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Oil and Gas Industry: A Research Guide

This guide covers the business of oil and gas for researchers interested in the history, regulations, production, transportation and storage, marketing and distribution, statistical sources, and company research.


Oil Field, Saratoga, Texas. 1908. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Oil and natural gas are major industries in the energy market and play an influential role in the global economy as the world's primary fuel sources. The processes and systems involved in producing and distributing oil and gas are highly complex, capital-intensive, and require state-of-the-art technology. Historically, natural gas has been linked to oil, mainly because of the production process or upstream side of the business. For much of the history of the industry, natural gas was viewed as a nuisance and even today is flared in large quantities in some parts of the world, including the United States. Natural gas has taken on a more prominent role in the world's energy supply as a consequence of shale gas development in the United States, as mentioned above, and its lower greenhouse gas emissions when combusted when compared to oil and coal.

This guide looks at the business of oil and gas and is intended to serve as a research aid to sources worldwide, with a specific emphasis on the United States. It covers a brief history of the oil and gas industry, an overview of companies and organizations, statistic and pricing resources, and regulations. The industry is often divided into three segments:

  • upstream, the business of oil and gas exploration and production;
  • midstream, transportation and storage; and
  • downstream, which includes refining and marketing.

These three areas are reflected in the organization of the guide. Renewable and alternative energy companies are discussed in our Renewable Energy Industries: A Research Guide and Green Business: Sources of Information Guide. For an overview U.S. energy sources, there have been a number of Congressional Research Service reports on renewable energy topics, including:

Online Glossaries and Reference Guides

The following glossaries are freely available online and can be useful in understanding the terminology used in these industries.

Reference Books

The oil and gas industry has been covered at length in books and other publications. Throughout this guide, specific resources are recommended within a particular subtopic of oil and gas. Below are books that provide a good overview of the entire industry and may be useful starting points. The following materials link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to additional online content are provided when available.

About the Business Section

Part of the Science & Business Reading Room at the Library of Congress, the Business Section is the starting point for conducting research at the Library of Congress in the subject areas of business and economics. Here, reference specialists in specific subject areas of business assist patrons in formulating search strategies and gaining access to the information and materials contained in the Library's rich collections of business and economics materials.