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Everyday words sometimes have a different meaning to people who work in energy industries. Click on the common words below to learn their energy meanings.

File Scrub 1 ::::: EKGames ... energy_slang




Cat Cracker

Christmas Tree

City Gate






Horse Head





Solar System

Tank Farm





Wind Farm

Yellow Cake
Picture of bobtail propane truck.

A special "bobtail" truck is used to transport propane. "Bobtail" trucks are designed to run on propane. The back of the "bobtail" is much shorter than other tanker trucks used to transport gasoline or diesel.

Picture of cage elevator at top of mine shaft.
Photo courtesy of the Dept. of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, University of Illinois

A "cage" is a type of elevator used in a mineshaft to move miners and equipment.

Picture of containment buildings at North Anna Power Station.
Photo courtesy of Dominion

A "can" is a building where nuclear reactors are contained. The picture above shows two dome-shaped cans at the North Anna Power Station. The shape and size of containment buildings may vary from station to station. The cans, or containment buildings shown above are 197 feet tall, with 50 feet being below ground level. They are 126 feet in diameter with walls up to 4.5 feet thick and constructed of steel reinforced concrete.

Richmond Refinery, Fluid Catalytic Cracking (FCC) Distillation Column

A catalytic cracker, or "cat cracker," is the basic gasoline-making process in a refinery. The cat cracker uses high temperatures, low pressure, and a catalyst to create a chemical reaction that breaks heavy gas oil into smaller gasoline molecules. With a cat cracker, more of each barrel of oil can be turned into gasoline.

Christmas tree valve assembly.

A Christmas tree is a set of valves, pipes, and fittings used to control the flow of oil and gas as it leaves a well and enters a pipeline.

Picture of city gate station, Washington Natural Gas Co. Seattle, WA.

The "city gate" is the place where a company that sells natural gas receives the natural gas from the pipeline company. The "city gate price" is the sales price of the natural gas at this point.

Picture of steel making process

"Coke" is a solid carbon made from coal. It is used to make steel. Another type of coke, "petroleum coke," is a refined product often burned to generate electricity.

Dead man anchor next to retired rig.
Photo courtesy of Ocean Star Rig Museum

A "dead man" is a buried anchor attached to a wire rope, or "guy line," that is used to keep a derrick standing upright. The white, dead man anchor pictured above is no longer buried because it is with an old rig that is on display at the Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig & Museum.

Picture of dairy barn and digester
Photo courtesy of the United States Department of Agriculture

A biogas "digester" can convert animal waste into usable energy. On some dairy farms, the muck from inside the barn is collected and put into a large digester, or tank. Inside the digester, methane gas is separated from the liquid and solid waste. The methane gas can then be used to generate electricity to light the barn, or to sell to the electric power grid.

Picture of doghouse at Stanton Independents Project

A "doghouse" is a small house located on the floor of an oil or gas rig that is usually used as an office or storage area.

Professor Darmody of the University of Illinois explores a coal mine.
Photo courtesy of the Dept. of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, University of Illinois

The "face", or coal face, is the exposed area from which coal is extracted.

Horse head pump.

A horse head pump (shaped like a horse's head) is sometimes used to pump oil from a well.

Energy Ant with two pipeline pigs.

A "pig" is a scraping tool that is sent through a pipeline to clean it out. "Smart pigs" have sensors that can detect cracks or corrosion in the pipeline, helping to prevent leaks.

Picture of offshore workers. Courtesy of ConocoPhillips.
Photo courtesy of the ConocoPhillips

A "roughneck" is a nickname for an oil rig worker.

Picture of money

The term "royalty" refers to the ownership rights of a mineral property (oil, gas, or coal). The owner is entitled to a share of the money made from oil, gas, or coal production on the property.

Picture of scrubber courtesy of Advanced Air Technology.
Photo courtesy of the Advanced Air Technology

A scrubber is a technology that traps pollutants and keeps them from escaping into the air. Scrubbers in an electric power plant trap sulfur that is produced from burning coal or natural gas.

Solar panels at Newport Coast Elementary School.

A "solar system" is technology that converts radiant energy from the sun into electrical or heat energy. In the picture above, the photovoltaic cells in the solar panels change radiant energy to electrical energy. The electrical energy can be used to power appliances in the building. Electricity not needed for the building may be sold to electric utilities using the electric grid.

Tank Farm, Chevron Richmond Refinery

A "tank farm" is a set of tanks used to store petroleum products.

Photo of a switch box

To "trip" a switch or a circuit breaker means to switch-off the flow of electricity through a section of an electric circuit. A "trip" can disconnect electricity in a small circuit like a certain area of a house. It can also be more widespread, disconnecting a generating station from the larger electric power grid. A circuit may be "tripped" on purpose, in order to safely do electrical work. Sometimes a circuit gets "tripped" unintentionally, causing a power outage.

Photo of a wellhead

The "wellhead" is the point where crude oil and natural gas leave a well.

Picture of power lines with mountains in background.

Electricity "wheeling" is when electricity is moved through a local grid for use in another area.

Picture of well at North Hill Creek, Native American Project
Photo courtesy of the Bureau of Land Management

A "wildcat" is a well that is not drilled in a proven field.

A wind farm.

A wind farm is a group of wind turbines used to generate electricity.

Picture of yellow cake in an open barrel
Photo courtesy of Cogema, Inc.

"Yellowcake" is another name for uranium oxide, named for its color and texture. After uranium is mined and separated from ore, it is made into "yellowcake" and shipped to a conversion plant for more processing. Uranium must first be converted into a gaseous form and then go through a long process of "enrichment" before it can be used by a nuclear power plant. Nuclear power plants generate around 20 percent of the electricity produced in the United States.