Oil and Natural Gas Reserves: Availability, Extraction and Use

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  • 0:07 Oil & Natural Gas
  • 0:43 Uses of Oil & Natural Gas
  • 1:59 Availability
  • 3:43 Extraction
  • 4:30 Technology
  • 6:20 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rebecca Gillaspy

Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.

Oil and natural gas reserves are found underground and must be extracted using a drilling method. In this lesson you will learn about the many uses of oil and natural gas, the availability of these valuable resources and how they are extracted.

Oil and Natural Gas

Oil and natural gas are trapped within porous rocks deep under the earth's crust. Early Native Americans were the first to discover oil seeping out of the earth and collecting on the surface of lakes and ponds. They would skim the water with blankets to gather oil to use for burning.

But in 1859, a man named Edwin Drake used a drilling method to tap into the oil deposits under his property, moving us toward the Age of Oil. In this lesson, we will learn more about how oil and natural gas is extracted from the earth, and discuss how much remains to be drilled.

Oil and Natural Gas Uses

Developed countries, like the United States, run on oil. According to the Energy Information Administration, gasoline for cars, SUVs and light trucks accounts for roughly 45% of the oil we use. Yet oil does more than just fuel our transportation methods. Many items we use every day contain oil, and some of them would surprise you! Now, you may already know that oil is used to make plastic products, and our modern-day farms could not run without massive inputs of oil for fertilizer and pesticide manufacture.

But, did you know that oil is also used to make everything from nylon pantyhose, to crayons, to lipstick? That's right; it's hard to get through our day without some aspect of our daily life being dependent on oil. But what about natural gas? Well, that has many practical uses as well. Natural gas is one of the most popular fuels used to heat our homes, and many chefs prefer cooking on a natural gas range. Industries rely on natural gas for lighting, heating, cooling and cooking. Natural gas can also be used in the production of products, such as plastics, fertilizer, anti-freeze and fabrics.


There is no doubt that developed countries and their economies are very dependent on oil and natural gas. Unfortunately, oil and natural gas are 'nonrenewable fossil fuels.' They're considered nonrenewable because, once they are burned, they cannot be replaced during our lifetime, due to the fact that they take millions of years to form. This has led many scientists to ask the question, 'Just how much oil and natural gas remains for us to use?'

As it turns out, there's a lot of differing opinions as to how much oil and natural gas can be produced in the future. To get a better idea of the availability of these energy sources, we need to consider how much remains in the ground, and how much of these existing reserves can actually be extracted without overly disturbing the environment or costing too much money.

Petroleum geologists are geologists who specialize in the exploration and production of oil and natural gas. It is the petroleum geologist's job to evaluate areas where oil and natural gas might be found. If they find an oil deposit that can be economically recovered using existing technologies, it is said to be a proved reserve, or a 'proven reserve.' While there is some debate, it is estimated that at present, proved reserves of oil could meet demand for the next few decades, if the rate of consumption stays the same.

There is also thought to be more oil and natural gas reserves that have yet to be discovered. However, these reserves may be in more difficult areas to access and therefore harder to extract. To tackle the problem of hard-to-extract oil and natural gas deposits, petroleum geologists are continually developing new technologies to squeeze more fuel from existing reserves and reach previously inaccessible fields.

Extraction and Technology

Oil and natural gas is extracted from rock deep within the earth using a drilling method. Traditionally, this involves an oil rig, which is a structure with equipment used for drilling oil and gas. If the oil is found at sea, as opposed to under land, an 'offshore oil rig' is used in a similar fashion. With many of the easily accessible oil reserves already depleted, oil extraction has become more creative, thanks to new advances in extraction technologies. These advances in technology have increased the ability of oil companies to extract oil and natural gas from previously inaccessible locations, and also squeeze more oil out of existing reserves. Let's take a look at some of the technological advancements.

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