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Oil well drilling requires a great deal of work from a wide range of professionals. For oil well drilling to be carried out successfully, many distinct stages in the process must be completed. These include: the initial search and discovery of oil; the satisfying of legal and — increasingly — social and environmental responsibilities; the setting up of rigs; and, finally, the extraction of the oil.
The first step in the process is locating an oil source. Geologists search sites where rock and soil conditions suggest possible oil fields. Today, satellite imaging helps them study terrains. Other modern technologies help measure anomalies in the Earth's gravitational and magnetic field that might be indicative of an oil deposit. Various seismological tools can also be used to send shock waves through rock layers in order to determine if oil pools exist below them.
After a site has been identified, legal matters need to be dealt with. Companies must work within the confines of the laws in the jurisdiction in which the site is located. International efforts on the parts of countries as well as supranational and multinational organizations are now encouraging companies to maintain certain standards regardless of where they are operating. Companies are increasingly required to research and minimize any possible negative social and environmental impacts of oil well drilling.
Preparations for oil well drilling involve the clearing of trees and the leveling of land. A reserve pit is built for keeping some of this natural debris, while man-made garbage should always be removed from a natural site. Even natural waste is sometimes trucked to another location if its collection at the site could cause environmental damage to the area. Access roads are usually necessary for transportation to and from the site, but in cases in which the site is very remote or road construction has been prohibited, alternative access via air or waterways might need to be established.
Once these preparations have been made, the crew digs a pit around the planned drilling hole location. This workspace is known as a "cellar." The main drilling hole is then constructed and other holes are dug around it for storage. Finally, the rig is set up and deep drilling can begin. A casing pipe is inserted where the drilling rig has dug, followed by cement to create firm walls. After the drilling process is complete, the rig is removed, and a pumping system is installed. The oil can then be extracted.