Longest Oil Well Drilled (Horizontally)

Posted: May 23rd, 2008 by: h2

I have to admit it, in some ways the sheer technical challenge of modern oil field development fascinates me, although of course the more technology that is required to produce oil, the closer we are to the steeper parts of the decline.

Several things to note in this story, which make it a worthwhile read:

  • This is a horizontal well, which means it goes down about 5k feet, then turns and is drilled horizontally using some amazing steerable drill bits, for about 35k feet.
  • The oil is in a roughly 20 foot high pocket, and they managed to keep that drill in that pocket the whole way, I assume
  • No mention of how much this well cost, but I assume it was a lot since Maersk keeps on repeating how ‘efficient’ the process was compared to using multiple wells.
  • Most important: horizontal wells basically speed up the extraction rate for any given field. That means you are sticking a straw with many holes, often with branching limbs, each with many holes in it, then sucking out the oil super fast, which leads to super fast oil field depletion.

Maersk Oil has finished drilling the longest hole in the world with a length of 40,320 feet (12.3km) at Al Shaheen Field, offshore Qatar, beating the 20-year old record of the Russian Kola Peninsula exploratory well.

With a horizontal section of 35,770ft (10.9km) Maersk Oil’s BD-04A well also extended the company’s previously held world record for the longest horizontal well by 9,000ft (3km). The entire horizontal reservoir section was placed within a reservoir target which is only 20ft thick.

Maersk Oil Qatar managing director, Jakob Thomasen said, “It is not our goal to break drilling records, but rather to be an efficient and prudent operator and add value to our stakeholders. We have found Maersk Oil’s horizontal well technology adds indispensable value to the Al Shaheen field development. Not only do we gather information at highly competitive costs, but with our technology we minimise the number of wells, platforms and infrastructure required for oil and gas field development.

Maersk Oil Qatar operates the Al Shaheen Field in Block 5, some 80km off the coast and is currently executing a $6bn field development to bring the oil production from the current level of 330,000 bpd to a plateau of 525,000 bpd by end-2009.
Maersk drills longest well at Al Shaheen, Gulf Times, 21 May, 2008

What’s amazing is that this is now what’s required to increase production, multiple mile long drill holes through super thin oil deposit pockets.

These types of methods are very expensive, and once that pocket is sucked dry, there’s no more, so you can usually fairly safely assume that such methods when used on existing oil fields are the final step before the fields are essentially drained of all recoverable oil.

Small wonder Matthew Simmons and others like him are investing in oil field service companies, the ones, that is, that drill in these wild and bizarre ways, along with super deep sea stuff like what is being done in Brazil’s Tupi deep sea oil fields.

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