How do oil rigs actually work?

Every day, the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc) extracts around three million barrels of oil and 270 million cubic metres of raw gas from 5,000 metres below the sea’s surface. Its oil rigs off the coast of the United Arab Emirates stretch deep into bedrock beneath the Persian Gulf.

Adnoc begins by performing a seismic survey of the site they want to drill. “This is when we send signals to the ground and it reflects back, so we can identify the areas where oil and gas exist,” explains Qasem Al Kayoumi, manager of Adnoc’s technical centre.

Once Adnoc has identified a site, it can start drilling. Rigs are raised and slid into place by a cantilever. “We connect the wells to pipelines, which take the oil and gas to facilities where the fluids – oil, gas and water – are separated,” Al Kayoumi says. Next, the cargo is moved to a holding site before being shipped off to feed fuel-thirsty industries. WIRED takes a look at the machines that make black gold.

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