
where water and liquid hydrocarbons are removed from gas and its characteristic smell is added. Gas is brought ashore by pipeline and processing plants are located on the coast.
is the term used in the oil industry to refer to petrol.
a scientist who studies the Earth, particularly rocks.
a scientist who studies the physics of the Earth.
the increase in the average temperature of the Earths atmosphere due to the enhanced greenhouse effect.
describes the warming of the atmosphere due to greenhouse gases which prevent long wavelength infra-red radiation from escaping into space. (open in new window)
compounds containing hydrogen and carbon only. They may exist as solids, liquids or gases.
part of the electromagnetic spectrum responsible for radiant heat.
a medium light oil used for lighting, heating and aircraft fuel.
a mineral made of calcium carbonate (CaCO3)
is where tankers load a cargo of oil at sea. Tankers cannot manoeuvre close to a production platform so the oil is piped to a loading buoy, and articulated loading column or a floating storage unit (converted tanker) a few kilometres away. Tankers are used to transport oil when it is not economical to build a pipeline.
a substance based on heavy liquid hydrocarbons used to reduce friction in an engine or machine.
the hydrocarbon with the lightest molecule (CH4), a gas under normal conditions. See 'Alkanes'.
one metric tonne is equal to 1000 kilogrammes.
the scientifc study of minerals.
a company with operations and investments in many countries around the world. Also known as multinational companies.
very light fractions of oil, used to produce petrol and as raw material for the petrochemical industry (e.g. to make plastics).
naturlaly occurring gases found whether alone or together with oil in underground reservoirs. The main component is methane.
a resource which cannot be replaced once it is used up, for example fossil fuels (oil, natural gas and coal).
a measure of the performance of a gasoline, in particular its 'anti-knock' properties.
originating from living organisms. Organic chemicals contain carbon, hydrogen and sometimes other elements.
the study of fossils.
the saturated hydrocarbon with five carbon atoms in its molecule (C5H12), a liquid under normal conditions. See 'Alkanes'.
chemicals made from crude oil. Amost all plastics are based on chemicals from crude oil, e.g. polythene, polystyrene and PVC.
the light fuel used in cars and motorcycles.
an offshore structure from which wells are drilled or oil is produced. Commonly known as oil rigs, these may be either drilling platforms or production platforms (see below).
oil and gas reserves which have a chance of being developed.
refers to the basic forms of fuel and energy. These are the commercially traded forms of energy such as coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear energy and hydroelectricity.
undeveloped oil and gas reserves from tested formations, but for which there is a lack of information.
an offshore platform fixed to the seabed from which wells are drilled and that carries the processing plant needed to maintain an oil or gas field in production. The diagram shows the size of these platforms compared to well known buildings.
the saturated hydrocarbon with three carbon atoms in its molecule (C3H8), a gas under normal conditions. See 'Alkanes'.
reserves which are technically and economically feasible.
a plant where the components of crude oil are separated and converted into useful products. These are usually on the coast so that tankers can unload crude oil directly into the refinery.
amount of crude oil or natural gas to be recovered from a reservoir.
an accumulation of oil or gas in rock.
a mass of salt that has risen up under overlying formations, causing them to bulge upwards and form an anticline.
a rock formed from sand or quartz particles cemented together with clay, calcium carbonate and iron oxide.
a layer of solid material which settles to the bottom of a liquid.
rocks formed from the sediments collected in ancient oceans and seas, e.g. sandstone (illustrated below), limestone and chalk. Sedimentary rocks can be changed by heat and pressure into metamorphic rocks.
a survey to determine the detailed structure of rocks underlying a particular area by passing acoustic shock waves into the rock strata and detecting and measuring the reflected signals.
a shock wave usually generated by an earthquake. In oil exploration seismic waves are generated by detonating small explosions on the ground surface or on the sea. These are reflected by the various layers of rock beneath the ground and measured at the surface. Computer analysis enables a cross-section of the rock layers to be constructed thus revealing rock structures. The diagram below shows wells drilled into oil and gas reservoirs beneath the North Sea.
an instrument that records the frequency and magnitude of seismic waves. The vibrations are recorded by a pen on a revolving drum. A seismography can pick up seismic activity thousands of kilometres away.
layers of rock laid down on top of one another. See 'Sedimentary rock'.
splitting long chain hydrocarbons into shorter ones by heating.
Transnational company (TNC)
a company with operations and investments in many countries around the world. Also know as multinational companies.
refers to a liquid that changes to a gas at temperatures close to room temperature.
the distance between one point on a wave and the same point on the next wave.
a hole drilled into rock by a drill bit.