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Alberta's Petroleum Heritage Edukithome


Did You Know?




Asphalt: A heavy oil used on the surface of roads. The oil is so heavy that it is considered a soft solid.

Bitumen: Petroleum that exists in the semisolid or solid state in natural deposits

Blowout: The oil, gas, and water deep within the ground is under a lot of pressure.  Drilling for petroleum resources will release the pressure, and the oil and gas will move up.  The force of the pressure of the petroleum may be so great that the mud used within the drilling pipe will be blown out and the oil and gas will fly high in the air.  A blowout can be a major environmental catastrophe.

Blowout Prevention System: Found on a drilling rig, it is the seal around the drill pipe hole that prevents blowouts.

Crude Oil: The oil that comes out of a well is a mixture of different heavy and light oils, as well as other substances, like impurities, mixed in. Crude oil derives it name because it has not been processed to remove the extra unwanted substances. After it’s gone through a refinery, where impurities are taken out and the different oils are separated, it becomes refined oil.

Circulating Fluid, Circulating System: see Mud

Core Drilling; Core Sample: Sometimes a drilling rig doesn’t grind up the rock; instead it pulls up long cylinder-shaped rocks called core samples. Geologists study these core samples to see if there might be oil under the ground.

Cracking: At an oil refinery, big heavy molecules may be cracked in half to make twice as
many smaller molecules. Crude oil doesn’t have enough gasoline for all our cars, so heavier molecules are often cracked to make gasoline.

Crude Oil: The oil that comes out of a well is a mixture of many different oils, from light gasoline to the more heavy, sticky bitumen. It’s called crude oil until it gets to a refinery.

Derrick: The tall part of a drilling rig is the derrick.

Derrickman: The workman who spends most of his shift up in the derrick

Derrickman’s Runaround: The derrickman has a walkway up the derrick, called the runaround.

Devonian Reef: A reef that formed in the sea during the Devonian period, the “Age of Fishes” (395 to 345 million years ago) can be called a Devonian reef. Until the Devonian reefs were found at Leduc in 1947, oilmen thought that you could not find oil from that time period. The town of Devon, Alberta, is named after this.

Diesel: Diesel is a type of oil that is heavier than gasoline and kerosene, but lighter than fuel oil. Big trucks usually use it for fuel, and some cars do too.

Downstream: In the oil industry, downstream refers to the industry that deals with refining the oil and gas, and distributing them to the consumers.

Drill Bit: The drill bit is the part of a rig that is below the ground, grinding up the rocks.

Driller: On a drilling rig, the man in charge of a shift is the driller.

Dry Hole: A drilling situations in which a well does not find oil or gas (or water, if the men were looking for water), the well is a considered a dry hole

Floorhand: A drilling rig usually has two floorhands (also called roughnecks) who do much of the heavy work at a well site.

Fuel Oil: Fuel oil is heavier than gasoline, kerosene, and diesel. Cities that are a long way from natural gas wells often heat their buildings with fuel oil.

Gas (1): When molecules can’t hold onto each other tightly enough to make a solid or a liquid, they bounce around loosely, crashing into each other and bouncing off again. We call this a gas. The air we breathe is a mixture of gases. Another word for gas is vapour.

Gas (2): In Canada and the United States, gasoline is often called gas for short. It’s a liquid, not a gas.

Gasoline: A light oil that is used as fuel for cars.

Geologist: A scientist who studies the earth’s crust and its history.

Geophysicist: A scientist who makes pictures of rock formations beneath the surface of the earth.

Hoisting System: The part of a drilling rig that lifts, holds and lowers heavy pipes. The derrick is part of it.

Hydrocarbon: A term used for oil and natural because they are both made up of molecules of hydrogen and carbon.

Impervious Rock: A rock that does not hold water, oil, or gas because it is impermeable.

Kerosene: A light oil, but heavier than gasoline. It is often used to light kerosene lamps.

Leduc #1: Alberta’s oil industry “got off the ground” in 1947, with the discovery of oil in an area southwest of Edmonton. The well was called Imperial Leduc #1, because Imperial Oil was the oil company, Leduc was the nearest town, and it was the first in that area.

Logging Crew: In the oilpatch, a logging crew has nothing to do with lumber. They send a logging tool down a well: a steel tool, 7-8 cm. in diameter, up to 5 metres long. It has gadgets that read things in the rock. The logging crew log the results.

Methane: The lightest hydrocarbon, it is the main component in natural gas. Each molecule is made up of one carbon atom and four hydrogen atoms.

Mineral Rights: A farmer who owns his own farm owns the surface rights--that is, he owns what is on the top of the land. He probably does not own what is beneath the surface. A person or company or government who owns the mineral rights to a piece of land, owns the minerals found underneath the ground--such as metals, coal or oil. In Alberta, the province owns most of the mineral rights.

Molecule: Every substance is made up of tiny particles called molecules. They are very tiny; much too small to be seen even under a microscope. Molecules are made up of atoms, sometimes just one atom, sometimes very many atoms. The molecular composition of oil and gas are atoms of carbon and hydrogen.

Motorman: The man in charge of the motors at a drilling rig.

Mud: The special circulating fluid that circulates from the mud tanks, down the drilling pipe, around the drill bit, and back up the outside of the pipe. It is a mixture of bentonite clay, water and chemicals.

Mudman: The man in charge of the mud (circulating fluid) at a wellsite is the mudman.

Natural Gas: A fuel, made mostly of methane, that is often used to heat homes. In comparison to gas made from coal or oil, because there is not a gas well made, natural gas is found naturally in the earth.

Oil Sands: In northern Alberta, oil has seeped to the surface over a huge area. The lighter oils have evaporated, leaving the thick, tarry oils mixed with the sands. This area is known as the Athabasca Oil Sands.

Paraffin: A soft hydrocarbon  used to make candles. At the bottom of an oil well, where it is very hot, it is a liquid, but as it comes up to the surface, it cools down and turns into a solid and sticks to the pipes. Oilmen have to clean their pipes of paraffin.

Pig: When a pipeline gets coated on the inside with paraffin, oilmen send a machine called a pig through the pipeline. The name  is derived from the pig squeal sound the older machines used to make as they travelled through the pipes.

Pipeline: Although expensive to build, the cheapest way to transport oil and natural gas is through pipelines.. The Interprovincial Pipe Line, from Edmonton to New York State, is the longest in the world.

Plastics: The word plastic really means something that can be molded into a permanent shape. Today we use the word to mean the vast number of man-made products that can be made from crude oil

Porous Rock: Rock that has holes in it, so it can hold oil, water and gas.

Pump Jack: A machine that contains a moving up and down head to pump oil out of a well. The three main parts of a pump jack are the horse’s head, saddle bearing and tail bearing.

Refine: The process where different kinds of oils are separated from one other, and anything that is not oil is removed.

Refinery: The place where oil is refined. Oil refineries are usually huge clusters of buildings and vessels.

Rotary System:  The system that twists the drill bit on a drilling rig.

Roughneck: Another name for a floorhand on a drilling rig.

Sedimentary Rocks: Rocks composed of layers of sediment. Usually sand, mud, plants or animal material pile up in sediments.

Seismograph: The instrument used to measure sound wave echoes as they travel through the rocks when a geophysicist sets off an explosion.

Service Rig: The type of rig installed after a packed up and moved out drilling rig. The service rig crew run tubing down inside the casing, and prepares the well for perforating. This rig may also return to correct any production problems the well may have.

Sour Gas: Natural gas that contains hydrogen sulphide (H2S) is called sour. It has a terrible smell, and is poisonous, but the sulphur in it is valuable. One-third of Alberta’s natural gas is sour.

Sulphur: A yellow non-metallic element that occurs naturally as a solid. When sulphur mixes with hydrogen, we have hydrogen sulphide. See sour gas.

Toolpush: The rig manager, the man in charge of a drilling rig.

Vapour: Another term for gas.

Wildcat Well: If you don’t know if oil or gas can be found in an area, but drill anyway, you are drilling a wildcat well. Leduc #1 was a wildcat well. Leduc #2, and all the other wells in the Leduc area, were not wildcat wells, they were development wells. Nine wildcat wells out of ten turn out to be dry holes.

This glossary was developed by The Black Gold Regional Division No. 18 and teachers Margaret Lyall, Kimberly Epp and Robina Baker.

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