The Realities About Deepwater Drilling
Did you know that more than 3,800 offshore wells have a drill in Australian waters? And that around 150 wells * were drilled in water depths of more than 1000 meters? According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the deep Sea made up about half of the oil and gas resources exposed in the last decade.
Deepwater drilling is becoming progressively common worldwide, including in the Norwegian Sea, the Gulf of Mexico, and of Canada, Africa, India, South America, and Australia.
How Does Offshore Drilling Work?
Step 1: Exploration
Energy companies use seismic survey vessels to explore large areas while tracking devices that send sound waves to the ocean floor. The sound waves bounce off the rock layers below the seafloor and capture by sensors or “geophones” connected to the survey vessel. (Learn more about marine seismic surveys)
Geologists can then analyze this data to determine if hydrocarbons might be present. Offshore, they usually occur in layers of leaky sandstone, where the resource trap is in the rock’s pores.
Also Read: What is Oil Sand? Resources and History of Oil Sands
Step 2: Installing A Suitable Casing And Blowout Prevention Device
For deepwater drilling, energy companies will use semi-submersible floating drilling rigs or drilling ships. These systems are positioned with GPS technology and motors and can extract resources from water depths of 600 to more than 3,600 meters. The technology allows harmless drilling even offshore.
Once the first hole (called the top hole) is a drill, a sturdy steel sleeve is inserted into the hole and firmly cemented to fill the space between the rock and the outer wall of the steel pipe.
A subsea wellhead install and a blowout prevention device lower into the healthy opening to effectively seal it. It is a large, specialized mechanical device equipped with hydraulic rams to seal the hole if necessary. Drilling continues till the target depth reach, using progressively smaller diameter liners.
Step 3: Drilling And Completion Of Wells
If a resource is found, the well can be a “producer well” that allows the oil or natural gas to flow in a tightly controlled manner through the casing and “up” to the receiving platform. Typically this case is only about 20cm wide.
Once a production or exploration operation is complete, the well permanently sealed.
Each year approximately 90 wells are drilled off the coast of Australia.
Australia has been exploring the deep Sea for over 40 years.
The International Energy Agency defines “deep water” as a water depth of more than 400 meters.
The world’s initial deepwater fit drill in 1975 and the world’s primary ultra-deepwater well (over 1,500 meters) drill in 1986.
Today, deep / ultra-deepwater operations produce at least 3 billion barrels per day.
The current record for the most profound water depth on an offshore drilling rig is around 3,400 meters underwater.
For comparison: the recently approved Exxon offshore well in Victoria is only about 2,300 meters underwater.
The well Equinor plans to drill next year in the Great Australian Bight is located at a water depth of 2,239 meters.
Also Read: Midstream Oil Operations Defined
While Deepwater Drilling is effective, it has several risks and drawbacks. First, it is dangerous to drill at such depths as the complexity of the equipment increases significantly. Another risk of training in these locations is the harsh offshore environment.
The damage that deep-sea drilling causes to the ocean environment is a significant risk. Every time oil drills, different minerals are extracte from the ocean floor. The pipelines and infrastructure required to bring oil to shore from deepwater platforms also affect the onshore and coastal environment.
Offshore Deepwater Drilling has become a provocative topic in new years due to the large oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. However, with some setbacks, deep wells are still being drilled around the world as they are. They are effective in drilling down the road for oil.
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