Wait – what is 'fracking'? An energy vocabulary quiz.

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The energy world is replete with buzzwords: "fracking," "tar sands," and "the grid." But what do they really mean? Test your energy literacy with the Monitor's energy vocabulary quiz.

Combine the different kinds of oil and you've got 'peak oil,' right?

No, 'peak oil' is obtained from the rock exposed in mountaintop removal

 

No, 'peak oil' is the notion that the world's oil supply is limited, and production will peak and enter a terminal decline

 

No, 'peak oil' is a Wall Street term – used to describe a spike in oil futures

 

No, 'peak oil' describes the initial moment a source of oil is discovered

 

Got it, but 'oil reserve' is the same as 'oil resource,' right?

No, 'resource' is the total oil in place, but not necessarily recoverable; 'Reserve' is the amount that can be recovered with existing technology

 

No, 'reserve' is the total oil in place and 'resource' is what we can recover with current technology

 

Yes, they are the same

 

Yes, they mean the same thing but Americans say 'reserve' while the British say 'resource'

 

And remind me: How does 'fracking' play into all of this?

'Fracking' is short for 'Friday racking' in which oil rigs are shut down at the end of the work week

 

'Fracking' is the the heating of kerogen to obtain shale oil

 

'Fracking' is just the energy world's slang for Tweeting

 

'Fracking' is short for hydraulic fracturing – the process of injecting rock with high-pressured liquid to release natural gas and/or tight oil

 

What is 'oil shale'?

Liquid hydrocarbons obtained by 'fracking' shale

 

Sedimentary rock containing kerogen, a solid organic material

 

The oil that results from cooking kerogen

 

A country's total underground oil reserves

 

OK, now flip it around: What is 'shale oil'?

Liquid hydrocarbons obtained by 'fracking' shale

 

Sedimentary rock containing kerogen, a solid organic material

 

The oil that results from cooking kerogen

 

A country's total underground oil reserves

 

But what about 'tight oil'? Isn't that the same thing?

Yes, 'tight oil' refers to both 'oil shale' and the 'shale oil' it produces

 

No, 'tight oil' is simply the compressed petroleum that travels in pipelines

 

No, 'tight oil' comes from the fracking of shale formations like the Bakken Formation in North Dakota

 

No, 'tight oil' is just what teenagers call oil these days

 

... which is different from 'mountaintop removal'?

Right, 'mountaintop removal' is the process of extracting oil from mountains by removing upper parts of the mountain

 

Wrong, 'mountaintop removal' is what fracking is called when it happens on mountains

 

Right, 'mountaintop removal' is a coal mining technique that requires the removal of large portions of mountains

 

Wrong, 'mountaintop removal' is a more intensive form of fracking

 

I remember now. Mountaintop removal is what allows us to extract 'tar sands,' correct?

Correct, 'tar sands' extraction was only made possible through the advent of advanced mining techniques.

 

Incorrect, 'tar sands' can be easily refined into finished petroleum products

 

Incorrect, 'tar sands' are unrelated to mountaintop removal. They are naturally occurring mixtures of clay, sand, water, and bitumen, a heavy black viscous oil.

 

Incorrect, 'tar sands' is a man who lived in the jungle with his chimp, Cheetah.

 

True or false? 'Tar sands' are the same thing as 'oil sands.'

False, 'oil sands' do not contain any bitumen

 

True, the terms are used interchangeably.

 

Let's move on to renewables. What does 'photovoltaic' refer to?

'Photovoltaic' is the process of converting electricity into light

 

'Photovoltaic' is short for 'photogenic voltage'

 

'Photovoltaic' is a high-powered camera used to measure energy consumption

 

'Photovoltaic' is the process of converting light into electricity

 

What's the difference between 'kilowatt' and 'kilowatt-hour'?

'Kilowatt' measures power (1,000 watts); 'Kilowatt-hour' measures energy (a kilowatt acting over the course of an hour)

 

There is no difference

 

A 'kilowatt-hour' describes how fast time flies when you're taking an energy vocabulary quiz

 

A 'kilowatt' measures energy (1,000 watts); a 'kilowatt-hour' measures power (how much power is used during an hour)

 

And a 'volt' is ... ?

The name of a plug-in hybrid vehicle manufactured by Chevrolet

 

A measure of electric potential

 

A tool used to dig geothermal wells

 

Both 1 and 2

 

I keep hearing about 'the grid.' What is that?

It's short for 'the electric power grid,' a network of providers who transmit power to consumers via distribution lines

 

It's the central control panel in a power plant

 

It's another word for 'solar array'

 

It's a new FOX reality show where accountants compete to prove their MIcrosoft Excel savvy

 

So, a 'microgrid' is just, like, a really tiny power grid?

Yes, a 'microgrid' is roughly the size of a grain of sand

 

Sort of, the term refers to distributed generation – where consumers rely on a decentralized network of smaller energy sources

 

No, 'microgrids' refer to the increasingly large amount of energy consumed by Internet data centers

 

No, 'microgrids' are used to describe the internal network of power plants

 

And when the grid fails, is that a 'blackout' or a 'brownout'?

A 'blackout' is a reduction in voltage; a 'brownout' is a complete disruption in power

 

Both refer to a power outage, but a 'blackout' is more widespread

 

A 'blackout' is an interruption in power; a 'brownout' is a reduction in electricity usually caused by high demand

 

A 'blackout' describes an outage for customers; a 'brownout,' an outage affecting only the power company