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Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Energy Drill

How quickly things change! I first began writing about the Utica Shale more than 7 years ago and as the above chart illustrates the US has moved into the lead in global hydrocarbon production. A perusal of the International Energy Agency's data shows the United States is first in the world in both in oil and natural gas production. Parenthetically it ranks second in coal production in spite of the best efforts of Obama's EPA and its 8 year war on that solid hydrocarbon.
How is this possible? The peak oil theory posited the uninspiring assertion that readily recoverable oil deposits has been declining since about 1975. But how, nearly half a century later, do oil and gas set new production records every year? The quick answer is hydraulic fracturing or fracking. Very basically fracking is the process where after small explosions fracture the rock containing the oil or gas water is forced into the fractures to expand them. The water contains sand which holds the fractures open allowing the gas or oil to escape and be brought to the surface. As stated, fracking is the quick answer as it is employed in the majority of drilling operations but with very little publicity the oil and gas industry has become high tech.
How high tech? High enough that drilling the horizontal leg is done with the aid of a mouse; a mouse that sends signals to the CPU in the drilling head 10,000 feet below the surface. With the new technology come new drilling strategies. In the day when George C. Scott and Faye Dunaway were drilling for Oklahoma crude the trick was to find the pools where the oil that had seeped from the stone had collected. Today grids are mapped out and drilled horizontally. This post in a shale blog caught my attention.

Eclipse can’t help it–they keep setting new world records for the longest lateral (horizontal) wells drilled–in the entire world! It began last year when Eclipse drilled what they call their first “super lateral” Utica well in Guernsey County, OH–the Purple Hayes, at 18,500 feet long (see Eclipse Res. 1Q16: Drills Longest Shale Well Ever! “Purple Hayes”). Since that time, the Purple Hayes well has consistently been the #1 oil producing well in the state. Earlier this year Eclipse drilled a new longest-ever well, also in Guernsey County, the Great Scott 3H well at 19,300 feet long (see Great Scott! Eclipse Drills New Longest Lateral in World – in Utica). And now, Eclipse has drilled yet another record-breaker in Guernsey County. Last Friday the company reported it has drilled the Outlaw C 11H, a Utica well that is an incredible 19,500 feet long horizontally (total measured depth of 27,750 feet). That’s 3.7 miles long! 

It all very simple. Just drill down 8000 feet, make a hard right and proceed to drill another 18,500 feet which is more than twice the length of the Golden Gate Bridge. Great Scott had something going for it that George Scott and Faye didn't have. It had a computer assisted down hole motor. The video below features the Weatherford Revolution RSS smart drill motor replete with CPU, lithium ion battery, and bi-directional communications with the surface. It's not essential to understand exactly how this gadget works to appreciate the though and precision machine work that goes into it. While Weatherford produced the best YouTube video it's hardly alone. Halliburton and Baker Hughes also produce down hole motors.


In summation Eclipse completed the drilling phase of the well in just 17 days. With the aid of Nine Energy Service, a wireline contractor, it completed 124 fracking operations. Cost of the well was $854 per foot.


  1. A decade ago ANWR coming online would have been Earth-shattering news. Now this momentous event has become a footnote. Ho hum.

  2. A decade ago the greens would be pissing and moaning like they had run out of granola but today nothing.