Horizontal Drilling: Dominating the US Oil and Gas Market

Horizontal Drilling: Dominating the US Oil and Gas Market

Of the current drilling options available, horizontal wells are among the highest-producing options. As such, horizontal drilling is steadily rising in popularity within the upstream oil and gas U.S. market.

Horizontal oil and gas wells are among the most prolific in the industry. This drilling method has served the industry for decades, but continual improvements and updates have made it even more popular today. On a related note, the popularity of horizontal drilling continues to rise because more people are recognizing the fact that these drilling techniques can be more efficient, more economical, and better for the environment than conventional vertical wells.


Horizontal Drilling Is Directional Drilling

Horizontal drilling, which is used to create high-angle wells with inclinations greater than 85°, is a major type of directional drilling. The process involves the installation of a wellbore in a predetermined location within the reservoir, thus increasing the overall reservoir performance. This type of drilling can be employed to divert a vertical well and shift it to a horizontal path.

As a major type of directional drilling, horizontal drilling has multiple applications. These include the ability to produce from multiple wells at a single location, the ability to drill under inaccessible surface locations, multiple target zones, sidetracking, fault drilling, salt-dome exploration, and relief-well drilling.

Horizontal drilling can reduce location costs and the environmental impact by having multiple wells in a single location, or well pad. It can likewise have multiple targets intersect in a single well bore, thus resulting in high yet cost-effective production rates — this is usually beneficial for multiple production zones near fault planes and salt domes.

This directional drilling doesn’t just streamline the process in multiple production zones, though. It streamlines the operations in what may otherwise be inaccessible surface locations for vertical drilling practices. It also optimizes the well drilling process around obstructions and beneath rivers.

Given these applications of horizontal drilling, you may have a better understanding of why it is winning over the oil and natural gas industry. But like a new location that we are yet to drill a well into, these applications are only scratching the surface. The advantages of horizontal drilling are what win people — and operators — over.


The Advantages of Horizontal Drilling Are Winning Over the Industry

Horizontal drilling activity took off in the 1980s. People started to realize its advantages because of the Austin Chalk play, which later became a primary location for horizontal drilling in the U.S. Right now, the oil and gas industry benefits from the multiple advantages of horizontal drilling as a reservoir development tool.

Horizontal wells are beneficial to reservoirs for multiple reasons:

  • They may reduce water and gas coning and, as a result, reduce any remedial work necessary in the future.
  • They have much more surface area in the pay zone, effectively increasing reservoir production rate several times over.
  • They lower the pressure drop as well as the fluid velocity around the wellbore, therefore reducing sand production.
  • They have a more efficient drainage pattern which increases the overall recovery of oil and gas reserves.

Condensing these advantages into a simple statement, horizontal drilling makes way for the efficient production of oil and natural gas. Hence, it reduces the overall time and cost it would normally take to achieve this.

Horizontal wells also have an edge over vertical wells for a number of reasons:

  • They can reduce the pumps from a treatment system, effectively warranting minimal cleanup of residual contamination and hot spots. As a result, they reduce site maintenance costs.
  • Unlike multiple vertical wells which require additional costs for trenched conveyance lines, a single horizontal well has an integrated conveyance line that you no longer need to connect with others.

Horizontal wells vary in length and depth. So, installation is possible in multiple locations (e.g. under buildings, landfills, ponds, pipelines, roads, runways, wetlands, and other surface obstructions). Additionally, horizontal drilling streamlines the treatment system and conveyance lines. Hence, maintenance is easier and more cost-effective for the site operator or owner.

Given all these advantages, it is obvious why horizontal drilling is slowly but surely winning over the industry.


Horizontal Well Drilling Steadily Grows in Popularity

While horizontal drilling gained its popularity in the 1980s, it wasn’t until recently that people are beginning to realize its full potential. In fact, a Forbes article published in 2013 was still talking about horizontal drilling as an ignored technological marvel.

Forbes calls horizontal drilling an impressive aspect of engineering and scientific innovation. With it, operators can expand horizontally and increase how far they can drill and set pipe in a rock formation. This is beneficial for the operators as well as mineral owners and tax authorities — operators have higher returns, mineral owners get higher royalty payments, and local and state taxing authorities get higher tax revenues.

Horizontal drilling is also beneficial for the environment. It produces fewer air emissions, lessens water usage and disposal needs, and affects less land for generally the same amount of oil and natural gas that a conventional well produces.

Recent developments in horizontal drilling have further cemented the aforementioned benefits. Now, operators can produce a considerable amount of reserves from what they may have once considered as an underperforming location within the reservoir.  As a result, horizontal wells often end up being the best producers in a field.

So, even though horizontal wells may initially cost more than conventional ones, they are steadily growing in popularity because, in the long run, they generate far more beneficial results.

Contact Us Today

Sierra Pine Resources International is not afraid to put “skin in the game.” In other words, we go beyond fee-based compensation structures in both single well and large field development plays. We take pride in advanced reservoir analysis that lets you save time and costs — without sacrificing the accuracy of our analysis, of course. Call us today for an obligation-free consultation.