Energy Industry Glossary (Q-Z)

Qualifying Facility (QF): A cogeneration or small power production facility that meets certain ownership, operating and efficiency criteria established by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) pursuant to the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 (PURPA).

R&D: Research and development. Also see “Applied Research” and “Basic Research.”

Rate Base: The value of property upon which a utility is permitted to earn a specified rate of return as established by a regulatory authority. The rate base generally represents the value of property used by the utility in providing service.

Ratemaking Authority: A utility commission’s legal authority to fix, modify, approve or disapprove rates, as determined by the powers given to the commission by a state or federal legislature.

Refiner: A firm or the part of a firm that refines products or blends and substantially changes products; refines liquid hydrocarbons from oil and gas field gases; or recovers liquefied petroleum gases incident to petroleum refining and sells those products to resellers, retailers or ultimate consumers. Includes gas plant operators.

Refinery: An installation that manufactures finished petroleum products from crude oil, unfinished oils, natural gas liquids, other hydrocarbons and alcohol.

Refuse-Derived Fuel (RDF): Fuel processed from municipal solid waste that can be in shredded, fluff or dense pellet forms.

Regional Transmission Organization (RTO): See “Independent System Operator (ISO).”

Regulated Business (Utility Companies): The business of providing natural gas or electric service to customers under regulations and at prices set by government regulatory agencies. Generally, utilities have been required to operate at set prices and profit ratios because they have been granted monopoly or near-monopoly status to serve a given geographic market. Under deregulation, utility companies are being granted greater flexibility to set prices and to enter new geographic markets. At the same time, consumers gain the right to choose among several different utilities providers.

Renewable Energy Resources: Energy resources that are naturally replenishing but flow-limited. They are virtually inexhaustible in duration but limited in the amount of energy that is available per unit of time. Renewable energy resources include biomass, hydro, geothermal, solar, wind, ocean thermal, wave action and tidal action.

Reseller: A firm (other than a refiner) that carries on the trade or business of purchasing refined petroleum products and reselling them to purchasers other than ultimate consumers.

Reserves (Oil, Gas or Coal): Recoverable, unproduced resources contained in a given formation. Reserves are categorized as developed or undeveloped, and as proved, unproved, probable or possible. Also see “Proved Reserves (Crude Oil, Natural Gas or Coal).”

Reservoir: A subsurface deposit of gas, oil or condensate, typically contained in a porous rock formation of limestone, dolomite or sandstone.

Resistivity (R): Measures a material's characteristic resistance to the flow of electrical current. Resistivity is the reciprocal of conductivity. It is denoted by the symbol R.

Return on Investment (ROI): A measure of a company's profitability, expressed in percentage as net profit (after taxes) divided by total dollar investment.

Royalty and Royalty Interest (Oil and Gas): A specified percentage of the oil and gas produced at a property to which the royalty owner is entitled without bearing an investment in exploration or the costs of such production. The ownership of a "royalty interest" entitles the owner to receive royalty payments.

RTO: See “Regional Transmission Organization (RTO).”

Rural Electrification Administration (REA): A lending agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It makes self-liquidation loans to qualified borrowers to finance electric and telephone service to rural areas. The REA also finances the construction and operation of generating plants, electric transmission and distribution lines, or systems for the furnishing of initial and continued adequate electric services to persons in rural areas not receiving central station service.

Saas: See Software as a Service (Saas).”

Salt Dome: A common type of rock formation, in which a dome is formed by the intrusion of salt into overlying sediments.

SeaBed Logging (SBL): Controlled source electromagnetic sounding that can improve the accuracy in detecting and characterizing hydrocarbon reservoirs in deepwater areas.

Secondary Recovery: The second phase of oil production. Involves activities to waterflood or re-pressurize the reservoir to recover more of the remaining oil. (Additional phases include primary recovery and tertiary recovery. See “Tertiary Recovery.”)

Seismic: Petroleum exploration methodologies that use seismic surveying and related analysis to identify petroleum traps in sub-surface formations.

Seismic Surveying: The recording of echoes reflected to the surface from pulses of sound sent down into the earth. Used to determine underground geological structures.

Semi-Submersible Rig: An offshore drilling rig that floats with its lower hull between 55 and 90 feet below the surface. It is held in position by anchors or by a computercontrolled thruster system.

Shot Hole: Drilling through surface sediments to form a shallow hole in hard sedimentary rocks creates a shot hole, in which explosives can be detonated as part of a related seismic survey.

Silicon: A semiconductor material made from silica, purified for photovoltaic applications.

Single-Crystal Silicon (Czochralski): An extremely pure form of crystalline silicon produced by the Czochralski method of dipping a single crystal seed into a pool of molten silicon under high-vacuum conditions and slowly withdrawing a solidifying single-crystal boule rod of silicon. The boule is sawed into thin wafers and fabricated into single-crystal photovoltaic cells.

Small Power Producer: A producer that generates electricity by using renewable energy (wood, waste, conventional hydroelectric, wind, solar or geothermal) as a primary energy source. Fossil fuels can be used, but renewable resources must provide at least 75% of the total energy input. It is part of the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act, a small power producer. See “Nonutility Power Producer.”

Smart Buildings: Buildings or homes that have been designed with interconnected electronic and electrical systems which can be controlled by computers. Advantages include the ability to turn appliances and systems on or off remotely or on a set schedule, leading to greatly enhanced energy efficiency.

Software as a Service (SaaS): Refers to the practice of providing users with software applications that are hosted on remote servers and accessed via the Internet. Excellent examples include the CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software provided in SaaS format by Salesforce. An earlier technology that operated in a similar, but less sophisticated, manner was called ASP or Application Service Provider.

Solar Energy: Energy produced from the sun’s radiation for the purposes of heating or electric generation. Also, see “Photovoltaic (PV) Cell,” “Concentrated Solar Power (CSP)” and “Passive Solar.”

Solar Thermal Collector: A device designed to receive solar radiation and convert it into thermal energy. Normally, a solar thermal collector includes a frame, glazing and an absorber, together with the appropriate insulation. The heat collected by the solar thermal collector may be used immediately or stored for later use. Typical use is in solar hot water heating systems. Also, see “Passive Solar” and “Concentrated Solar Power (CSP).” Solar Tower: See “Concentrated Solar Power (CSP).”

Sonic Amplitude Log: A well log that uses sound attenuation to detect fractures in a formation.

Sonic Log: A sonic, or acoustic, log records the travel time of a compression wave through a well and surrounding formation, providing data useful in calculating porosity and aiding lithology-related analysis.

Spot Price: The price for a one-time market transaction for immediate delivery to the specific location where the commodity is purchased “on the spot,” at current market rates.

Standard Cubic Foot (SCF): A regulated measure of natural gas volumes, based on a standardized surface temperature of 60 degrees Fahrenheit and surface pressure of 14.65 psi.

Steam-Electric Plant (Conventional): A plant in which the prime mover is a steam turbine. The steam used to drive the turbine is produced in a boiler where fossil fuels are burned.

Stratigraphic Column: Shows the vertical composition of successive strata, or rock layers, in a given formation.

Stripper Oil Well: A well that produces no more than 10 barrels of oil per day, making it barely profitable.

Structural Map: A contour map detailing elevations of sub-surface rock layers, calibrated either in linear measure of feet or meters, or in time measure based on seismic surveys.

Subsea Completion: A finished well, including casing and wellhead components, in which the wellhead equipment is installed on the bottom of the ocean.

Subsidiary, Wholly-Owned: A company that is wholly controlled by another company through stock ownership.

Substation: Facility equipment that switches, changes or regulates electric voltage.

Sucker-Rod Pumping System: An artificial lift method in which a surface pump drives a sucker-rod pump at the bottom of the well in order to recover additional oil. See “Hydraulic Pump.”

Superconductivity: The ability of a material to act as a conductor for electricity without the gradual loss of electricity over distance (due to resistance) that is normally associated with electric transmission. There are two types of superconductivity. “Low-temperature” superconductivity (LTS) requires that transmission cable be cooled to -418 degrees Fahrenheit. Even newer technologies are creating a so-called “high-temperature” superconductivity (HTS) that requires cooling to a much warmer -351 degrees Fahrenheit.

Supply Chain: The complete set of suppliers of goods and services required for a company to operate its business. For example, a manufacturer's supply chain may include providers of raw materials, components, custom-made parts and packaging materials.

Switching Station: Facility equipment used to tie together two or more electric circuits through switches. The switches are selectively arranged to permit a circuit to be disconnected, or to change the electric connection between the circuits.

Syngas: The synthetic creation of gas to be used as a fuel, typically from coal. See “Gasification.”

System (Electric): See “Transmission System (Electric).”

Take-or-Pay Contract: An agreement, generally longterm, whereby a gas purchaser (such as a pipeline transmission company) agrees to purchase a minimum annual amount of gas from the producer or pays the producer for the minimum amount, even if no gas is physically transferred.

Tank Farm: An installation used by gathering and trunk pipeline companies, crude oil producers and terminal operators to store crude oil.

Tar Sands (Oil Sands): Sands that contain bitumen, which is a tar-like crude oil substance that can be processed and refined into a synthetic light crude oil. Typically, tar sands are mined from vast open pits where deposits are softened with blasts of steam. The Athabasca sands in Alberta, Canada and the Orinoco sands in Venezuela contain vast amounts of tar sands. The Athabasca sands are now producing commercially in high volume.

Tax Royalty Participation Contract: See “Concession Agreement.”

Tertiary Recovery: Methods used to increase production from oil fields. Tertiary methods may include the injection of CO2, steam injection, or the use of special chemicals. Often, such methods are used in existing fields where production has started to decline under normal production. Other recovery stages are defined as “primary” which is a field that flows normally with little additional effort, and “secondary” which often involves waterflooding.

Time Slice: A flat section generated from a 3-D seismic survey, establishing the relative position of various seismic reflectors at a specific time.

Time to Depth Conversion: A translation process to recalibrate seismic records from time measures in millisecond units to linear measures of depth in feet or meters.

Tokamak: A reactor used in nuclear fusion in which a spiral magnetic field inside doughnut-shaped tube is used to confine high temperature plasma produced during fusion. See “Nuclear Fusion.”

Toluene: A basic aromatic compound derived from petroleum. It is the most common hydrocarbon purchased for use in increasing octane. Toluene is also used to produce phenol and TNT.

Transformer: An electrical device for changing the voltage of an alternating current.

Transmission (Electricity): The movement or transfer of electric energy over an interconnected group of lines and associated equipment between points of supply and points at which it is transformed for delivery to consumers or delivered to other electric systems. Transmission is considered to end when the energy is transformed for distribution to the consumer.

Transmission System (Electric): An interconnected group of electric transmission lines and associated equipment for moving or transferring electric energy in bulk between points of supply and points at which it is transformed for delivery to consumers or delivered to other electric systems.

True Vertical Depth (TVD): The depth of a given point in a well when measured straight down from horizontal, disregarding inclination of the borehole.

Tubing Head: A flanged fitting made of forged or cast steel set at the top of the wellhead to support the tubing string in the well and to seal off pressure between the exterior casing and the interior tubing.

Tubing Packer: A piece of equipment that temporarily seals off the space between the casing and tubing inside an oil or gas well.

Turbine: A machine for generating rotary mechanical power from the energy of a stream of fluid (such as water, steam or hot gas). Turbines convert the kinetic energy of fluids to mechanical energy through the principles of impulse and reaction or a mixture of the two.

Ultimate Oil Recovery: The total amount of oil that can be recovered from a reservoir using primary, secondary (including waterflood) and tertiary enhanced recovery techniques.

Ultradeepwater Well: An offshore well drilled in more than 5,000 feet of water depth.

Unfinished Oils: All oils that require further processing, except those requiring only mechanical blending. Upstream: The segment of the oil and gas exploration and production business involved in the initial phases of production (i.e., finding a prospect, drilling, producing and maintaining the well). Upstream is the opposite of downstream. See “Downstream.”

Uranium: A heavy, naturally radioactive, metallic element (atomic number 92). Its two principally occurring isotopes are uranium-235 and uranium-238. Uranium-235 is indispensable to the nuclear industry, because it is the only isotope existing in nature to any appreciable extent that is fissionable by thermal neutrons. Uranium-238 is also important, because it absorbs neutrons to produce a radioactive isotope that subsequently decays to plutonium- 239, another isotope that is fissionable by thermal neutrons.

Value Added Tax (VAT): A tax that imposes a levy on businesses at every stage of manufacturing based on the value it adds to a product. Each business in the supply chain pays its own VAT and is subsequently repaid by the next link down the chain; hence, a VAT is ultimately paid by the consumer, being the last link in the supply chain, making it comparable to a sales tax. Generally, VAT only applies to goods bought for consumption within a given country; export goods are exempt from VAT, and purchasers from other countries taking goods back home may apply for a VAT refund.

Velocity Analysis: The coordinated measurement of seismic data from one source with multiple receivers at varied distances in order to compute seismic velocity through different portions of a formation.

Vertical Integration: A business model in which one company owns many (or all) of the means of production of the many goods that comprise its product line. For example, founder Henry Ford designed Ford Motor Company's early River Rogue plant so that coal, iron ore and other needed raw materials arrived at one end of the plant and were processed into steel, which was then converted on-site into finished components. At the final stage of the plant, completed automobiles were assembled.

Vertical Seismic Profiling (VSP): A method used to measure seismic velocities of various strata in a well. It utilizes a seismic source positioned at the surface and a borehole instrument that records measurements at specific depths.

Waste Energy (Waste-to-Energy): The use of garbage, biogases, industrial steam, sewerage gas or industrial, agricultural and urban refuse (“biomass”) as a fuel or power source used in turning turbines to generate electricity or as a method of providing heat.

Waterflood: Techniques that involve the injection of water into an underproducing or depleted reservoir in order to move oil toward producing wells.

Watt (Electric): The electrical unit of power equal to the power dissipated by a current of one ampere flowing across a resistance of one ohm.

Watt (Thermal): A unit of power in the metric system, expressed in terms of energy per second, equal to the work done at a rate of one joule per second.

Watthour (Wh): An electrical energy unit equal to one watt of power supplied to, or taken from, an electric circuit steadily for one hour.

Well: A hole drilled in the Earth for the purpose of finding or producing crude oil or natural gas or for providing services related to the production of crude oil or natural gas. Wells are classified as oil wells, gas wells, dry holes, stratigraphic test wells or service wells. The latter two types of wells are counted for Federal Reporting System data reporting. Oil wells, gas wells and dry holes are classified as exploratory wells or development wells. Exploratory wells are subclassified as new-pool wildcats, deeper-pool tests, shallow-pool tests and outpost (extersion) tests. Well classifications reflect the status of wells after drilling has been completed.

Well Log: An individual or composite record of survey activity relating to a given well. See “Logging (Wireline).”

Well Servicing Unit: Truck-mounted equipment generally used for downhole services after a well is drilled. Services include well completions and recompletions, maintenance, repairs, workovers and well plugging and abandonments. Jobs range from minor operations, such as pulling the rods and rod pumps out of an oil well, to major workovers, such as milling out and repairing collapsed casing. Well depth and characteristics determine the type of equipment used.

Well Shooting: See “Explosive Fracturing.”

Well Stimulation: Methods, such as hydraulic fracturing, which increase permeability of a reservoir and increase flow to producing wells.

Wellhead: The point at which the crude oil (and/or natural gas) exits the ground. Following historical precedent, the volume and price for crude oil production are labeled as wellhead, even though the cost and volume are now generally measured at the lease boundary. In the context of domestic crude price data, the term wellhead is the generic term used to reference the production site or lease property.

Wheeling Service: The movement of electricity from one system to another over transmission facilities of intervening systems. Wheeling service contracts can be established between two or more systems.

Wildcat: An exploration well, usually drilled to a reservoir from which no oil or gas has been produced previously.

Wind Energy: Energy present in wind motion that can be converted to mechanical energy for driving pumps, mills and electric power generators. Wind pushes against sails, vanes or blades radiating from a central rotating shaft.

Wind Power Plant: A group of wind turbines interconnected to a common utility system through a system of transformers, distribution lines and (usually) one substation. Operation, control and maintenance functions are often centralized through a network of computerized monitoring systems, supplemented by visual inspection. This is a term commonly used in the United States. In Europe, it is called a generating station.

Wind Turbine: A system in which blades (windmills) collect wind power to propel a turbine that generates electricity.

Wireless Sensor Network (WSN): Consists of a grouping of remote sensors that transmit data wirelessly to a receiver that is collecting data into a database. Special controls may alert the network's manager to changes in the environment, traffic or hazardous conditions. Long-term collection of data from remote sensors can be used to establish patterns and make predictions. The use of WSNs is growing rapidly, in such applications as environmental monitoring, agriculture, military intelligence, surveillance, factory automation, home automation and traffic control.

Wireline (in oil field services): See “Logging (Wireline).”

Working Interest (WI): An interest resulting from an oil and gas lease, by which the working-interest owner is entitled to a certain percentage of revenues from production. For example, a 100% working interest entitles the working-interest owner to exclusively explore for oil and gas in a tract of land, while also paying 100% of the cost of oil or gas production.

World Trade Organization (WTO): One of the only globally active international organizations dealing with the trade rules between nations. Its goal is to assist the free flow of trade goods, ensuring a smooth, predictable supply of goods to help raise the quality of life of member citizens. Members form consensus decisions that are then ratified by their respective parliaments. The WTO’s conflict resolution process generally emphasizes interpreting existing commitments and agreements, and discovers how to ensure trade policies to conform to those agreements, with the ultimate aim of avoiding military or political conflict.

WTO: See “World Trade Organization (WTO).”

Xylene: An aromatic hydrocarbon commonly used as an industrial solvent. It is also used in producing aviation fuel, resins, and dyes.

ZigBee: May become the ultimate wireless control system for home and office lighting and entertainment systems. The ZigBee Alliance is an association of companies working together to enable reliable, cost-effective, lowpower, wirelessly networked monitoring and control products based on an open global standard, 802.15.4 entertainment systems. 

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