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10/08/13 at 09:48 AM
The numerous activities in oil and gas production can be categorized into two groups - upstream activities, which include exploration and production, and downstream activities, which include refining, distribution and marketing. Oil exploration has lately become a flourishing business, and a large part of the credit for this goes to the ever-increasing demand for oil products in the international market. That being said, oil exploration in not at all as easy process as it seems. Failure at the very first attempt at oil exploration is something that many firms have experienced themselves. It takes sound knowledge of this process in order to hit the jackpot when it comes to oil and gas production.

What is Oil Exploration?

Oil exploration is the foremost attribute of the petroleum value chain, owing to which we get the two of the necessities of the mankind - gasoline and natural gas. Oil exploration is basically the process wherein the experts like petroleum geologists and geophysicists try to locate hydrocarbon deposits, i.e. oil and natural gas reserves, beneath the Earth's crust. Owing to this, oil exploration is also referred to as the 'hydrocarbon exploration' technically. Oil exploration process involves a range of activities right from the identification of a suitable oil drilling site to the actual process of oil drilling.

The Process of Crude Oil Exploration

Even though there are several regions in the world which boast of rich oil deposits, it is necessary to identify the right one from the lot. Oil drilling sites can either be developed onshore, i.e. on land, or offshore, i.e. on the ocean floor, depending on the presence of crude oil beneath the crust. Gas oozes, oil seeps and crater formations as a result of gas leakage are the most obvious signs of presence of oil in a particular region. Many factors come into play in the process of identification of a potentially attractive site for oil drilling, economic viability being one of the most important. Having another major discovery or a dried up operating well somewhere in the vicinity of the identified area, is an added advantage.

Once the initial studies confirm the presence of oil in a particular area, advanced technology is used to survey this area in order to find out the depth and the quantity of oil available. This needs to be given a serious thought, as the initial investment required to set up an oil drilling plant is quite high. These attributes are determined by the help of various geological processes, such as the seismic reflection survey and the gravity survey. Depending on the results of these surveys, a test well is dug as a final measure of determining whether the project is really feasible or not. Digging a test well can itself require a decent amount of investment, and hence it is kept as one of the last steps in the process of oil exploration. After all of these studies yield the desired results, the oil field is finally given a nod, and handed over to a company in the open market.

On the whole, the entire process can take as long as three years to complete. Taking that into consideration, most of the companies involved in oil exploration tend to have multiple projects being executed at the same time. As the oil exploration industry continues to swell, several new players are entering the arena, thus making the competition even more fierce. Today, several independent companies are involved actively in the business of oil exploration. Once they confirm the presence of oil at a particular site, the site is handed over to a company involved in refining and distributing the finished product.

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