Contact Us
Contact Us

3 min read

Upstream, Midstream, and Downstream: Clearing the Lexicon Confusion


Having trouble understanding the complicated jargon of the oil and gas industry? Using common knowledge of the world around us can help simplify the problem.

Upstream, midstream, and downstream are essential terms to know but are often misunderstood. Reading below will clarify the confusion.

Oil and gas are products that Americans use daily and often. Texas alone has become the world's third largest oil producer while the Gulf of Mexico is seeing unprecedented returns.

Unfortunately, most regular citizens have very little knowledge on the processes needed to take these unrefined resources and turn them into workable items. One large factor hindering the understanding of the industry is the unfamiliar jargon.

Three major sectors are the focus of the oil and gas industry. They are upstream, midstream, and downstream.

The three major sectors of the oil and gas industry:

  1. Upstream
  2. Midstream
  3. Downstream

How does lithium impact the oil and gas industry?

Upstream: The Discovery Process

When talking about oil and gas, the upstream sector begins with the search and discovery of these natural resources. 

Once found, an estimation is taken to ensure that the deposit has a sufficient amount of hydrocarbons. If deemed worthy, drilling begins, ensuring a consistent production from the wells.

After reaching the surface, impurities such as water, mud, and other solid materials are processed out- oil and gas go through a separation process (via any of the different separation methods). A separator is a piece of equipment fabricated to perform the separation process. The gas is either produced or flared off. The preliminary processing of crude oil and natural gas concludes the end of the upstream sector.

Subsea Processing

While subsea developments have been made possible by technologies such as subsea trees, ROVs, risers and umbilicals, subsea processing has been an elusive solution for many years. Whether describing subsea separation, re-injection or boosting, subsea processing has helped to revolutionize offshore developments worldwide.

Subsea processing can encompass a number of different processes to help reduce the cost and complexity of developing an offshore field.

The main types of subsea processing include subsea water removal and re-injection or disposal, single-phase and multi-phase boosting of well fluids, sand and solid separation, gas/liquid separation and boosting, and gas treatment and compression.

New call-to-action

Midstream: Transportation and Storage

Midstream overlaps both the upstream and the downstream sectors and is often left out of the conversation entirely.  Regardless, transporting and storing the discovered oil and gas are the main objectives of the midstream process.

However, preliminary refinement at the site often falls under the midstream category as well.

When transportation begins, there are many different methods of transportation that may be used such as trucks, barges, rail, or pipeline.

Once the transportation is complete, the natural resources can be stored until they are ready to be refined and worked into usable goods.

Downstream: Finishing the Product

Much larger in scope,  oil and gas companies refer to "downstream,"  in reference to the last of the three major sectors. Downstream is the distribution and marketing of the finished products obtained from the crude oil and natural gas.

The downstream process pushes finished products such as gas, lubricants, waxes, fuel, and kerosene out of storage and into the marketplace.

Rapidly evolving technology such as automation tools and CRM software is helping expedite these products to eagerly waiting consumers.

Easy as 1...2...3

With the continuing expanse of the oil and gas industry and deep water platforms on the rise, attempting to learn the production processes can be a daunting challenge.

However, the breaking down of the process into three easy sections can simplify the actions crude oil and raw natural gas must take to become products readily available for daily use.

Companies today are using innovative ways to ensure that these steps are carried out safely and efficiently from beginning to end

Practical Engineering Solutions

Related Articles: 

Oil and Gas Production and Process Equipment - In this blog post we will dive into the most important pieces of oil and gas production equipment. We will also talk about how to maintain them properly.

About Practical Engineering Solutions


Practical Engineering Solutions will always be dedicated to providing top-notch customer service to meet our industry demands.

We set ourselves apart with our consistency and timely turnarounds. We are always committed to being responsive to our clients, KEEPING OUR PROMISES, making delivery schedules, and standing by our designs!

From conceptdesign, and engineering, to project management and integrity services. We are your gateway to your journey's engineering endeavors. Including oil & gas, hemp & CBD, and food industries.

Providing services focusing in Facilities EngineeringTurn-Key SolutionsHemp FacilitiesFood Plant EngineeringManufacturingEngineering Services and Drafting & Design.

Equipment Certification Standards in the Oil and Gas Industry

The oil and gas industry, known for its complex and high-risk operations, demands stringent adherence to various equipment certification standards....


Redefining Engineering Precision with Finite Element Analysis (FEA)

In the dynamic world of engineering, where precision and performance are non-negotiable, Finite Element Analysis (FEA) stands as a game-changer. At...


What You Need to Know About API 11D1 V3 Testing

As every engineer in the field knows, when it comes to standards, API is our go-to when focusing on oil and gas industry operations and procedures -...