Thursday 15 December 2016

Petroleum: From Beneath Our Feet To Fuelling Our Lives

Take a pen and drop it on the floor. Now drop the same pen onto a table. Does it sound the same or different? Different things make different noises when you hit them. But how does this relate to petroleum exploration?

To find petroleum, noise has to go down through layers of different rocks. Therefore, we need to find out what noise petroleum makes and how it differs from all the other types of rocks that exist in those layers.

On land, geologists look for petroleum by noise from setting off an explosion. Then, they will analyse the different routes of which the noise ‘echoed’. From the data, geologists can decide what types of rocks are under the ground. 

Meanwhile, to look for petroleum at sea, geologists will ‘shoot’ air at a very high pressure at the sea bed. The rocks underneath will ‘echo’ and the result is similar. 

When the rocks are found to have petroleum in them, geologists will drill a hole to harvest them. However, it is quite challenging to drill a hole under the sea. There are places where it is very deep and rough. Even when you drill using a ship, it is hard to get it to stay in one place. In the early days, scientists and engineers designed a ‘fixed platform’. Gradually, they innovate this idea with a ship in mind. The results are platforms which float but stay in one place. 

The next step is to get the petroleum or gas from where they are found to where we want it. How do we move a liquid or a gas? Think of getting a glass of water. If your source is a tap or a well, you would need a pipe to bring the water to where you can reach it. Then you need a glass or container to take the water from where you can reach it to where you can drink it. It is similar with petroleum. There are thousands of kilometres of pipes pumping petroleum down under. Huge ships and tankers, transport the petroleum and gas around the world. 

Our modern way of life has grown to become very dependent on the petroleum industry. Look around us; the vehicle that we drive or ride on, the road that it drives on, the clothes and shoes we wear, make-up, paint, fertilizers and many more things that we can possibly think of. Amazingly, more than 3,000 products that exist now are made possible by petroleum and gas.

Check out more fun and interactive story of science and technology of the petroleum industry at Petrosains the Discovery Centre!  

Shared by Nor Azhar Ishak
Guest Blogger