What Is A Petroleum Play?

It’s time for another jargon-busting session, here at TriStone Holdings, and this week we’re looking at petroleum plays, often simply known as plays. Whatever commodity in which you’re looking to invest, it’s important that you’re as fully educated on its particularities, as possible. With oil? Well, it can be amongst the more intimidating assets for the uninitiated. Fortunately, that’s exactly why we’re here! As an oil investment company, we’re here so that you know your plays from your pipelines, your light crude from your heavy. 

Petroleum Plays 

In the context of petroleum, play is a geological term used to describe a group of, usually oil fields, bound by the same geological conditions. In other words, a set of similar oil prospects. When it comes to these plays, they typically follow a five-stage cycle, which goes as follows: 

  1. Initial observations 

2. Subsequent testing (so that any adjustments to initial estimates can be made)

3. Initial high success in extracting the oil

4. Increasingly diminished success the more the reserve within the play is depleted

5. Moving onto finding the next reserve within the play, once the current oil reserve is deemed no longer economically viable for production. 

This pattern has been how the pattern of exploration has been conducted for almost as long as the oil industry has been operating! 

Some Of The Biggest ‘Plays’ In The US 

If we look, then, at the biggest-producing regions in terms of millions of barrels per day (bbl), the following are the USA’s largest producers. We’re looking specifically at the US here because our own interests as an oil investment company are focused on the North American country. 

The Permian Basin 

Not only is this basin one of the largest oil-producing regions, globally, it’s also one of the oldest (in terms of when it was discovered). Discovered a century ago, in 1920, this basin produces a staggering 4.2 Million Bbl/Day. 

The Permian basin spans across both Texas and New Mexico, and is comprised of eight smaller basins within it; the Delaware Basin, Midland Basin, Central Basin Platform, Eastern and Northwest Shelves, San Simon Channel, Sheffield Channel, Hovey Channel and Horseshoe Atoll. 

Eagle Ford Shale 

Another Texan region, this oil field – discovered much more recently, in 2008 – produces less oil than the Permian Basin, though still a sizeable amount. The Eagle Ford Shale region produces 1.01 Million Bbl/Day. 


Moving away from the crude heartlands of Texas, we find the Bakken Fomation in Montana and North Dakota. This is another of the more historic basins, having first been discovered and explored in 1951. 

The Bakken Formation has been a particularly strong region for hydraulic fracturing, and this region along with other similar formations was largely responsible for the US’ decrease in oil imports over the past couple of decades, or so. Its production is comparable to that of the Eagle Ford Oil Field, coming in at a slightly elevated 1.16 Million Bbl/Day. 

Prudhoe Bay 

Going North now, to the frozen wilds of Alaska, and we’re met with the Prudhoe Bay Oil Field. In terms of geographical area covered, this is the largest oil field on the North American continent. First explored by BP back in 1967, this frosty region now produces 791,000 Bbl/Day. 

What Are The Largest Oil-Producing Countries? 

Although we’re focused on the USA, here at TriStone Holdings Ltd, and why wouldn’t you want to be – it’s the world’s largest oil-producing country – that’s not to say of course that oil and gas isn’t welled elsewhere. The following is a list of the world’s largest oil-producing countries, as of 2019: 

1. USA 

2. Saudi Arabia 

3. Russia 

4. Canada 

5. China 

Our Other Jargon-Busting Blog Posts 

As we touched upon at the beginning, this isn’t our first rodeo when it comes to breaking down the lingo used within the oil and gas sector. We’ve also written posts on all of the 

following topics, which at first glance you’d be forgiven for thinking had nothing to do with petroleum! 

  1. Upstream, midstream and downstream oil activities. 

2. Roughnecks. 

3. Bullish and bearish markets. 

4. Joint ventures (JVs). 

5. Conventional and unconventional oil. 

6. WTI and Brent. 

7. AI and automation. 

Contact Our Oil Investment Company 

Hopefully, this post has demystified the oil and gas industry just a little bit more for you. IN a sector that’s as misunderstood as it is, education must always form an integral part. So, if you’d like to find out more about our focus as an oil investment company, then get in touch! Contact TriStone Holdings Ltd today on 0800 055 7079 or by emailing us at [email protected]


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