Did you know that the first wells were drilled over 2000 years ago?
Drilling is an ancient technology and it has long been used to explore for natural resources and to produce fluids such as water, brine, oil and gas that occur underground. The Chinese drilled shallow wells over 2000 years ago to produce brine. The first oil wells were drilled in the 1800s and up through the early 1900s, wells were vertical and limited to depths of a few hundred to a couple of thousand feet. By the 1970s, depth records were being broken starting with Bertha Rogers No. 1 which was drilled to over 31,000 feet (9.5 km) to explore for gas in the Anadarko basin, Oklahoma, USA. In 1979, the Kola Superdeep scientific well in Russia was drilled to over 40,000 feet (12.2 km), making it the deepest well in the world. In 2009, the deepest oil well was completed to 35,000 feet (10.6 km) from the Deepwater Horizon platform in the Gulf of Mexico.
The idea of drilling a slanted deviated well by directional drilling was realized in the 1930s. Today, the drilling of highly deviated wells is commonplace in the exploration and production of oil and gas reservoirs. The Chayvo oil field in Russia is the site of several record-breaking deviated wells that are drilled to depths of about 3,000 feet (0.9 km) with a long horizontal reach exceeding 40,000 feet, the longest of which is O-14. For comparison, geothermal wells are generally drilled to no more than 10,000 feet (3 km), and if deviated, they are done so at modest angles of less than 45°.
There are several reasons for drilling deviated wells such as increasing the section or length of well interval through rocks that are rich in oil (or gas). In some cases, there are obstacles (e.g., town or lake), which means the resource has to be accessed from the side rather than vertically from the surface. In other cases, there are logistical advantages to clustering a number of deviated wells on a single pad as is common in offshore oil platforms.
Figure shows the depth ranges of the deepest and longest wells in comparison to wells that are commonly drilled in geothermal production fields.