Oil and natural gas are precious resources that are needed for every day life. With new techniques and innovations in the drilling industry, companies have significantly reduced the environmental impact. By reducing the surface “footprint” or impact point, less waste is generated and sensitive ecosystems can be avoided. You might think that this would take more time for the drillers, but with the new plans and equipment, operations can actually be completed in a more timely matter. Here are examples of some of the new drilling techniques that are helping to preserve our environment as well as our money.
Fracturing or “fracking” is not a new concept; it began in the 1950s when metal cylinders with nitroglycerine would be dropped down a well and torpedo to the bottom until it exploded. This would cause the surrounding 100 yards to be covered with oil, water, and broken off rock. Now we use water, sand, and giant pumps, and we drill horizontally.
More oil and natural gas can be produced from fewer wells and less surface area because the drill goes in vertically before hitting the reservoir rock and turning horizontally to expose more of the hole. The longer the horizontal legs, the faster the oil can flow.
Taking advantage of this environmental-friendly trend is privately owned, energy company Cunningham Energy. Based in West Virginia, Cunningham Energy engages in horizontal drilling and use future wire line data to decide spacing between wells and fracking stages. This brings up two new techniques in drilling multiple holes.
When companies drill two wells side by side, this is called “zipper fracking” (discovered in 2012 at Texas Tech University). When the drill holes are done, they are then fracked together at the same time because the fractures form a zipper that penetrates rocks deeper and more efficiently. The zipper can double the yield of oil and natural gas, making it more cost-effective as well.
Another cost-effective technique that has been preserving ocean life is called “stacked laterals.” Instead of building a pad, or platform, for each well, you drill several wells from one pad. With this process onshore, companies drill wells at different layers of the shale and close together. The rigs, then, save time and money between holes since the process of setting up and taking down a drill can be very expensive and time consuming.