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Oil and natural gas remain the world's leading fuels, accounting for nearly 60% of global energy consumption

Oil and natural gas are formed from decaying plant and animal remains that became buried within layers of the earth and subjected to heat and pressure over millions of years. These two types of fossil fuels have been the world’s primary sources of energy for decades. They have enabled advances in quality of life and in all sectors of the economy, from residential lighting, cooking and heating to transportation and industrial manufacturing. However, the low carbon transition has put the oil and gas industry under pressure as these fuels are two of the main sources of greenhouse gases. The industry is associated with environmental disasters such as oil spills, and the prices of the two fuels – especially oil – are highly volatile with fluctuations directly impacted by political and socioeconomic events. Nevertheless, more than 100 countries currently produce oil and/or natural gas and the two fuels are expected to maintain their importance across the energy sector for many decades to come.

The production of oil and natural gas are often coupled as the two are typically found together in nature. The industry is commonly divided into three main operational sectors: upstream, midstream and downstream. The upstream sector incorporates the exploration and extraction of crude oil and natural gas reserves, while midstream focuses on transporting and storing the extracted products. The oil and natural gas then reach downstream processing facilities where they are refined, distributed and sold to the end customer. The product that reaches the end customer can take a number of forms including natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), petrol, diesel fuel, jet fuel, heating oil, kerosene, asphalt and other petrochemicals. Several trends are currently impacting the future outlook of the oil and gas industry. The use of natural gas has increased across all economic sectors over the last few decades since natural gas – often viewed as a bridge fuel towards a low carbon energy system – burns cleaner than oil or coal for electricity generation. The switch to natural gas is becoming more widespread with the proliferation of the technology to liquify it (to LNG) for transport. Developments in shale gas and oil production have also greatly increased supply in the US, which has had implications in global oil, and increasingly LNG markets. Given a growing world population and continued demand for oil and gas products, discoveries of new deposits and advances in production technology will determine availability of supplies. Developments in carbon capture, use and storage (CCUS) will also impact the position of oil and natural gas in the long-term energy mix.

You can further explore the three sectors by clicking the links below:

Learn more about oil and gas extraction by exploring records published on our Energy Matrix.

For the latest news and articles on exploration and production read Petroleum Review.

Find the latest oil and gas consultations and policies in our Policy Milestones Calendar.

What's new?

Oil and Gas Cybersecurity Price Tag Could Top $20B

Oil and gas companies will spend more than $20 billion on cybersecurity by 2023, according to a survey conducted by the consulting firm BDO. 

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Offshore floating wind to power Norwegian oil and gas platforms

The world’s largest floating offshore wind farm, and the first to power offshore oil and gas platforms, will be built by Siemens Gamesa for deployment off the coast of Norway.The company has been awarded five contracts by Norwegian energy company Equinor to supply wind turbines to the Hywind Tampen ...

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Atmospheric pressure controls greenhouse gas emissions from leaking oil and gas wells

Decreases in atmospheric pressure can lead to a 20-fold increase in fugitive greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) associated with leaking onshore hydrocarbon wells, a new study in Nature has shown.A 30-day study led by Scottish and Canadian scientists showed that atmospheric pressure controls the timing a...

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Oil and gas first for floating offshore wind farm

Equinor and the Snorre and Gullfaks partners have made a final investment decision (FID) for the Hywind Tampen offshore wind farm development and two updated plans for development and operation (PDO) have been submitted to the Norwegian authorities.The oil and gas platforms will be the first ever po...

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Energy insight: Methane emissions reduction – Part 1: Oil and gas

For information on methane emissions related to coal, see Energy Insight - Methane Emissions reduction – Part 2 – Coal Why is methane a problem for the climate?Methane (CH4) is the third most abundant greenhouse gas in the atmosphere (after water vapour and carbon dioxide (CO2)). Any metha...

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Events and training

IP Week Dinner 2020

To book your place at one of the largest social gatherings in the oil and gas industry, please visit

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Oil and Gas Industry Fundamentals - Awareness - Middle East - April 2020

This 2-day training course provides delegates with an overview of principal activities inthe international upstream, midstream and downstream petroleum industry.

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Avoidance of Vibration Induced Fatigue Failure in Process Pipework - May 2020

This 3-day course will provide delegates with an understanding of the use of the Energy Institute Guidelines as a management tool and assessment methodology to manage the risk of a vibration induced failure.

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Oil and Gas Mergers & Acquisition: Acquiring and Divesting Assets and Companies - May 2020

This 3-day training course focuses on integrating an understanding of Mergers & Acquisition (M&A) activity trends, the process involved in conducting M&A activity and and the skills that requires. This includes presentations, case studies, exercises and discussions.

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Human Factors Safety Critical Task Analysis Training - May 2020

A 2-day training course addressing Human Factors issues in COMAH Safety Reports, teaching delegates how to carry out Human Factors Safety Critical Task Reviews.

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Technical guidance publications

HM 54. Guidelines for the management of measurement for the upstream oil and gas industry

More companies are electing to employ third parties to manage their legal and commercial measurement obligations and to undertake allocation of individual fields from commingled streams. Therefore the issue of management of measurement is becoming increasingly more important.This second edition high...

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HM 78. Guidelines for meter selection for the upstream oil and gas industry

This publication has been produced as a high-level guideline on meter selection by those involved in the upstream oil and gas industry. The selection of the correct meter or primary element along with the appropriate secondary instrumentation is fundamental to the performance and/or reliability of a...

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HM 60. Guidelines for the auditing of measurement systems for oil and gas streams

This publication has been produced as a high level guideline on auditing for use by all of those involved in the measurement process in the upstream oil and gas industry.Measurement system auditing is a critical activity for all operators producing hydrocarbons to ensure financial interests are prot...

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HM 96. Guidelines for the allocation of fluid streams in oil and gas production

Allocation is a term used to describe the system by which ownership of oil, gas, gas liquids and produced water is determined and tracked from the point of production to a point of sale or discharge. Allocation systems therefore have a direct impact on revenue and often involve several business area...

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Guidance on the management and maintenance of the integrity of structures, equipment and systems taken out of service on either a temporary or permanent basis in the upstream oil and gas industry

This publication presents good practice guidelines for the effective management and maintenance of the integrity of equipment and systems taken out of service and their related structures, on either a temporary or permanent basis, in the upstream oil and gas industry. It defines the issue and the re...

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