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Texas Tea Circuit: Earth Image of the Week April 22, 2011
Satellite Image of Barnhart Oil Field.
Thousands of individual oil wells are connected by an extensive network of pipes near Barnhart, Texas. Scattered clouds cast shadows on the wellheads below.
The wind-swept terrain of West Texas has been a productive source of petroleum since the Yates Oilfield, near the town of Iraan, began supplying crude oil to the United States in 1927.

Wells in that area alone have extracted more than 1 billion barrels of the key energy resource since that time.

About 40 miles to the northeast, another vast oil extraction operation can be clearly seen by astronauts orbiting aboard the International Space Station.

Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli, of the European Space Agency, snapped the photograph to the right of the Barnhart oil field at about 3:15 p.m. local time on March 24, 2011.

The area appears from space as a vast electronic circuit, due to thousands of pipes connecting individual wellheads.

The distance between the individual pumps is only about 500 feet, allowing the maximum amount of extractions from the oil reserves below the surface.

Advances in technology during the 1980s have led to far more oil being pumped out of the ground, even from very old wells.

Oil companies now use water-flooding, polymer injection, carbon dioxide flooding and other methods to fracture the ground, allowing more subterranean oil to be drawn out to feed an oil-hungry world.

Full story and image: NASA