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Unconventional Oil What it is How it Works Examples

Unconventional Oil What it is How it Works Examples

Unconventional Oil: What it is, How it Works, Examples

What Is Unconventional Oil?

In the oil and gas industry, "unconventional oil" refers to crude oil obtained through methods other than traditional vertical well extraction.

Examples include developing oil sands, directional drilling, and hydraulic fracturing (colloquially known as "fracking"). Today, unconventional oil is increasingly common, driven by new technological developments and economic considerations, making it more cost-effective and profitable. However, some people have concerns about the potential environmental harms associated with unconventional oil extraction methods.

Key Takeaways

-Unconventional oil is crude oil extracted using relatively new and/or complex methods.

-Historically, unconventional oil was associated with periods of high oil prices, which justified the use of costlier methods.

-Technological advances in unconventional oil extraction have been implemented in mainstream oil production practices, such as directional drilling techniques.

How Unconventional Oil Works

Unconventional oil has become increasingly common for two primary reasons. First, the economic climate in the oil extraction industry drives companies to develop new, more efficient means of extracting oil when prices are relatively low.

This involves increasing equipment speed and reliability, reducing reliance on personnel through automation, developing techniques that require less equipment or personnel, or a combination of these strategies. These developments often vary significantly from traditional vertical wells used in conventional oil extraction. For example, directional drilling techniques allow access to multiple underground reserves using a single vertical well, eliminating the need for multiple drill sites.

Alternatively, persistently high oil prices can make previously uneconomical oil reserves commercially viable. For instance, increased oil costs led to the development of hydraulic fracturing, involving steam, gas, and chemical injections to break up rock formations and extract hydrocarbons.

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Inevitably, a growing percentage of oil extraction techniques will be considered "unconventional" compared to historical standards. As oil becomes scarcer and alternative energy sources like solar, wind, and nuclear power challenge its dominance, the industry will continue to evolve and improve production efficiency.

Example of Unconventional Oil: Fracking

The most famous example of unconventional oil extraction is hydraulic fracturing, invented in 1947 by engineers at the Stanolind Oil and Gas Corporation. The process involves creating accessible oil reserves by releasing hydrocarbons from trapped underground rock formations.

Highly pressurized fracking fluid is injected into a well, creating fissures in the rock formation. The resulting oil escapes from the fissures, gradually flowing up through the low-pressure surface. Increasing pressure inside the underground reservoir and adjusting oil viscosity through chemical injections further accelerate the movement of oil toward the surface.

Example of Unconventional Oil: Oil Sands

Oil sands, also known as "tar sands," contain crude bitumen, a dense, viscous form of crude oil. Specialized extraction methods are necessary since bitumen does not flow on its own. Recovering usable crude oil from oil sands is complex and expensive. However, technological advancements have made it more cost-effective over time, particularly when oil prices are high.

Oil sands are primarily found in northern Alberta and Saskatchewan, Canada, as well as areas of Venezuela, Kazakhstan, and Russia. Bitumen extraction and processing primarily involves two methods: mining and in situ.

Note: This revision eliminates redundant phrases, repetitive ideas, and unnecessary adjectives to enhance readability and clarity, while maintaining the integrity and tone of the original text.

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