What is an oilfield?

An oilfield is a geographical area, onshore or offshore, with oil wells. It is an area of land with natural gas or crude oil. This area can be large, extending for several miles. Oil companies often drill in multiple oil or gas wells in a single oilfield.

There are two ways we can write the term: 1. Oilfield (one word). 2. Oil field (two words). The same applies for gas field (or gasfield).

There are more than forty-thousand oilfields globally, both offshore and onshore. The largest ones are the Burgan Field in Kuwait and the Ghawar Field in Saudi Arabia. In fact, many of the largest fields are in the Middle East.

In 2005, alone, the Ghawar Field yielded approximately 60 billion barrels of crude oil.

Even though we have discovered more than 40,000 oilfields, less than 10% them have significantly impacted global oil supplies.

According to Petropedia.com, and oilfield is:

“Oilfield is an area of land from where crude oil and natural gas is produced. It can extend to multiple miles as hydrocarbon reservoirs generally spread over a large area below the earth’s surface.”

Oilfield - image with explanation
An oilfield may have many oil wells. That is where we drill for oil and natural gas. Remote oilfields have living quarters for workers.

Oilfield infrastructure

Oilfields may be either near towns or remote from human civilizations. Consequently, establishing a field can be a very complicated logistical exercise. Logistics refers to having the right things in the right place at the right time.

Not only do we have to get the drilling equipment to the field, but also housing for the workers. In turn, worker accommodation requires water and electricity.

In the cold regions of the world, for example, we need to keep the pipelines warm. Put simply; we cannot let them freeze.

If there is no way of using excess natural gas, we burn it off. Therefore, we need a furnace, chimney, and pipes to transport it to the furnace from the well.

In fact, many remote oilfields look like small, self-contained villages. These little towns are surrounded with drilling rigs or nodding donkeys.

Nodding donkeys or pumpjacks are reciprocating pumps which extract oil from an onshore well. They ‘nod’ up and down.

Oilfield – the oil industry

We also use the term as an informal or shorthand way to refer to the whole oil industry. However, technically, we divide the oil industry into three sectors:

Upstream, which includes crude production from the oil wells. It also refers to the separation of water from oil.

Midstream, which refers to transporting crude oil through pipelines or with tankers.

Downstream, which includes the refining, marketing, and sales of refined products.

Video – Oilfield man camps

Oilfield ‘man camps’ are temporary villages where oil workers sleep. This Associated Press video talks about the hordes of workers who have flocked to the North Dakota prairies.