Glossary

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Comprehensive glossary of industry terms

View definitions of oil and gas industry terms below.

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A

Abandoned well

A well permanently closed off when no viable oil or gas reserves are discovered, or it is depleted and no longer producing profitably. The well is permanently decommissioned by isolating and plugging the wellbore. 

Abandonment

The process of changing a once active well (one that will no longer produce oil or gas) to a state where it can be safely left until the area is decommissioned and reclaimed. All equipment that was used to produce oil and gas is removed and work is completed on the well to ensure there is no risk to humans or the environment. 

Active Well

A well that is currently producing oil or natural gas.

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.

B

Barrel

A standard barrel of oil holds about 42 U.S. gallons or roughly 159 litres. The barrel was adopted in the early days of U.S. oil and gas production to transport oil. Today, it is still used to measure transport volumes and pricing around the world. 

Battery

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

Benchmarking measures

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

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

Heavy, thick oil that must be processed to convert it into a crude oil before refineries can use it to produce gasoline and other petroleum products. 

C

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

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.

Completion

The process of finishing a well to produce gas or oil. 

Conventional

Process of recovering oil and natural gas from a well using standard drilling production methods. 

Crude oil

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

D

Decommissioning

After an energy site has been safely abandoned, the hands-on work to close a project starts with decommissioning. Decommissioning involves removing as much infrastructure as possible from the site—facilities, surface pipelines, wellheads and so on. Only infrastructure considered to be an improvement may be left on the land (e.g., an access road left in place for the landowner’s use). The company must receive the landowner’s written permission to leave infrastructure on the land. 

Directional drilling

A drilling method that steers the drill bit at a horizontal angle, rather than a vertical angle. 

Directional well

A well drilled at an angle by using a slanted drilling rig or by deflecting the drill bit. Used to drill multiple wells from a common drilling pad and reduce the surface footprint. 

Downstream

The refining and marketing sector of the oil and gas industry (e.g., refineries, gas stations) 

E

Employed persons/employment rate

Employed persons are those who are performing work for pay or profit or have a job and are absent from work. The employment rate is the number of employed persons expressed as a percentage of the population 15 years of age and over. The employment rate for a particular group (e.g., age, sex, province) is the number employed in that group expressed as a percentage of the population for that group. 

See the Guide to the Labour Force Survey. 

Exploration and production (E+P) sub-sector

The early stage of energy production, which includes the search for and extraction of oil, natural gas and geothermal energy. E&P companies find and contract the extraction of the raw materials which are shipped to other oil companies within the production process (i.e., they typically do not refine or process energy).  

Exploratory well

A well in an area where oil and natural gas have not previously been found. 

Extraction

The process of bringing oil or natural gas up out of the ground, usually through a well or by mining.  

G

Gas

Naturally occurring hydrocarbon found in porous rock formations as a gas or liquid, often called “natural gas”. Its primary component is usually methane. Non-hydrocarbon gases such as carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide can sometimes be present in natural gas. 

H

Horizontal drilling

Drilling a well horizontally from the vertical.

Hydraulic fracturing

A technology, also known as fracking, used to recover natural gas trapped in deep underground rock formations. During the process a fluid or gas is pumped into a well. This creates pressure, causing the surrounding rocks to crack and allow gas or oil to flow up the well. 

Hydraulic fracturing fluid

A mixture of water, sand and chemical additives used to hydraulically fracture tight rock formations. Water and sand typically make up to 99.5% of the mixture. 

Hydrocarbon

A naturally occurring compound of hydrogen and carbon, which are the main components of oil and natural gas. 

I

In situ

Latin, meaning “in place”, in situ is a method of producing bitumen from oil sands by drilling wells which use specialized extraction techniques. 

Inactive well

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

L

Labour demand

The amount of labour that employers seek to hire during a given time at a particular wage rate. 

Labour force

A term used in both the Census and the Labour Force Survey referring to those aged 15 years and over (i.e., eligible to work) who are employed and unemployed.  

See the Census Dictionary
 
See the Guide to the Labour Force Survey

 

Labour Force Survey (LFS)

The Labour Force Survey (LFS) is a monthly survey conducted by Statistics Canada.

See the Guide to the Labour Force Survey.  

Labour market

A collective term describing the dynamics and interaction of workers and employers. The state of employment, unemployment, participation rates and wages. 

Labour market information (LMI)

Data and analysis related to employment and the workforce.  

Labour shortage

Not enough labour supply to meet labour demand. 

Labour supply

Availability of suitable workers in a particular labour market. 

Liquefied natural gas (LNG)

Natural gas which is cooled until it reaches a liquid state, thereby compressing it and reducing its volume by a factor of about 600. 

M

Midstream

The processing, storage and transportation (primarily pipelines) sector of the oil and gas industry. 

Mining

A method of producing bitumen from oil sands using trucks to dig up and haul oil sands to crushers where it is mixed with hot water and sent to extraction. 

N

National Occupational Classification (NOC)

Canada’s national system for describing occupations.  

See the NOC

Natural gas

Naturally occurring hydrocarbon found in porous rock formations as a gas or liquid, often called “gas”. Its primary component is usually methane. Non-hydrocarbon gases such as carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide can sometimes be present in natural gas. 

Natural gas liquids

Liquids produced along with natural gas, including ethane, propane, butanes and condensate. 

North American Industry Classification System (NAICS)

An industry classification system developed by the statistical agencies of Canada, Mexico and the United States.  

See the NAICS

O

Offshore sub-sector

Exploration for oil and/or natural gas located offshore, often in oceans or other large bodies of water. The offshore industry in Canada is primarily in Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia. 

Oil and gas industry

PetroLMI defines the oil and gas industry as the exploration and production, oil sands, oil and gas services and pipelines sub-sectors. 

Oil and gas services sub-sector

Contracted services for exploration, extraction and production to the E&P sector. This sector includes:

  • Drilling and completion services (e.g., drilling and service rig activities).
  • Geophysical services, also known as seismic (e.g., survey, permitting and reclamation, line construction, drilling and data acquisition).
  • Petroleum services (e.g., well services, oilfield construction and maintenance, production and transportation services).
Oil sands

A mixture of sand, water, clay and bitumen (heavy oil). Oil sands require additional upgrading and refining to separate the oil from the sand and other impurities.

Oil sands sub-sector

Companies involved in the exploration and production of the oil sands. About 20% of the oil sands can be mined, while the other 80% are accessed using specialized drilling methods. 

Orphan well

A well or associated site that does not have a legally responsible and/or financially viable party to deal with its decommissioning and reclamation. 

P

Petroleum

A naturally occurring mixture of hydrocarbons found in geological formations beneath the earth’s surface that can be refined into a variety of products (e.g., gasoline, diesel). 

Pipeline

Pipeline transportation systems include various types of pipelines and related facilities (e.g., pumping stations and secondary storage facilities). 

R

Reclamation

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

Remediation

The action to eliminate, limit, correct, counteract, mitigate or remove the adverse effects of any contaminant to the environment or human health caused by oil and gas operations. 

S

Sedimentary basin

A geographical area in which much of the rock is sedimentary (deposits of sediment that solidify in layers) and, therefore, is likely to contain hydrocarbons. The Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin is an example of such a formation. 

Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage (SAGD)

An in situ (meaning recovered in place) method for extracting heavy oil or bitumen that involves two horizontal wellbores, one above the other. Steam is injected into the upper wellbore and softened bitumen is recovered from the lower wellbore.  

Suspended well

A well that is not currently producing oil or gas but has been safely secured and may produce in the future. 

T

Transferability

In the context of this glossary, the term refers to the ability to transfer skills from one occupation, sector or industry to another. 

U

Unconventional

Process of recovering oil or gas using techniques other than conventional drilling methods (e.g., shale oil extraction). 

Unemployed/unemployment rate

Unemployed persons are those aged 15 years and older who are available for work and have either looked for work in the past four weeks, are on temporary layoff, or have a job starting in the next four weeks. The unemployment rate is the number of unemployed expressed as a percentage of the labour force. 
 
See the Guide to the Labour Force Survey. 

Upstream

Exploring for, recovering and producing oil and natural gas resources.

W

Wellbore

The actual drilled hole that forms the well.   

Workforce

Labour pool available in an industry and/or sector. 

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