Energy Industry Glossary (A-D)

10-K: An annual report filed by publicly held companies. It provides a comprehensive overview of the company's business and its finances. By law, it must contain specific information and follow a given form, the “Annual Report on Form 10-K.” The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission requires that it be filed within 90 days after fiscal year end. However, these reports are often filed late due to extenuating circumstances. Variations of a 10-K are often filed to indicate amendments and changes. Most publicly held companies also publish an “annual report” that is not on Form 10-K. These annual reports are more informal and are frequently used by a company to enhance its image with customers, investors and industry peers.

3-D Seismic Surveying: An enhancement of seismic imaging from the standard two-dimensional view to a three-dimensional view. Three-dimensional seismic images have greater resolution and help delineate oil and gas reservoirs hidden by complex faulting. See also “Seismic Surveying.”

4-D Seismic Surveying: Adds the dimension of time to 3- D seismic surveying.

Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI): A U.S. trade association representing manufacturers of more than 90% of North American produced central air conditioning and commercial refrigeration equipment.

Alcohol: The family name of a group of organic chemical compounds composed of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. The series of molecules vary in chain length and are composed of a hydrocarbon plus a hydroxyl group. Alcohols include methanol and ethanol. Alcohol is frequently used in fuel, organic solvents, anti-freeze and beverages. Also see “Ethanol.”

Alternating Current (AC): An electric current that reverses its direction at regularly recurring intervals, usually 50 or 60 times per second.

Amorphous Silicon: An alloy of silica and hydrogen, with a disordered, noncrystalline internal atomic arrangement, that can be deposited in thin layers (a few micrometers in thickness) by a number of deposition methods to produce thin-film photovoltaic cells on glass, metal or plastic substrates.

Anthracite Coal: Anthracite, or hard coal, is the highest rank of economically usable coal. It is jet black with a high luster. The moisture content is generally less than 15%. It usually has a high fixed carbon and ash content and is low in volatile matter. It is a non-coking coal.

APAC: Asia Pacific Advisory Committee. A multicountry committee representing the Asia and Pacific region.

American Petroleum Institute (API): A trade association for the petrochemical industry.

Applied Research: The application of compounds, processes, materials or other items discovered during basic research to practical uses. The goal is to move discoveries along to the final development phase.

ARI: See “Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI).”

ASEAN: Association of Southeast Asian Nations. A regional economic development association established in 1967 by five original member countries: Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand. Brunei joined on 8 January 1984, Vietnam on 28 July 1995, Laos and Myanmar on 23 July 1997, and Cambodia on 30 April 1999.

Asphalt (Natural): A natural mineral pitch, tar or bitumen composed principally of hydrocarbons; a natural bituminous rock that is dark colored, comparatively hard and nonvolatile. Does not include asphalt, bitumen, tar or other substances, derived from petroleum processing.

Authority for Expenditure (AFE): A standard industry procedure in which a formal written estimate is generated outlining in advance the cost of drilling a given well, both as a dry hole and as a completed well.

Barrel (Petroleum): A unit of volume equal to 42 U.S. gallons.

Barrels of Oil Equivalent (BOE): A measure of the energy of non-oil fuels. For example, a BOE of natural gas is roughly 6,000 cubic feet. The measure is derived by assessing the amount of a fuel required to generate the same heat content as a typical barrel of oil.

Barrels of Oil per Day (BOPD): A standard measurement for volume of oil production.

Basic Research: Attempts to discover compounds, materials, processes or other items that may be largely or entirely new and/or unique. Basic research may start with a theoretical concept that has yet to be proven. The goal is to create discoveries that can be moved along to applied research. Basic research is sometimes referred to as “blue sky” research.

Bbl: See “Barrel (Petroleum).”

Bcf: One billion cubic feet. 

Bcfe: One billion cubic feet of natural gas equivalent.

Benchmark Crude Oil: An established variety of crude oil used by a country as the standard of comparison in documenting the properties of other oils and in setting prices. West Texas Intermediate is the U.S. benchmark. Brent is the benchmark in the U.K.

Binary Cycle Generation: A method of geothermal electricity generation where lower-temperature geothermal sources are tapped. The geothermal steam source is used to heat another liquid that has a lower boiling point, which then drives the turbine. Also see “Flash Steam Generation.”

Biodiesel: A fuel derived when glycerin is separated from vegetable oils or animal fats. The resulting byproducts are methyl esters (the chemical name for biodiesel) and glycerin which can be used in soaps and cleaning products. It has lower emissions than petroleum diesel and is currently used as an additive to that fuel since it helps with lubricity.

Bioenergy: Useful, renewable energy produced from organic matter, which may either be used directly as a fuel or processed into liquids and gases. See “Biomass.”

Bioethanol: A fuel produced by the fermentation of plant matter such as corn. Fermentation is enhanced through the use of enzymes that are created through biotechnology. Also, see “Ethanol.”

Biomass: Organic, non-fossil material of biological origin constituting a renewable energy source. The biomass can be burnt as fuel in a system that creates steam to turn a turbine, generating electricity. For example, biomass can include wood chips and agricultural crops.

Biorefinery: A refinery that produces fuels from biomass. These fuels may include bioethanol (produced from corn or other plant matter) or biodiesel (produced from plant or animal matter).

Bit (Drill Bit): The cutting device connected to the bottom end of a drill, used to bore through rock formations in drilling.

Bitumen: A naturally occurring viscous mixture, mainly of hydrocarbons heavier than pentane, that may contain sulfur compounds. Also, see “Tar Sands (Oil Sands).”

Bituminous Coal: The most common coal, bituminous coal is dense and black, often with well-defined bands of bright and dull materials. Its moisture content is usually less than 20%. It is used for generating electricity, making coke and space heating.

Black Liquor: A byproduct of the paper production process that can be used as a source of energy.

Black Oil: Oil containing relatively high percentages of long, heavy and nonvolatile hydrocarbons.

Blowout: A sudden, uncontrolled flow of fluid from a well.

Blowout Preventer (BOP): A safety device installed to allow closure of a well should it begin a blowout, and to control escape of pressurized fluids during drilling and related operations. A blowout preventer stack is mounted on top of a well and consists of a series of rams and spools for closing down a wellhead.

Borehole: A hole resulting from the drilling (boring) of a well.

Borehole Compensated Sonic Log (BHCS): A borehole compensated sonic log is generated using two sets of alternately pulsed transmitters, with measurements then averaged in order to compensate for erroneous results due to irregularities in borehole size and tilting of the measuring device.

Bottomhole Assembly: The drill collars, sub pipe and adapters and bit installed at the bottom of a drill.

BPL: See “Broadband Over Power Lines (BPL).”

BPO: See “Business Process Outsourcing (BPO).”

Branding: A marketing strategy that places a focus on the brand name of a product, service or firm in order to increase the brand's market share, increase sales, establish credibility, improve satisfaction, raise the profile of the firm and increase profits.

BRIC: An acronym representing Brazil, Russia, India and China. The economies of these four countries are seen as some of the fastest growing in the world. A 2003 report by investment bank Goldman Sachs is often credited for popularizing the term; the report suggested that by 2050, BRIC economies will likely outshine those countries which are currently the richest in the world.

British Thermal Unit (Btu): The quantity of heat needed to raise the temperature of 1 pound of water by 1 degree Fahrenheit at or near 39.2 degrees Fahrenheit.

Broadband Over Power Lines (BPL): Refers to the use of standard electric power lines to provide fast Internet service. Internet data is converted into radio frequency signals, which are not affected by electricity. Subscribers utilize special modems.

B-to-B, or B2B: See “Business-to-Business.”

B-to-C, or B2C: See “Business-to-Consumer.”

Bulk Terminal: A facility, used primarily for the storage and/or marketing of petroleum products, which has a total bulk storage capacity of 50,000 barrels or more and/or receives petroleum products by tanker, barge or pipeline.

Business Process Outsourcing (BPO): The process of hiring another company to handle business activities. BPO is one of the fastest-growing segments in the offshoring sector. Services include human resources management, billing and purchasing and call centers, as well as many types of customer service or marketing activities, depending on the industry involved. Also, see “Knowledge Process Outsourcing (KPO).”

Business-to-Business: An organization focused on selling products, services or data to commercial customers rather than individual consumers. Also known as B2B.

Business-to-Consumer: An organization focused on selling products, services or data to individual consumers rather than commercial customers. Also known as B2C.

Butane: A normally gaseous straight-chain or branchchain hydrocarbon (C4H10), extracted from natural gas or refinery gas streams. It includes isobutane and normal butane.

Butanol (Biobutanol): Butyl alcohol, sometimes used as a solvent. In the form of biobutanol, it is an ethanol substitute, generally derived from sugar beets to be used as a fuel additive.

CAFTA-DR: See “Central American-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR).”

CANDU Reactor: A pressurized heavy-water, naturaluranium power reactor designed by a consortium of Canadian government and private industry participants. CANDU utilizes natural, unenriched uranium oxide as fuel. Because unenriched uranium is cheaper, this kind of reactor is attractive to developing countries. The fuel is contained in hundreds of tubes that are pressure resistant. This means that a tube can be refueled while the reactor is operating. CANDU is a registered trademark of the CANDU consortium.

Cap and Trade: A system in which governments attempt to reduce carbon emissions by major industry. First, an overall "cap" is placed, by government regulation, on total carbon emissions for particular companies and/or their industries. The "trade" part of cap and trade allows companies that operate efficiently on a carbon basis, and thereby emit a lower amount of carbon than law allows, to sell or trade the unused part of their carbon allowances to firms that are less efficient.

Capacity Factor: The ratio of the electrical energy produced by a generating unit for a certain period of time to the electrical energy that could have been produced at continuous full-power operation during the same period.

Captive Offshoring: Used to describe a company-owned offshore operation. For example, Microsoft owns and operates significant captive offshore research and development centers in China and elsewhere that are offshore from Microsoft's U.S. home base. Also see “Offshoring.”

Carbon Sequestration: The absorption and storage of CO2 from the atmosphere by the roots and leaves of plants; the carbon builds up as organic matter in the soil. In the energy industry, carbon sequestration refers to the process of isolating and storing carbon dioxide (a so-called greenhouse gas). One use is to avoid releasing carbon dioxide into the air when burning coal at a coal-fired power plant. Instead, the carbon dioxide is stored in the ground or otherwise stored in a permanent or semipermanent fashion. Other uses include the return to the ground of carbon dioxide that is produced at natural gas wells, and the introduction of carbon dioxide into oil wells in order to increase internal pressure and production.

Cased Hole Log: A wireline logging device installed in a well that has been successfully cased. Cased hole logs enable engineers to analyze and monitor the characteristics and movements of a given well.

Casing: A steel pipe with a large diameter that supports the walls or sides of the borehole to prevent them from caving in.

Casinghead: A fitting attached to the top of the casing in an oil or gas well that regulates the flow of oil or gas, allowing the pumping of oil from the well.

Cast Silicon: Crystalline silicon obtained by pouring pure molten silicon into a vertical mold and adjusting the temperature gradient along the mold volume during cooling to obtain slow, vertically advancing crystallization of the silicon. The polycrystalline ingot thus formed is composed of large, relatively parallel, interlocking crystals. The cast ingots are sawed into wafers for further fabrication into photovoltaic cells. Cast-silicon wafers and ribbon-silicon sheets fabricated into cells are usually referred to as polycrystalline photovoltaic cells.

Cement: A mineral growth that bonds the surfaces of elastic sediments, or a composite powder that hardens when mixed with water used to bind casing to the walls of a well.

Central American-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR): A trade agreement signed into law in 2005 that aimed to open up the Central American Member nations include Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras and the Dominican Republic. Before the law was signed, products from those countries could enter the U.S. almost tariff-free, while American goods heading into those countries faced stiff tariffs. The goal of this agreement was to create U.S. jobs while at the same time offering the non-U.S. member citizens a chance for a better quality of life through access to U.S.-made goods.

Christmas Tree: An intricate assemblage of pipe connections, gauges, fittings and valves/controls located at the top of a casing of a flowing oil well. The Christmas tree controls the flow of the well. CIS: See “Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).”

Climate Change (Greenhouse Effect): A theory that assumes an increasing mean global surface temperature of the Earth caused by gases in the atmosphere (including carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, ozone and chlorofluorocarbons). The greenhouse effect allows solar radiation to penetrate the Earth's atmosphere but absorbs the infrared radiation returning to space.

Coal: A black or brownish-black solid, combustible substance formed by the partial decomposition of vegetable matter without access to air. The ranks of coal, which include anthracite, sub-anthracite, bituminous, subbituminous and lignite, are based on fixed carbon, volatile matter, coking and coking properties, and heating value. Coal rank includes the progressive alteration, or coalification, from lignite to anthracite.

Coalbed Methane (CBM): A natural methane gas that is found in coal seams, while traditional natural gas deposits are trapped in porous rock formations. A small amount of CBM is already produced successfully in the Rocky Mountain region of the U.S.

Cogeneration: See “Combined Heat and Power (CHP) Plant.”

Coiled Tubing Unit: An industrial device that feeds flexible steel tubing from a reel, enabling technicians to run equipment down a well. The tubing, typically measuring 1¼ inches in diameter, is passed through a pipe straightener before it enters the well.

Coke (Coal): In general, coke is made from bituminous coal (or blends of bituminous coals) from which the volatile constituents are driven off by baking in an oven at temperatures as high as 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, so that the fixed carbon and ash are fused together. Coke is hard and porous, has a gray submetallic luster and is strong enough to support a load of iron ore in a blast furnace. It is used both as a fuel and as a reducing agent in smelting iron ore in a blast furnace.

Combined Cycle: An electric generating technology in which electricity is produced from otherwise lost waste heat exiting from one or more gas (combustion) turbines. The exiting heat is routed to a conventional boiler or to a heat recovery steam generator for utilization by a steam turbine in the production of electricity. Such designs increase the efficiency of the electric generating unit.

Combined Heat and Power (CHP) Plant: A facility that generates power via combined cycle technology. See “Combined Cycle.”

Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS): An organization consisting of 11 former members of the Soviet Union: Russia, Ukraine, Armenia, Moldova, Georgia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. It was created in 1991. Turkmenistan recently left the Commonwealth as a permanent member, but remained as an associate member. The Commonwealth seeks to coordinate a variety of economic and social policies, including taxation, pricing, customs and economic regulation, as well as to promote the free movement of capital, goods, services and labor.

Compressor: A device to increase gas pressure capable of causing the flow of gas.

Concentrated Solar Power (CSP): The use of solar thermal collectors to absorb solar heat and then heat water, oil or other substances with that energy. A good example is the Stirling Engine, which uses focused solar energy to heat liquid hydrogen in a closed-loop system. Expanding hydrogen gas creates pressure on pistons within the engine, which turns at a steady 1,800 RPM. The engine then powers an electric generator. CSP technologies include the use of parabolic troughs that focus solar energy, and the use of “solar towers” to attract and gather solar heat.

Concession Agreement: A contractual arrangement between a company and a government, in which the company receives exclusive rights to explore, drill and produce energy resources, at its own expense, within an agreed area of the country, in exchange for payment of negotiated bonuses, royalties and taxes to the government.

Condensate (Lease): A liquid recovered from natural gas at the well or at small gas/oil separators in the field. Consists primarily of pentanes and heavier hydrocarbons. Also called field condensate. Does not include plant condensate.

Condensate (Plant-Petroleum): A light hydrocarbon liquid, consisting mostly of pentanes and heavier hydrocarbons, recovered by condensation of hydrocarbon vapors at natural gas liquids processing plants.

Consumer Price Index (CPI): A measure of the average change in consumer prices over time in a fixed market basket of goods and services, such as food, clothing and housing. The CPI is calculated by the U.S. Federal Government and is considered to be one measure of inflation.

Contango: A condition in futures markets where future contracts, generally for a commodity, trade at higher prices than the current spot month price.

Continental Shelf: The shallow transitional boundary running from the ocean's shore to a depth of roughly 450 feet, after which an abrupt change occurs in slope and depth. Continental shelf environments are the most typical sites of offshore drilling and production.

Continental Slope: The area between the continental shelf and the deep ocean floor, which has become increasingly targeted for oil and gas exploration using various deepwater techniques and devices.

Conventional Thermal Electricity Generation: Electricity generated by an electric power plant using coal, petroleum or gas as its source of energy.

Crude Oil: A mixture of hydrocarbons that exists in liquid form at atmospheric pressure after passing through surface separating facilities. Included are lease condensate and liquid hydrocarbons produced from tar sands, Gilsonite and oil shale. Drip gases are also included, but topped crude oil (residual) and other unfinished oils are excluded. Liquids produced at natural gas processing plants and mixed with crude oil are likewise excluded where identifiable.

CSP: See “Concentrated Solar Power (CSP).”

Customer Relationship Management (CRM): Refers to the automation, via sophisticated software, of business processes involving existing and prospective customers. CRM may cover aspects such as sales (contact management and contact history), marketing (campaign management and telemarketing) and customer service (call center history and field service history). Well known providers of CRM software include Salesforce, which delivers via a Software as a Service model (see “Software as a Service (Saas)”), Microsoft and Siebel, which as been acquired by Oracle.

Decline Curve: A graphic representation of projected oil production over time.

Deepwater Well: An offshore well drilled in more than 1,000 feet of water depth.

Demand Chain: A similar concept to a supply chain, but with an emphasis on the end user.

Depletion (Economic): The reduction in value of a mineral deposit as it is depleted through production.

Depletion (Physical): The consumption of a mineral deposit by production of the mineral to the point that its deposits are no longer available.

Deregulation: See “Regulated Business (Utility Companies).”

Development: The phase of research and development (R&D) in which researchers attempt to create new products from the results of discoveries and applications created during basic and applied research.

Direct Current (DC): An electric current that flows in a constant direction. The magnitude of the current does not vary or has a slight variation.

Directional Drilling: Involves the intentional inclination of a well away from vertical in order to optimize production and enable drilling in challenging environments. Sometimes referred to as slant drilling, the process has generated public controversy over related attempts to extract oil from under the Great Lakes and was cited by Iraq as one of its grievances with the emirs of Kuwait, leading to its invasion of the country in the early 1990s. Also called deviation drilling.

Distributed Power Generation: A method of generating electricity at or near the site where it will be consumed, such as the use of small, local generators or fuel cells to power individual buildings, homes or neighborhoods. Distributed power is thought by many analysts to offer distinct advantages. For example, electricity generated in this manner is not reliant upon the grid for distribution to the end user.

Distribution System: The portion of an electric system that is dedicated to delivering electric energy to an end user.

Distributor: An individual or business involved in marketing, warehousing and/or shipping of products manufactured by others to a specific group of end users. Distributors do not sell to the general public. In order to develop a competitive advantage, distributors often focus on serving one industry or one set of niche clients. For example, within the medical industry, there are major distributors that focus on providing pharmaceuticals, surgical supplies or dental supplies to clinics and hospitals.

Division Orders: A standard form used to assign distribution of production-related revenues and to assess costs to royalty and working-interest owners.

Downstream: The segment of the oil and gas business involved in the secondary and final phases of the use of production from wells. That is, the post-well delivery of oil and gas through the pipeline to the refinery and processing plants and/or to the final customers. Downstream is the opposite of upstream. See “Upstream.”

Drilling Line: Also known as the hoisting line, this wire rope is composed of braided steel cable wound around a fiber or steel core and is used to position equipment on a drilling rig.

Drilling Mud: See “Mud (Drilling Mud).”

Dry Hole: Any well that fails to produce oil or gas in commercially viable quantities. A dry hole might flow water, gas or oil, but at levels insufficient to justify production. Sometimes referred to as a duster.