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In the oil industry, the term upstream encompasses the entire process from geological sourcing of petroleum reserves, to channeling raw material to the surface (extraction), to final delivery in refined/purified form.
Upstream includes all of the steps that take place on the way to the refinery. In practice, the transition from upstream to downstream takes place when the crude oil is loaded into a means of transport which will take it for further processing. However, the main component of the upstream process is the geological analysis and exploration of oil reserves.
In geological analysis, mini-earthquakes are artificially generated to generate data on the composition of the subsoil based on the differences in the speed of shock waves. This data is then evaluated using geophones. Seismic reflection is used to produce three-dimensional images of the subsoil even at great depths, to identify possible oil deposits. The quality and quantity of the oil well is then determined with exploratory drilling, and – in one of the final steps of the upstream process – the oil is extracted.
Accordingly, the field of upstream services includes horizontal directional drilling, the development of sensors for data measurement while drilling (MWD), special software for the evaluation of the collected data and the construction of drilling motors.
Even if technology in the oil production sector has undergone rapid development in recent years, tracking down and extracting oil remains an expensive and risky business to this day.
Status: December 2015
All information subject to change. Errors and omissions excepted.