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[Energy] [Column] All About Petroleum - (5) Find Black Gold

by Eco Generation | 17-07-2019 16:02 Comments 0 Comments recommendations 0 recommendations



Find Black Gold

 

 

By Science Columnist Ho-Gwan Ko 

  

 

 

Petroleum is often called “black gold.” This reflects the value of petroleum. Obviously, attempts to find petroleum have been made endlessly, and exploration techniques have developed. As a result, new oilfields are being discovered and oilfied development technology is advancing, extending the time when oil will be depleted.

The first step in finding petroleum begins at the desk. By looking at a number of documents such as maps and geological research data, you look for areas likely to have petroleum. At the end of the literature review, you start a field survey after choosing where petroleum is likely to be.

First, with satellite or aerial photos of Earth, you investigate geological characteristics such as the structures and types of rocks. You can also use drones these days. Drones equipped with a laser scanner and a GPS device help collect information about the terrain. The flying robots can also be used later to check for any broken or leaking pipelines.

Once the surface exploration is finished, you start to inspect below ground. Because we cannot see under the ground with our eyes, elastic waves are used to indirectly investigate the underground structure. You can look not only underground but also under the ocean to find petroleum, and the basic principle is the same. If you make a vibration on the ground, the impact is transmitted below ground, generating waves. By analyzing the signals of the reflected waves from the boundary of the ground, you can understand the structure underground. If there is petroleum, refraction of elastic waves at the boundaries between the solid land and the liquid petroleum are generated.

If you find a place highly likely to have petroleum in this way, you start drilling where a hole is bored to see if petroleum really exists there. Depending on the situation, you sometimes dig the ground into the side, instead of directly drilling down. Once petroleum is found in the dug area, you analyze the components and decide whether you extract petroleum considering the amount of reserves and economic feasibility.

At the outlet of petroleum, a valve device regulating pressure is installed to extract petroleum. This device looks like a metal column with multiple valves. In the petroleum industry, this is called a Christmas tree. This is because it looks like the start signal device used for drag races, which is called a Christmas tree.

Once you have found petroleum in the sea, you build a structure called a platform to work on the sea. You can extract petroleum and even refine it from there. In shallow waters, pillars can be built and fixed on the seabed, but they are made to float in deep waters. You can also use a drillship that can produce petroleum by installing and moving drilling rigs. It is convenient to do everything at once from production to transportation, but it costs a lot.

There is another way to produce petroleum: oil sands. Before developing the technique to extract petroleum from the underground, people would use petroleum that leached into the ground. Likewise, petroleum is sometimes not gathered under the ground but mixed with sand or mud near the surface. It is assumed that crustal movements caused petroleum to come up close to the surface.

Nowadays, the development of new technology has enabled us to collect such sand and separate petroleum from it. Centrifuges are used to separate petroleum from sand, or petroleum is melted for extraction. It is known that 1 barrel of petroleum can be obtained from 2 tons of oil sand. Although its economic feasibility is low due to high production costs in the past, people have been paying attention to the technology due to increasing oil prices for the past 10 years.

Given the share of petroleum in contemporary civilization, people will not stop finding new oilfields unless they find a perfect substitute. The question is how long we will be able to use petroleum.

     

 

Find Black Gold

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