Directional Drilling

Directional drills are used in the practice of non-vertical wells and have been an integral part of the oil and gas industry since the 1920s. Directional drilling includes three main specialised applications: extended-reach drilling (ERD), multilateral drilling and horizontal drilling. ERD can be used to access offshore reservoirs from land locations without the need to construct a platform. Multilateral drilling allows the operator to comprise more than one wellbore that has been drilled from and is connected to a single main bore. Finally, horizontal wells are drilled to a point above the reservoir, and it is then deflected, and the angle will increase to 90 degrees or more. Using horizontal drilling can help to overcome the problem of water and gas coning, as well as improve productivity.

Directional drilling is a technique used by oil-extraction companies to access oil in underground reserves. Directional drilling can also be referred to as directional boring. Most oil wells are positioned above the targeted reservoir, so accessing them will involve drilling vertically from the surface through to the well below. Directional drilling is different as it involves drilling at a non-vertical angle. Basically, directional drilling is used to describe any drilling that doesn’t go straight down.

How Does Directional Drilling Work?

As we mentioned directional drilling is a term used to describe a boring that doesn’t go in a straight line vertically down. In a vertical well, it might be necessary to deviate to avoid a geological formation or a previous stuck pipe, and then return to the original path.

Until around twenty years ago, drilling an oil well was nothing more than a long straight hole in the ground. The only way to reach the oil was to drill from directly above the intended formation.  If the area was not accessible, either from an obstruction by manmade objects or geophysical obstacles such as mountains, there would be no way to reach these deposits. This obviously annoyed the drilling industry so they began looking for a solution.

History of Directional Drilling?

In the 1800s drilling was restricted to blind vertical drilling, with no steering or surveying to know where the bit was going. It was not till the 1920s that the industry first became aware of wellbore deviation of apparently vertical holes. Once the operators could survey the holes they realised that they had drilled holes with up to 50° +/- of inclination.  

It was Sun Oil that recruited Sperry Corporation in 1926 to use gyroscopic-based technology to make survey tools to help them accurately measure borehole inclinations and directions. Using this method aided the operator to measure precisely across three different axes and determining a borehole’s azimuth and inclination.

The in 1929 H. John Eastman created magnetic single-shot and multi-shot instruments which measured both inclination and direction. They also had mechanical timers that triggered a camera to record the survey on film.

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