Inspectioneering

Upstream

Explore this topic

The Oil and Gas industry is commonly divided into the three major sectors: Upstream, which includes the exploration and production (E&P) of hydrocarbons, primarily crude oil and natural gas; Midstream, which includes the transportation and storage of oil and gas; and Downstream, which refers to the refining and processing of crude oil and natural gas, as well as the marketing and distribution of petroleum-based products, including gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, natural gas liquids, and many others.

Oil and Gas Exploration

O&G exploration involves the search for new hydrocarbon reservoirs, either onshore or offshore, to evaluate their viability of drilling and extraction. Exploration typically begins with geological and geophysical surveys, including seismic studies, to identify potential hydrocarbon-bearing formations beneath the Earth's surface. Seismic data provides detailed information about subsurface structures, helping geologists pinpoint areas with the potential for oil and gas reservoirs. Once a promising area is identified, exploration wells are drilled to confirm the presence of hydrocarbons. These wells can be shallow or deep, depending on the geological characteristics of the target reservoir. The extracted core samples and data from these wells help geologists and engineers assess reservoir size, composition, and pressure. This information helps estimate the reservoir's production potential and determine the optimal drilling and production techniques. Advanced 3D and 4D seismic interpretation technologies have revolutionized exploration operations, enabling a more accurate assessment of reservoir characteristics and improved targeting of drilling locations.

Oil and Gas Production

O&G production commences once a viable hydrocarbon reservoir is discovered, and involves drilling and extracting crude oil and natural gas from reservoirs located onshore or offshore. Production wells vary in complexity, from conventional vertical wells to more advanced horizontal and directional wells. The choice of drilling technique depends on reservoir characteristics and economic considerations. Production wells are equipped with various downhole tools and components to control the flow of hydrocarbons, including casing, tubing, and wellhead equipment. Hydraulic fracturing (aka, fracking) is a technique used to enhance production from tight formations by creating fractures in the rock to allow hydrocarbons to flow more easily. Enhanced oil recovery methods, such as water injection, gas injection, and chemical flooding, may be employed to increase recovery from mature reservoirs.

The Upstream O&G Industry

The oil and natural gas industry supports 10.3 million jobs in the United States and accounts for nearly 8 percent of our nation’s Gross Domestic Product. The upstream sector is a critical component of the global energy industry, playing a pivotal role in meeting the world’s energy demands, driving economic growth, and shaping geopolitics. In 2022, global oil production stood at approximately 100 million barrels per day (mb/d), with the top 5 oil producing countries being:

  1. United States (20.21 mb/d)
  2. Saudi Arabia (12.14 mb/d)
  3. Russia (10.94 mb/d)
  4. Canada (5.70 mb/d)
  5. China (5.12 mb/d)

In 2022, the U.S. was also the world’s biggest natural gas producer at approximately 98 billion cubic feet per day (BCF/d), followed by Russia (70 BCF/d), Iran (26 BCF/d), China (21 BCF/d), and Qatar (18 BCF/d). The shale revolution over the last 20 years, driven by hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling technologies, has transformed the U.S. energy landscape. Key shale formations like the Permian Basin and the Eagle Ford in Texas, the Bakken in North Dakota, and the Marcellus in the Northeast have contributed significantly to the U.S. becoming one of the largest oil and natural gas producers in the world. 

Upstream Regulations

Environmental and safety regulations are central to upstream oil and gas operations. In the United States, companies must adhere to stringent state and federal standards for emissions control, spill prevention, process safety, and environmental impact mitigation. Sustainability initiatives, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions and minimizing environmental footprint, have also gained prominence in recent years.

Relevant Links

Topic Tools

Share this Topic

Contribute to Definition

We welcome updates to this Integripedia definition from the Inspectioneering community. Click the link below to submit any recommended changes for Inspectioneering's team of editors to review.

Contribute to Definition
Articles about Upstream
Online Article

The next annual International Pressure Equipment Integrity Association Conference and Exhibition is right around the corner, so we thought we’d have a quick chat with members of the Executive Committee about the upcoming conference.

Authors: Nick Schmoyer
July/August 2022 Inspectioneering Journal

An investigation was conducted to challenge the paradigm that baseline inspections must be done for all piping and other static mechanical pressure equipment. This article introduces a new approach to baselining practices.

July/August 2021 Inspectioneering Journal

The scope of the subject case study reviews an inspection and corrosion control assessment conducted on subsea flowlines and includes evaluating the flowlines’ associated inspection programs and identifying all available NDT technology solutions.

Blog

Remaining life assessments of complex assets, including fixed equipment, piping, rotary, and packaged sub-assets, have always been challenging for integrity engineers. Well stimulation service (WSS) units are complex in a similar way.

Authors: Dheeraj Narang
July/August 2020 Inspectioneering Journal

Inspectioneering and Pinnacle co-hosted their 6th bi-annual Meeting of the Minds roundtable discussion earlier this year. This meeting’s focus was on how Covid-19 and the decline in oil prices have affected MI programs across the industry.

Authors: Jeremiah Wooten
Partner Content

Our proprietary furnace tube inspection system, FTIS is an ultrasonic inspection technology capable of rapid, automated fired heater coil inspection in refinery fired heaters. The data captured by our furnace tube inspection system is...

Blog

Who is Inspector Frank? It is a valid question but I don’t want it answered specifically for some obvious reasons. I will share what I can though...

Authors: Inspector Frank
Blog

Trying too hard to bring attention to the myriad concerns of a robust equipment integrity program can end up backfiring on you. You don’t want to be the “inspector who cried wolf” with no one listening when you actually have a problem.

Authors: Inspector Frank
Blog

COVID-19 is disrupting all industries including asset management. Here are 6 recommendations to help you align your asset management according to new requirements and turn the challenges into opportunities.

Authors: Frank-Uwe Hess
Blog

In a nutshell, Schwerpunkt means focusing your force in the area it will be the most effective. As a strategy, it means overall strategic intent has to be known and understood by everyone. All levels know their part in the plan.

Authors: Inspector Frank
Blog

I once worked with a chief inspector who refused to hire anyone who had any National Board inspection certifications. “Why?”, you might ask. I had the same question, and his response was “Because anyone with National Board is gunning for my...

Authors: Inspector Frank
Partner Content

Equity Engineering Practices® (EEPs) are a collection of design and maintenance focused corporate standards that include >850 engineering standards, and >300 piping classes. Enhance your mechanical integrity programs, improve equipment...

Blog

At the end of every year, the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) releases its annual list of the 10 most frequently cited safety and health violations for the fiscal year. Although the list rarely sees...

Authors: Jeremiah Wooten
Blog

Critical things often get missed in facilities but are these things being owned and fixed? We get good at reactively solving problems as they appear, but are we proactively working towards examining and fixing the potential larger issues?

Authors: Inspector Frank
Blog

Just because you have a technical expert does not mean they will be an expert at managing people. Like any skill set, it takes training, time, and mentoring to become a good personnel manager.

Authors: Inspector Frank
Blog

This is the first article in a new column. In each article, the author will share technical, thought-provoking, and sometimes humorous or emotional experiences garnered in a career that spans over 20 years inside the gates of facilities.

Authors: Inspector Frank
Blog

Young asset integrity management professionals need effective tools to create a sustainable future. YPAC surveyed members to establish a baseline measurement of the effectiveness of their professional development and to evaluate perceived gaps.

Authors: Molly Beckel
Partner Content

Statistical techniques are meant to complement the work of SMEs and can provide deeper insights into the inspection data collected as part of a reliability program. Pinnacle has combined traditional methods, expertise, and Machine Learning to...

Blog

The 2019 API Inspection and Mechanical Integrity Summit will be kicking off later this month in Galveston, TX. This four-day event will begin with 14 high level training courses offered Monday, January 28th, and then a top notch conference and...

Authors: John Reynolds
Blog

At the end of every year, the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) releases its annual list of the 10 most frequently cited safety and health violations for the fiscal year. Although the list rarely sees...

Authors: Jeremiah Wooten
November/December 2018 Inspectioneering Journal

This article describes how an international oil and gas company built an inspection data management program for its U.S. operations yielding improved confidence in decision-making information, cost savings through increased efficiency, and an...

Authors: Efrain Rios
July/August 2018 Inspectioneering Journal

The benefits and advantages of drone inspection over other methods have made this technology a viable solution in industry. As utilization of drone technology continues to grow and expand, it’s important to not only understand what they can do but...

Authors: Philip Buchan
March/April 2018 Inspectioneering Journal

As RBI continues to proliferate across industry, there are still those that are reluctant to transition from a time-based to risk-based inspection approach - especially in the upstream oil & gas business. These 4 benefits might help to lessen the...

Partner Content

Download Pinnacle's Economics of Reliability Report - Refining to see how reliability is affecting profitability.

January/February 2018 Inspectioneering Journal

The actions you take immediately after a failure are critical in understanding the cause and appropriate steps to remedy the problem. However, the wrong moves might prevent you from getting the answers you need.

Authors: Neil Burns
Blog

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has released its annual list of the 10 most frequently cited safety and health violations. In 2017 Fall Protection, Hazard Communication, and Scaffolding once again...

January/February 2017 Inspectioneering Journal

This article summarizes a comprehensive survey conducted by the Research & Development Center (R&DC) of Saudi Aramco to understand top corrosion damage mechanisms experienced by its operating onshore surface facilities.

January/February 2017 Inspectioneering Journal

This article presents a perspective on the human factor and emphasizes the value of using risk tools at all levels in the organization to help provide management focus during times of severe economic pressure.

Blog

At the end of every year, the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) releases a list of the 10 most frequently cited safety and health violations for the fiscal year, comprised from approximately 32,000...

Authors: Jeremiah Wooten
Partner Content

Traditional, paper-based inspection processes can prevent plants from being as effective as they can be. By digitalizing your mechanical integrity process and data with MISTRAS Digital®, plants have realized up to 75% gains in IDMS data entry and...

July/August 2016 Inspectioneering Journal

Joint integrity management remains at the top of many operators’ priority list.  The discipline considers risk and drives safety to ensure we learn necessary lessons from past catastrophic failures, such as the Piper Alpha explosion in 1988,...

Authors: Neil Ferguson
March/April 2016 Inspectioneering Journal

While there are many methods for measuring equipment wall thickness, a predominant method used in the O&G and power generation industries is portable ultrasonic equipment. Ultrasonic testing is non-intrusive because it is applied to the outside of a...

January/February 2016 Inspectioneering Journal

The enormous decline in oil prices over the past 14 months has definitely slowed projects and changed the energy and production landscape. Despite this, refineries, petrochemical plants, and chemical facilities must continue to run safely,...

Authors: Greg Alvarado
November/December 2015 Inspectioneering Journal

This study provides valuable information for offshore pipeline operators curious about how composite repair systems could be utilized with their assets.

Authors: David A. Hunter
September/October 2015 Inspectioneering Journal

Inspectioneering recently had the opportunity to sit down with Texas Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton and discuss the evolution of reliability in the oil and gas industry.

Authors: Jeremiah Wooten
Partner Content

Antea delivers highly flexible risk-based asset integrity software with 3D Digital Twin integration to optimize maintenance, reduce risk, and improve mechanical integrity for oil and gas, power generation, and chemical plants and facilities....

Online Article

Inspectioneering speaks with Tom Redlinger about QA/QC practices in the O&G business and what companies can do to create programs that are both effective and sustainable.

Authors: Jeremiah Wooten
March/April 2015 Inspectioneering Journal

Weld inspection using lasers is not new, but doing it 75 meters inside a pipe or streaming inspection data wirelessly is new. As laser technology has improved, more industries such as oil & gas are beginning to require laser inspection as part of...

March/April 2015 Inspectioneering Journal

The ability to gain this unique perspective has recently become easier and safer with today’s technological advancements. This new technology comes in the form of a miniature flying machine, better known as a drone or small Unmanned Aerial System...

March/April 2015 Inspectioneering Journal

An issue that arises frequently in the oil and gas industry is poor or missing documentation of pressure vessels. It is common in the industry to repurpose old equipment, bring equipment back into operation after a long period of time out of...

Authors: Paolo Torrado
January/February 2015 Inspectioneering Journal

Reliability engineering tools and concepts can be used to avoid or delay failures, thus increasing product service life. Design or maintenance teams use reliability engineering techniques to identify failures and their causes.

Partner Content

Learn how you can safeguard integrity, reliability, instrumentation safety, and more.

January/February 2015 Inspectioneering Journal

Challenges abounded in 2014 for the process industries, and it does not look like they will let up soon. But then again, that’s life, as they say. After 40 years in the industry the old adages still ring true, “there is nothing new under the...

Authors: Greg Alvarado
Online Article

Inspectioneering recently had the opportunity to sit down and chat with Ray Konet, the Fixed Equipment Reliability Director at Valero Energy, and who also happens to be the Chairman of the Planning Committee for the 2015 API Inspection Summit.

Authors: Jeremiah Wooten
Online Article

The bolted connection is a critical and complex component in any pressurized system, on typical Oil and Gas projects there will be many thousands of joints all of which need managing through Design, Fabrication Completion, Commissioning and...

Online Article

Though new regulations have changed the way offshore companies operate, the need to make safety part of an enterprise sustainability management strategy has never been more important. As accountability moves higher up the chain of command, operators...

Online Article

Though new regulations have changed the way offshore companies operate, the need to make safety part of an enterprise sustainability management strategy has never been more important.

January/February 2013 Inspectioneering Journal

In this article you will find the failure investigations of six 0.094 inch thick carbon steel vessels. These vessels were in service in natural gas well facilities; some functioned as dryers and were subjected to cyclic loads. Metallographic tests,...

Authors: Ana Benz
May/June 2012 Inspectioneering Journal

Development of shale requires the utilization of numerous types of fixed equipment. Due to the high cost and risk associated with hydrocarbon production and processing, E&Ps must continue to manage cost-effective and safe fixed equipment programs....

Authors: Greg Alvarado
    Videos related to Upstream
      Events related to Upstream
        News related to Upstream

          Inspectioneering Journal

          Explore over 20 years of articles written by our team of subject matter experts.

          Company Directory

          Find relevant products, services, and technologies.

          Training Solutions

          Improve your skills in key mechanical integrity subjects.

          Case Studies

          Learn from the experience of others in the industry.

          Integripedia

          Inspectioneering's index of mechanical integrity topics – built by you.

          Industry News

          Stay up-to-date with the latest inspection and asset integrity management news.

          Blog

          Read short articles and insights authored by industry experts.

          Expert Interviews

          Inspectioneering's archive of interviews with industry subject matter experts.

          Event Calendar

          Find upcoming conferences, training sessions, online events, and more.

          Downloads

          Downloadable eBooks, Asset Intelligence Reports, checklists, white papers, and more.

          Videos & Webinars

          Watch educational and informative videos directly related to your profession.

          Acronyms

          Commonly used asset integrity management and inspection acronyms.