As the voice of the upstream oil and natural gas industry in Canada, we provide a comprehensive glossary of the industry terms.
Abandonment #abandonment

Converting a drilled well to a condition that can be left indefinitely without further attention and will not damage freshwater supplies, potential petroleum reservoirs or the environment.

Active well #active-well

A well that is currently producing oil or natural gas.

API gravity #api-gravity

A measure of the relative density of a petroleum liquid. If one petroleum liquid floats on another it has a greater API gravity.

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Battery #battery

Equipment to process or store crude oil from one or more wells.

Benchmarking measures #benchmarking-measures

Data and information used as a point of reference against which industry performance is measured.

Benzene #benzene

A light aromatic hydrocarbon, which occurs naturally as a part of oil and natural gas activity. It's considered to be a non-threshold carcinogen and is an occupational and public health concern.

Bitumen #bitumen

Petroleum in semi-solid or solid forms.

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Carbon capture and storage (CCS) #carbon-capture-and-storage-ccs

The process of taking waste carbon dioxide and transporting it to a storage site, normally underground in a specific type of geological formation.

Centrifugal pump #centrifugal-pump

A rotating pump, commonly used for large-volume oil and natural gas pipelines, that takes in fluids near the centre and accelerates them as they move to the outlet on the outer rim.

Coalbed methane (CBM) #coalbed-methane-cbm

Natural gas generated and trapped in coal seams.

Condensate #condensate

Hydrocarbons, usually produced with natural gas, which are liquid at normal pressure and temperature.

Conventional crude oil #conventional-crude-oil

Petroleum found in liquid form, flowing naturally or capable of being pumped without further processing or dilution.

C-ring tanks #c-ring-tanks

Large on site tanks used to store flowback, produced, or fresh water separately.

Criteria air contaminants (CAC) #criteria-air-contaminants-cac

Emissions of various air pollutants that affect our health and contribute to air pollution problems such as smog. CACs are tracked by Environment Canada.

Cumulative effects #cumulative-effects

Changes to the environment caused by an activity in combination with other past, present and reasonably foreseeable human activities.

Cumulative production #cumulative-production

Production of oil or gas to date.

Cyclic steam stimulation (CSS) #cyclic-steam-stimulation-css

Injecting steam into a well in a heavy-oil reservoir which introduces heat and thins the oil, allowing it to flow through the same well.

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Density #density

The heaviness of crude oil, indicating the proportion of large, carbon-rich molecules, generally measured in kilograms per cubic metre (kg/m3) or degrees on the American Petroleum Institute (API) gravity scale; in Western Canada oil up to 900 kg/m3 is considered light to medium crude — oil above this density is deemed as heavy oil or bitumen. scale.

Development well #development-well

A well drilled in or adjacent to a proven part of a pool to optimize petroleum production.

Directional (deviated) well #directional-deviated-well

A well drilled at an angle from the vertical by using a slanted drilling rig or by deflecting the drill bit; directional wells are used to drill multiple wells from a common drilling pad or to reach a subsurface location beneath land where drilling cannot be done.

Discovery well #discovery-well

An exploratory well that encounters a previously untapped oil or gas deposit.

Downstream sector #downstream-sector

The refining and marketing sector of the petroleum industry.

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Ecosystem #ecosystem

A biological community of interacting organisms and their physical environment.

Enhanced oil recovery (EOR) #enhanced-oil-recovery-eor

Any method that increases oil production by using techniques or materials that are not part of normal pressure maintenance or water flooding operations. For example, natural gas can be injected into a reservoir to "enhance" or increase oil production.

Established reserves #established-reserves

The portion of the discovered resource base that is estimated to be recoverable using known technology under present and anticipated economic conditions. Includes proved plus a portion of probable (usually 50 per cent).

Exploratory well #exploratory-well

A well into an area where petroleum has not been previously found or one targeted for formations above or below known reservoirs.

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Field #field

The surface area above one or more underground petroleum pools sharing the same or related infrastructure.

Flaring/Venting #flaringventing

The controlled burning (flare) or release (vent) of natural gas that can't be processed for sale or use because of technical or economic reasons.

Flow line #flow-line

Pipe, usually buried, through which oil or gas travels from the well to a processing facility.

Flowback #flowback

Fracturing fluid that flows back to the wellbore after hydraulic fracturing is completed.

Fracking #fracking

A government-regulated technology used safely for more than 60 years to recover shale or tight natural gas that is trapped in deep underground rock.

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Glycol Dehydrator #glycol-dehydrator

Field equipment used to remove water from natural gas by using triethylene glycol or diethylene glycol.

Greenhouse gas intensity (GHG intensity) #greenhouse-gas-intensity-ghg-intensity

The average emission rate of a given greenhouse gas from a specific source. For example: greenhouse gases released per barrel of production.

Greenhouse gases (GHG's) #greenhouse-gases-ghg s

A type of gas that contributes to the greenhouse effect by absorbing infrared radiation.

Ground water #ground-water

Water contained in underground natural aquifers.

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Heavy crude oil #heavy-crude-oil

Oil with a gravity below 28 degrees API.

Horizontal drilling #horizontal-drilling

Drilling a well that deviates from the vertical and travels horizontally through a producing layer.

Hot water process #hot-water-process

A method for separating bitumen from oil sand using hot water and caustic soda, developed by Karl Clark of the Alberta Research Council.

Hydraulic fracturing #hydraulic-fracturing

A government-regulated technology used safety for more than 60 years to recover shale or tight natural gas that is trapped in deep underground rock. Also known as fracking, the process of pumping a fluid or gas down a well which causes the surrounding rocks to crack and allows natural gas or oil to be produced from tight formations.

Hydraulic fracturing fluids #hydraulic-fracturing-fluids

Are comprised primarily of water and sand (~98.5%) and a small amount of additives (~1.5%).

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In situ #in-situ

In its original place; in position; in situ recovery refers to various methods used to recover deeply buried bitumen deposits, including steam injection, solvent injection and firefloods.

Inactive well #inactive-well

A well that has not produced oil or natural gas in 12 months.

Induced seismicity #induced-seismicity

Seismic or earthquake activity, which is caused by human activity.

Infill drilling #infill-drilling

Wells drilled between established producing wells on a lease in order to increase production from the reservoir.

Initial established #initial-established

Established reserves before production.

Injection well #injection-well

A well used for injecting fluids (air, steam, water, natural gas, gas liquids, surfactants, alkalines, polymers, etc.) into an underground formation for the purpose of increasing recovery efficiency.

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Lease #lease

Legal document giving an operator the right to drill for or produce oil or gas; also, the land on which a lease has been obtained.

Light crude oil #light-crude-oil

Liquid petroleum that has a low density and flows freely at room temperature.

Limestone #limestone

Calcium carbonate-rich sedimentary rocks in which oil or gas reservoirs are often found.

Lined pits #lined-pits

The ground is excavated to create a dugout and lined with impermeable geosynthetic materials to store flowback or drilling fluids while protecting the environment. In order to protect waterfowl and other wildlife from coming into contact with this water, wire fencing is often used to cover the pit and brightly coloured flagging on the fence perimeter acts as a deterrent.

Liquefied natural gas #liquefied-natural-gas

Natural gas, when produced and used domestically, is shipped in its vapour form through a network of distribution pipelines to a local distribution company and then delivered to a customer. When natural gas is shipped to a distant foreign market outside of where it is produced, the natural gas needs to ‘shrink in size’ or be compressed in order to ship large volumes economically – this liquefies the natural gas.  The ‘shrinking’ of natural gas reduces its size by a factor of about 600.  

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Medium crude oil #medium-crude-oil

Liquid petroleum with a density between that of light and heavy crude oil.

Methane #methane

The principal constituent of natural gas; the simplest hydrocarbon molecule, containing one carbon atom and four hydrogen atoms.

Middle distillates #middle-distillates

Medium-density refined petroleum products, including kerosene, stove oil, jet fuel and light fuel oil.

Midstream #midstream

The processing, storage and transportation sector of the petroleum industry.

Mine tailings #mine-tailings

Process water remaining after oil sands mining and stored in settling basins called tailings ponds

Miscible flooding #miscible-flooding

An oil recovery process in which a fluid, capable of mixing completely with the oil it contacts, is injected into an oil reservoir to increase recovery.

Mud (also drilling mud) #mud-also-drilling-mud

Fluid circulated down the drill pipe and up the annulus during drilling to remove cuttings, cool and lubricate the bit, and maintain desired pressure in the well.

Mud (also drilling mud) #mud-also-drilling-mud

Fluid circulated down the drill pipe and up the annulus during drilling to remove cuttings, cool and lubricate the bit, and maintain desired pressure in the well.

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Natural gas liquids #natural-gas-liquids

Liquids obtained during natural gas production, including ethane, propane, butanes and condensate.

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Oil sands #oil-sands

A deposit of sand saturated with bitumen.

Operator #operator

The company or individual responsible for managing an exploration, development or production operation.

Orphan well #orphan-well

A well that no longer has an identifiable owner.

Ozone #ozone

Ground-level ozone is a colourless gas that forms just above the earth's surface.

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Particulate matter #particulate-matter

Refers to microscopic solid or liquid particles that remain suspended in the air for some time.

Permeability #permeability

The capacity of a reservoir rock to transmit fluids; how easily fluids can pass through rock.

Petroleum #petroleum

A naturally occurring mixture composed predominantly of hydrocarbons in the gaseous, liquid or solid phase.

Pinnacle reef #pinnacle-reef

A conical formation, higher than it is wide, usually composed of limestone, in which hydrocarbons might be trapped.

Pool #pool

A natural underground reservoir containing an accumulation of petroleum.

Porosity #porosity

The volume of spaces within rock that might contain oil and gas (like the amount of water a sponge can hold); the open or void space within rock ・usually expressed as a percentage of the total rock volume. Thus porosity measures the capacity of the rock to hold natural gas, crude oil or water.

Primary recovery #primary-recovery

The production of oil and gas from reservoirs using the natural energy available in the reservoirs and pumping techniques.

Produced water #produced-water

Water naturally present in the reservoir that is recovered during oil and gas production.

Produced water #produced-water

Water naturally present in the reservoir that is recovered during oil and gas production.

Prorationing #prorationing

Government allocation of demand among pools and wells; pipeline allocation of demand among shippers.

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Reclamation #reclamation

The process of restoring the surface area of a well site, access road and related facilities to original conditions.

Reclamation certified (rec cert) #reclamation-certified-rec-cert

Well sites that are remediated and reclaimed to the current regulatory standard.

Reformulated fuels #reformulated-fuels

Gasoline, diesel or other fuels which have been modified to reflect environmental concerns, performance standards, government regulations, customer preferences or new technologies.

Releases #releases

A rupture is an instantaneous tearing or fracturing of the pipeline material that immediately impairs the operation of the pipeline. Leaks can be an opening, crack or hole in a pipeline causing some product to be released, but not immediately impairing the operation of the pipeline.

Remaining established #remaining-established

Initial established minus cumulative production.

Reserves #reserves

An estimate of the amount of crude oil located in a specific region. Reserves must be accessible with current technology.

Royalty #royalty

The owner's share of production or revenues retained by government or freehold mineral rights holders. In natural gas operations, the royalty is usually based on a percentage of the total production.

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Saline groundwater (brackish) #saline-groundwater-brackish

Deep groundwater that is high in dissolved salt and unsuitable for domestic or agricultural uses.

Sandstone #sandstone

A compacted sedimentary rock composed mainly of quartz or feldspar; a common rock in which oil, natural gas and/or water accumulate.

Secondary recovery #secondary-recovery

The extraction of additional crude oil, natural gas and related substances from reservoirs through pressure maintenance techniques such as waterflooding and gas injection.

Sedimentary basin #sedimentary-basin

A geographical area, such as the Western Canada Sedimentary Basin, in which much of the rock is sedimentary (as opposed to igneous or metamorphic) and therefore likely to contain hydrocarbons.

Seismic Studies #seismic-studies

Refers to studies done to gather and record patterns of induced shock wave reflections from underground layers of rock, which are used to create detailed models of the underlying geological structure.

Shale #shale

Rock formed from clay.

Solution gas #solution-gas

Natural gas that is found with crude oil in underground reservoirs. When the oil comes to the surface, the gas expands and comes out of the solution.

Sour gas #sour-gas

Natural gas at the wellhead may contain hydrogen sulphide (H2S), a toxic compound. Natural gas that contains more than one per cent of H2S is called sour gas. About 30 per cent of Canada's total natural gas production is sour, most of it found in Alberta and northeast British Columbia.

Spills #spills

Spills include accidental release of crude oil, produced water or other hydrocarbon products from well sites, batteries or storage tanks. These spills can affect land, vegetation, water bodies and groundwater.

Stakeholders #stakeholders

Industry activities often affect surrounding areas and populations. People with an interest in these activities are considered stakeholders. They may include nearby landowners, municipalities, Aboriginal communities, recreational land users, other industries, environmental groups, governments and regulators.

Steam injection #steam-injection

An improved recovery technique in which steam is injected into a reservoir to reduce the viscosity of the crude oil.

Steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) #steam-assisted-gravity-drainage-sagd

A recovery technique for extraction of heavy oil or bitumen that involves drilling a pair of horizontal wells one above the other; one well is used for steam injection and the other for production.

Sulphur #sulphur

A yellow mineral extracted from petroleum for making fertilizers, pharmaceuticals and other products.

Sulphur dioxide #sulphur-dioxide

A major component of a group of airborne contaminants termed "acidifying emissions."

Sulphur recovery #sulphur-recovery

Sour gas is processed at recovery plants to extract sulphur for sale to fertilizer manufacturers and other industries in Canada and overseas. The average rate of sulphur recovery at Alberta's sulphur recovery plants has improved from 97.5 per cent in 1980 to 98.8 per cent in 2000.

Surface runoff #surface-runoff

Water from rain, snowmelt, or other sources, that flows over the land surface, and is a major component of the water cycle.

Surface water #surface-water

Water collected on the ground or in a stream, river, lake, sea or ocean.

Suspended well #suspended-well

A well that is not currently producing, has been safely secured, but may produce in the future.

Sweet oil and gas #sweet-oil-and-gas

Petroleum containing little or no hydrogen sulphide.

Synthetic crude oil #synthetic-crude-oil

A mixture of hydrocarbons, similar to crude oil, derived by upgrading bitumen from oil sands.

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Tar sands #tar-sands

Another name for oil sands. A deposit of sand saturated with bitumen.

"Oil Sands or Tar Sands

The hydrocarbon mixtures found in northern Alberta have historically been referred to as tar, pitch or asphalt. However, 'oil sands' is now used most often to describe the naturally occurring bitumen deposits. This helps distinguish it from the other terms, which are associated with distilled or man-made products, such as the mixtures used to pave roads.

Oil sands is an accurate term because bitumen, a heavy petroleum product is mixed with the sand. It makes sense to describe the resource as oil sands because oil is what is finally derived from the bitumen."


Tertiary Recovery #tertiary-recovery

The third major phase of crude oil recovery that involves using more sophisticated techniques, such as steam flooding or injection of chemicals, to increase recovery.

Tight gas #tight-gas

Gas with very low flow rates. Found in sedimentary layers of rock that are cemented together so tightly that it "greatly hinders" the extraction. Getting tight gas out usually requires enhanced technology like "hydraulic fracturing" where fluid is pumped into the ground to make it more permeable. The National Energy Board estimates Canada has 300 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of tight gas in place.

Traps #traps

A mass of porous, permeable rock – sealed on top and both sides by non-porous, impermeable rock – that halts the migration of oil and gas, causing them to accumulate.

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Ultimate potential #ultimate-potential

An estimate of recoverable reserves that will have been produced by the time all exploration and development activity is completed; includes production-to-date, remaining reserves, development of existing pools and new discoveries.

Undiscovered recoverable resources #undiscovered-recoverable-resources

Those resources estimated to be recoverable from accumulations believed to exist based on geological and geophysical evidence but not yet verified by drilling, testing or production.

Unlined pits #unlined-pits

The ground is excavated to create a dugout to store fresh water.

Upgrading #upgrading

The process of converting heavy oil or bitumen into synthetic crude oil.

Upstream #upstream

The companies that explore for, develop and produce Canada's petroleum resources are known as the upstream sector of the petroleum industry.

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Vibroseis #vibroseis

The process of producing seismic shock waves with "thumpers" or vibrator vehicles.

Viscosity #viscosity

The resistance to flow, or "stickiness" of a fluid.

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) #volatile-organic-compounds-vocs

Gases and vapours, such as benzene, released by petroleum refineries, petrochemical plants, plastics manufacturing and the distribution and use of gasoline; VOCs include carcinogens and chemicals that react with sunlight and nitrogen oxides to form ground-level ozone, a component of smog.

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Wellbore #wellbore

A hole drilled or bored into the earth, usually cased with metal pipe, for the production of gas or oil.

Wells-to-wheels #wells-to-wheels

The full product life cycle is considered - from production (wells) to the use of the fuel in a vehicle (wheels). Wells-to-wheels analysis can be used to assess total life cycle greenhouse gas emissions from production to combustion of different crude oils.

Wildcat #wildcat

A well drilled in an area where no oil or gas production exists.

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