Anschutz Exploration

Lifecycle of an Exploratory Oil and Gas Well

The first two stages, Planning and Permitting, include evaluation and data gathering to determine and select the best location for a well. The operator collects detailed geologic data on oil and gas prospects, and assesses availability of water, ease of site access, and other factors. The permitting process looks closely at water, wildlife, archaeological, cultural and related resources. The permitting process establishes the approach to complying with regulations, informing the public, and protecting the environment. Also during planning and permitting, the operator collects groundwater and surface water samples, and documents baseline conditions. The operator verifies compliance procedures, and assures possession of all required permits and certifications.

The operator builds access roads and prepares the wellsite before initiating the Drilling and Completion stage. Stormwater-control structures are built to protect water quality. The well is then drilled. As part of the well-drilling process, the operator installs multilayer steel well casings, and cements the well bore to protect groundwater and enable fracture stimulating and well testing. Fracture stimulation treatments open rock formations to enable extraction of oil and gas. Well testing determines a well’s productivity.

At the Operation and Production stage, the operator installs a well head and places pumping equipment on the site to extract oil and gas. Equipment may include a surface pump jack, gathering-system piping, and collection tanks. Field technicians check the pumping and gathering systems regularly, track performance data, arrange for transport of the produced oil and gas, and prepare reports for regulators and company management. Also at this stage, areas of the well-pad site that are no longer needed are reclaimed and re-vegetated. Production can continue for years or decades. At the end of the well’s productive life cycle, all equipment is removed, the well is plugged, and the site is reclaimed to its natural state.

Download a factsheet with a graphical representation of the well lifecycle.

Site survey


  • Seismic analysis
  • Site evaluation
  • Land surveying
  • Water sourcing
  • Materials and services
Site survey
  • Environmental assessment
  • Water allocation
  • Air emissions
  • Land use and disturbance
  • Verification of compliance - NEPA, Tribal, State
  • Wildlife, threatened/endangered species management
  • Public comment
  • Outreach and communication
  • Water sampling; baseline water quality
  • Permit verification
Drilling and Completion
  • Supplier bidding and selection
  • Well-pad preparation
  • Stormwater management, erosion control
  • Waste handling system
  • Well design
  • Drilling
  • Casing and cementing
  • Completion and testing
  • Advanced technologies - fracture stimulation
Oil pump
Operation and Production
  • Well rod-up
  • Pump installation
  • Gathering system
  • Tankage and permanent onsite structures
  • Regulatory reporting
  • Pad reduction and reclamation
  • Pit closure
  • Monitoring and post-completion water sampling