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Conventional Oil

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Conventional Oil refers to oil that is produced from reservoirs using traditional drilling, pumping and compression techniques.

Conventional Oil 

Definition

Oil is a hydrocarbon formed over thousands of years from the decomposition of dead plants and organisms. Intense heat and pressure on this material triggers a reaction, which leads to the creation of oil.[1]BP PLC. "How oil and gas form". 2015   http://www.bp.com/en/global/corporate/about-bp/what-we-do/finding-oil-and-gas/how-oil-and-gas-form.html BP PLC. "How oil and gas form". 2015   http://www.bp.com/en/global/corporate/about-bp/what-we-do/finding-oil-and-gas/how-oil-and-gas-form.html BP PLC. "How oil and gas form". 2015   http://www.bp.com/en/global/corporate/about-bp/what-we-do/finding-oil-and-gas/how-oil-and-gas-form.html BP PLC. "How oil and gas form". 2015   http://www.bp.com/en/global/corporate/about-bp/what-we-do/finding-oil-and-gas/how-oil-and-gas-form.html BP PLC. "How oil and gas form". 2015   http://www.bp.com/en/global/corporate/about-bp/what-we-do/finding-oil-and-gas/how-oil-and-gas-form.html BP PLC. "How oil and gas form". 2015   http://www.bp.com/en/global/corporate/about-bp/what-we-do/finding-oil-and-gas/how-oil-and-gas-form.html 

Conventional oil is a term used to describe oil that can be produced (extracted from the ground) using traditional drilling methods.  It is liquid at atmospheric temperature and pressure conditions, and therefore flows without additional stimulation.  This is opposed to unconventional oil, which requires advanced production methods due to its geologic formations and/or is heavy and does not flow on its own.  

 

You may have heard of these terms used to distinguish different types of oil:

  • Light vs. Heavy - this refers to the density of oil and its ability to flow.  Lighter oil can be refined with minimal processing due to higher fractions of light hydrocarbons.
  • Sweet vs. Sour - this refers to the sulphur content of the oil, sulphur must be removed prior to refining.  When oil has sulphur greater than 0.5% it is referred to as "sour."

Because of these variations, oil quality is a spectrum and the distinction between conventional and unconventional is not always black and white. Generally, however, if traditional drilling techniques are used in the oil production it is considered conventional regardless of its physical properties.

Conventional oil is produced using drilling technologies that utilize the natural pressure of an underground reservoir.  Production of a conventional oil well has four main phases[2]:

  • Exploration: Geological exploration is a series of technologies that are used by geologists and geophysicists to predict the location and extent of underground oil reservoirs.
  • Drilling: Once a reservoir has been located with sufficient certainty, a drilling rig is used to bore a hole from the surface to the oil reservoir.  Piping is then inserted, allowing the oil to be brought to the surface.  Some of the oil in the reservoir will be produced using the natural pressure of the reservoir.  
  • Pumping: Gradually the pressure of the well will decrease as oil is produced. At this point a pump will be connected to allow the remaining oil to be extracted.
  • Abandoning: After all the economically viable oil has been extracted from the well, the well is filled with cement to prevent any hydrocarbons from escaping and a special cap is placed over it to protect the area[3]Alberta Energy Regulator. "Why are Wels Abandoned". 2015. http://www.aer.ca/abandonment-and-reclamation/why-are-wells-abandonedAlberta Energy Regulator. "Why are Wels Abandoned". 2015. http://www.aer.ca/abandonment-and-reclamation/why-are-wells-abandonedAlberta Energy Regulator. "Why are Wels Abandoned". 2015. http://www.aer.ca/abandonment-and-reclamation/why-are-wells-abandonedAlberta Energy Regulator. "Why are Wels Abandoned". 2015. http://www.aer.ca/abandonment-and-reclamation/why-are-wells-abandonedAlberta Energy Regulator. "Why are Wels Abandoned". 2015. http://www.aer.ca/abandonment-and-reclamation/why-are-wells-abandonedAlberta Energy Regulator. "Why are Wels Abandoned". 2015. http://www.aer.ca/abandonment-and-reclamation/why-are-wells-abandoned.

Context

Conventional oil tends to be less expensive and complex to extract than unconventional oil due to the routine nature of the production techniques.  This oil is also the most valuable in global markets because it requires the smallest amount of processing prior to refining to create value-added products. Consequently, many of our global conventional oil supplies have already been extracted, limiting the availability of these source for future extraction[2]Chestnut Exploration. "Conventional vs unconventional oil". 2015. http://www.chestnutep.com/blog/conventional-vs-unconventional-oil Chestnut Exploration. "Conventional vs unconventional oil". 2015. http://www.chestnutep.com/blog/conventional-vs-unconventional-oil Chestnut Exploration. "Conventional vs unconventional oil". 2015. http://www.chestnutep.com/blog/conventional-vs-unconventional-oil Chestnut Exploration. "Conventional vs unconventional oil". 2015. http://www.chestnutep.com/blog/conventional-vs-unconventional-oil Chestnut Exploration. "Conventional vs unconventional oil". 2015. http://www.chestnutep.com/blog/conventional-vs-unconventional-oil Chestnut Exploration. "Conventional vs unconventional oil". 2015. http://www.chestnutep.com/blog/conventional-vs-unconventional-oil .

Generally, drilling and well abandonment are well-understood and regulated processes but there are always risks with such industrial operations. In drilling, pressure must be regulated carefully to avoid accidents and immediate environmental impacts like land disturbance must be carefully monitored.  After abandonment, well leaks can occur if improper procedures were taken.  

As with all fossil fuel production, there are also concerns with greenhouse gas emissions from their combustion[4]United States Environmental Protection Agency. "Global Emissions by Gas". 2015.http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/global.html United States Environmental Protection Agency. "Global Emissions by Gas". 2015.http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/global.html United States Environmental Protection Agency. "Global Emissions by Gas". 2015.http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/global.html United States Environmental Protection Agency. "Global Emissions by Gas". 2015.http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/global.html United States Environmental Protection Agency. "Global Emissions by Gas". 2015.http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/global.html United States Environmental Protection Agency. "Global Emissions by Gas". 2015.http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/global.html .

References

  1. ^ BP PLC. "How oil and gas form". 2015   http://www.bp.com/en/global/corporate/about-bp/what-we-do/finding-oil-and-gas/how-oil-and-gas-form.html 
  2. a, b Chestnut Exploration. "Conventional vs unconventional oil". 2015. http://www.chestnutep.com/blog/conventional-vs-unconventional-oil 
  3. ^ Alberta Energy Regulator. "Why are Wels Abandoned". 2015. http://www.aer.ca/abandonment-and-reclamation/why-are-wells-abandoned
  4. ^ United States Environmental Protection Agency. "Global Emissions by Gas". 2015.http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/global.html 

Sorry, we do not yet have a video specifically for Conventional Oil.  We are adding new  videos to StudentEnergy.org weekly, but in the meantime check out this video on Oil.  

INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS

International Association of Oil & Gas Producers

IPIECA

International Energy Agency

Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries

World Petroleum Council

Oil and Gas Council

INTERNATIONAL OR PROMINENT INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION

US Oil & Gas Association

Illinois Oil & Gas Association

Society of Petroleum Engineer

The Petroleum Marketers Association of America

National Petroleum Council

APPEA

RESEARCH INSTITUTION

BMI Research

The Petroleum Institute

University of Calgary

The Oxford Princeton Programme

University of Leeds

University of Dundee

British Columbia Institute of Technology

Canadian Energy Research Institute

Montan Universitat

Oil Center Research

Research Institute of Petroleum Industry

Politecnico di Torino

ACADEMIC JOURNAL

Universita Degli Studi Di Perugia

OnePetro

SPE Journal

Journal of Petroleum Technology

HISTORY

ExtremeOil

The virtual Geology Department Canda

Drilling Info

POLITICS

Technology Review (MIT) - Power and Politics in World Oil

The Economist - Oil and Gas

Global Policy Forum - Oil and Natural Gas in Conflict

Columbia - Center on Global Energy Policy

World Bank - The Great Plunge in Oil Prices: Causes, Consequences and Policy Response

ECONOMICS

American Petroleum Institute - Industry Economics

Oil and Gas Journal - Economics and Oil Market News

Oil and Gas UK - Economic Report 2014

OPEC Monthly Oil Market Report

Platts Real Time Oil Market Data

ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT

TEEIC - Potential Impacts of Oil and Gas Production

Kharaka and Dorsey - Environmental issues of petroleum exploration and production

UNESCO - Environmental Impacts of the Oil Industry

Scottish Government Fisheries Research Center - Environmental Impacts

State of the Environment Norway - Environmental Impacts of Oil and Gas activities

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration - Effects of Oil and Gas Activities in the Arctic Ocean

BUSINESS ANALYSIS

IHS - Oil and Gas

Oil and Gas Financial Journal - Analysis

Net News Ledger - Business Analysis

HEALTH IMPACT

US EPA - Health effects of pollutants emitted from oil and natural gas prod. facilities

Earthworks - Oil and Gas Health Effects

Worcester Polytechnic Institute - The Health Effects of Oil Contamination

SUSTAINABILITY

Journal of Environmental Sustainability - Towards Sustainability in the Oil and Gas Sector: Benchmarking of Environmental, Health, and Safety Efforts 

Ceres - Oil & Gas Producers

Castagra - Voluntary Sustainability Reporting

OTHER INTERESTING ESSAYS/ARTICLES

GreenBiz - Is there a greener side to Drilling for Oil?

Deep Blue Library - Oil Companies and Sustainability: More than just an Image?

Unep and The E&P Forum - Environmental Management

DEFINITION

Financial Times - Oil - The big Drop

International Energy Agency (IEA) Oil Overview 

OilPrice.com - Types of Crude Oil 

Take a Step Back

Oil

Oil is a fossil fuel and liquid hydrocarbon used mainly for the production of transportation fuels and petroleum-based products.

Keep Learning! Progress To

Drilling

Drilling refers to the process of boring a hole through soil and rock to access geologic reservoirs that contain oil and gas.

Unconventional Oil

Unconventional Oil refers to crude oil that is not produced by traditional extraction methods. This includes but is not limited to offshore, oil sands, and tight oil.