Photo courtesy Phillips Petroleum Co.
Offshore oil rig

In January 2001 alone, the United States produced an estimated 181 million barrels of crude oil and imported 273 million barrels from other countries. This oil gets refined into gasoline, kerosene, heating oil and other products. To keep up with our consumption, oil companies must constantly look for new sources of petroleum, as well as improve the production of existing wells.

How does a company go about finding oil and pumping it from the ground? You may have seen images of black crude oil gushing out of the ground, or seen an oil well in movies and television shows like "Giant," "Oklahoma Crude," "Armageddon" and "Beverly Hillbillies." But modern oil production is quite different from the way it's portrayed in the movies.

In this edition of HowStuffWorks, we will examine how modern oil exploration and drilling works. We will discuss how oil is formed, found and extracted from the ground.