What Is A “Christmas Tree” In The Oil & Gas Industry?

We’ve written several pieces before, here at TriStone Holdings Ltd, that bust some of the jargon prevalent within the oil and gas industry. From the differences between upstream, midstream and downstream to the comparison of conventional and unconventional drilling, we’ve done our best to add clarity to what can be a very confusing sector. With the festive season well and truly upon us now, we, an oil investment company, thought what better term to de-mystify than the Christmas Tree, itself? That’s right, you heard us correctly, the Christmas Tree. 

What Is It? 

Christmas trees, are pieces of equipment used as a means of regulating flow in oil and gas wells. It’s so-named, unsurprisingly, because of its passing resemblance to a Christmas Tree. Though, we must admit, it’s perhaps a more abstract Christmas Tree than the fir pine equivalent. They’re far from modern pieces of equipment, either, with the first example of use dating back over a century! Drilling pioneers, the Hamill brothers, were the first to make use of the kit at the Spindletop oil field, in Texas. 

How Do They Work? 

Basic Christmas Trees consist of a number of gate valves (two or three, typically). They allow drillers to better regulate the flow of crude oil or natural gas coming to the surface. They also enable operators to lower tools down tubing on the wire line. There are also much more complex trees with more valves. It is these more elaborate examples after which the equipment gets its name. Onshore drilling came first, and it’s where this equipment first saw use, but that’s not to say that offshore drilling platform don’t benefit in the same way… 

Subsea Christmas Trees 

It isn’t just onshore rigs that have some festive fun, offshore platforms get in on the action, as well! As an oil investment company, we know that subsea Christmas trees admittedly look a little less ‘Christmas-Tree’ like. That said, they perform the same job in even more extreme environmental situations. 

The fact, however, is that for most of the underwater versions, they’re ‘tree-like’ in name only. There’s several different types, mainly due to the variability of conditions experienced beneath the ocean’s surface. That’s to say, there’s a much wider range in temperatures and pressures, than on land. 

Standard Configurable Trees (SCTs) 

As suggested by ‘configurable’, these pieces of equipment offer a good deal of versatility, and can be suited to a particular producer’s needs. They’re most often used in shallower waters – around the one thousand metres mark. 

High Pressure High Temperature Trees (HPHTs) 

As an oil investment company, we know that producers are increasingly looking to more extreme environments from which to extract their oil and natural gas. Offshore producers operating in the North Sea, for instance, will make use of a High Pressure High Temperature (HTHP) tree. These trees can function under extreme pressures (up to over 15,000 psi) and an incredibly wide temperature range (an almost 200-degree centigrade spectrum).

Due to conditions in which they operate, subsea trees feature many more accessories than surface trees. These include as sensors, a flow control ‘choke’ and more. 


For all the technological advances – utilising the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Big Data – modern-day drilling couldn’t operate without the tried-and tested methods that have served them for over a hundred years. Their importance can’t be overstated despiste them relatively being simply bits of kits (to someone within the profession, at least).

With an uptick in the number of wells getting back online, the Christmas Tree will be seeing regular use in the months to come; these ones won’t be getting taken down on December 31st, that’s for sure… 

Merry Christmas From TriStone Holdings Ltd! 

Whatever your Christmas Tree looks like, we hope you have a wonderful festive period! We, like everyone else, are looking forward to a brighter twelve months to come. With the rollout of the vaccine now underway (albeit in the early stages of its rollout) we’ve all got a lot to be optimistic about! 

Contact TriStone Holdings Ltd 

If you’d like to find out more about our oil investment company and our plans for 2021, get in touch! Contact TriStone Holdings Ltd today on 0800 055 7079 or by emailing us at [email protected] 

Alternatively, you can visit our various social media channels by clicking the following links: 

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