The Big 6 Challenges for an Oil and Gas Translator

May 10, 2015

As a multi-billion dollar industry, the oil and gas sector operates on a global scale. It’s a big business. The implications for an oil and gas translator to make the wrong decision when it comes to localizing the content are usually magnified.

When there are so many technical translators out there, how do you make sure your oil and gas translation is up to scratch? We have compiled the 5 main challenges of oil and gas translation:



1.       Timeline Requirements

The energy industry as a whole is extremely time-sensitive. It’s never acceptable to miss a deadline for an oil and gas translator. Having an idle rig for one day alone, for instance, can cost an oil company $650,000 and that doesn’t include the millions lost by not producing oil. Three minutes late could mean $3 million lost.

2.       Industry Specific Vocabulary

How many of these expressions do you know?


b)Gone to  Water

c)Gunk squeeze

d) Sour Corrosion

e)Gas Cut mud

f) Sidetrack

g) Pipe ram preventer

These are just a few examples of technical terms that an oil and gas translator may encounter and that may need to communicate succinctly and effectively in another language.  Most linguists, even if professionally trained, won’t know the definitions of these words unless they have industry-specific knowledge. Extensive knowledge of highly technical and specific terms is vital in order to provide accurate high-quality translations.

3.       ‘Translating’ regulations

Each nation has specific codes and standards that must be adhered to.Russia, for example, has the world’s strictest regulations on offshore oil production and has introduced new regulations on how foreign assistance missions are to approach Russian authorities when sending in expertise and equipment. Oil and gas translators are responsible for being aware of these and ensuring the translations they produce comply with them.

Failing to budget for good translations that comply with the requirements of target countries can lead to them being rejected (and having to be retranslated). Why not get it right first time?

4.       Keeping up with industry social and environmental requirements

Like many industries, the oil and gas sector is under increasing pressure to improve their social and environmental impact. The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Social Impact Assessment (SIA) are used to assess the sustainability of their approach. The requirements for these open to public review and are imposed on a national level by treaties, national laws, oil and gas industry guidelines, and are imposed as conditions of lending and assistance by international financial organizations (e.g. the World Bank). It is a lengthy procedure that demands a good knowledge of legal and financial terminology. As a result of this constant transnational flow of documents translators should also be familiar with the procedures and documents involved that will be referred to in the process. They should be able to update and amend documents efficiently so they can be approved.

5.       DTP requirements

Due to the highly technical nature of many oil and gas translations, specialized desktop publishing tools such as AutoCAD may be required in order to incorporate technical diagrams.  Oil and gas translators must know how to manipulate annotations using these tools. It is easy to leave things out without review.

6.       Project Specific Multilingual Communication

To date there have been US$ 53.43 billion invested in the pre-salt,  with an overall $400 billion expected over the next ten years, including foreign investment from Petrobras partners British Gas and from investment from Chile. There are currently 688 sources of foreign investment in the pre salt project, a figure which not only demonstrates the demand for multi-lingual translations but also shows how, when centered on one project, a streamlined approach is vital to insure that even though they are written in different languages they are ‘talking the same language’ using the same terminology.

Do you consider the impact of your translation choices when you are choosing a translation provider?

[1] a) Pressure Setting Assembly – A tool used to set permanent tools on wireline using explosive force

b) Describes a well in which water production is increasing

c) A bentonite and diesel oil mixture that is pumped down the drill pipe and into the annulus to mix with    drilling mud.

d) Embrittlement and subsequent wearing away of metal caused by contact of the metal with hydrogen sulfide.

e) A drilling mud that contains entrained formation gas, giving the mud a characteristically fluffy texture.

f) To use a whipstock, turbodrill, or other mud motor to drill around broken drill pipe or casing that has become lodged permanently in the hole.

g) A blowout preventer that uses pipe rams as the closing elements.

Photo by Don Hankin

If you would like additional information on this topic or have questions on planning and executing your next translation or multilingual initiative, contact us today for a free 30-minute consultation or call us at (800) 413-7838.


One Comment on “The Big 6 Challenges for an Oil and Gas Translator”

  1. Dani says:

    Thanks for the article!!!!