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Horizontal Drilling
April 5, 2010 5:03 AM   Subscribe

Please take a few minutes to watch this video about our horizontal shale oil drilling practices.
posted by three blind mice (60 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Interesting! I knew about non-vertical drilling before, but it was neat to see the process explained in more detail.
posted by FishBike at 5:24 AM on April 5, 2010


I liked the remake better.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 5:31 AM on April 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


Insert obligatory milkshake joke here.
posted by twoleftfeet at 5:35 AM on April 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


One of my favorite Library of Congress Headings is Boring -- Conferences. There is never as much material with that heading as I imagine there should be.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:35 AM on April 5, 2010 [9 favorites]


Also, there are many good user names here. "Tripping Pipe," "Perfing and Fracing," and "Temporary Wellhead" are all particularly nice.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:40 AM on April 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


This post was brought to you by the Burns Slant Drilling Co.
posted by Electric Dragon at 5:42 AM on April 5, 2010 [7 favorites]


I prefer the original.
posted by Pollomacho at 5:43 AM on April 5, 2010


That's some fantastic industrial porn.
posted by NoMich at 5:44 AM on April 5, 2010


Finally, we can get to all that oil inconveniently located under schools, nature reserves and sacred indian burial grounds.

Also, it's funny how they call it "new energy."
posted by chillmost at 5:56 AM on April 5, 2010


This technology is impressive. Barring a quick end to world oil consumption (ha ha) a technology that allows for some latitude in where to place the well-head and for placing multiple well-heads in the same location in order to lessen the surface environmental impact is a good thing.

The background music and calm narration made me nostalgic for grade school film time in the 70's too. I could almost hear the sound of the projector.
posted by vapidave at 6:03 AM on April 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


I DRINK YOUR MILKSHAKE!

sorry
posted by mccarty.tim at 6:06 AM on April 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


This has been going on since at least the early 1990s (remember the first Gulf War?). Maybe the 1980s. I find it interesting, but not new.
posted by Houstonian at 6:12 AM on April 5, 2010


Going after shale oil always makes me think of a junkie licking the inside of those little plastic bags, hoping to get that last taste after running out.
posted by mediareport at 6:25 AM on April 5, 2010 [27 favorites]


MetaFilter: A mixture of water and chemicals called "mud".
posted by The Bellman at 6:29 AM on April 5, 2010


"Kick-off point" and "the lateral" makes it clear that the developers of the horizontal drilling technology like their football. Recently, though, there have been concerns about the environmental impact of horizontal fracturing, particularly since oil companies have started making plans to extract natural gas from the Marcellus Shale underlying large parts of PA and NY.
posted by tss at 6:53 AM on April 5, 2010


MetaFilter: A mixture of water and chemicals called "mud".

Haha. I was just about to comment on that.
posted by delmoi at 7:07 AM on April 5, 2010


Going after shale oil always makes me think of a junkie licking the inside of those little plastic bags, hoping to get that last taste after running out.

When it comes to the Bakken Shale, it's more like a junkie sitting on a mountain of a billion little plastic bags, laughing his ass off before overdosing and dying.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 7:08 AM on April 5, 2010


Metafilter: This process is called "Tripping Pipe".
posted by delmoi at 7:09 AM on April 5, 2010


Really choppy video for me, a shame as it looks interesting. They should have just hosted it on YouTube.
posted by Meatbomb at 7:12 AM on April 5, 2010


Use of potentially harmful chemicals kept secret under law
posted by KokuRyu at 7:18 AM on April 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


When it comes to the Bakken Shale, it's more like a junkie sitting on a mountain of a billion little plastic bags

Hmm?

The greatest Bakken oil production comes from Elm Coulee Oil Field, Richland County, Montana, where production began in 2000 and is expected to ultimately total 270 million barrels. In 2007, production from Elm Coulee averaged 53,000 barrels per day (8,400 m3/d) — more than the entire state of Montana a few years earlier.[12]

The U.S. consumes 20 million barrels of oil. PER DAY

So that one field gives us a whole 13 day supply.
posted by delmoi at 7:19 AM on April 5, 2010


These fat, round, thick-ass pipes be runnin' in the ground so deep it be cryin'. Yeah, you thought it was oil.

Pretty sure those are the same guys that made this video, anyway.
posted by GooseOnTheLoose at 7:25 AM on April 5, 2010


Why not drill under the Eiffel Tower? (Warning: egregious stock tout link).
posted by chavenet at 7:28 AM on April 5, 2010


I have to admit I prefer hearing about horizontal drilling and stimulation in contexts other than the production of petroleum.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:32 AM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have to admit I prefer hearing about horizontal drilling and stimulation in contexts other than the production of petroleum.

Another perspective.
posted by Pollomacho at 7:41 AM on April 5, 2010


delmoi, that's just one field.

An April 2008 USGS report estimated the amount of technically recoverable oil within the Bakken Formation at 3.0 to 4.3 billion barrels (680,000,000 m3), with a mean of 3.65 billion. The state of North Dakota also released a report that month which estimated that there are 2.1 billion barrels (330,000,000 m3) of technically recoverable oil in the Bakken.

So, on the low side, the Bakken could supply all the U.S. oil demand-- all of it-- for almost three years. That is A LOT of oil. If a junkie was sitting on a three-year supply of heroin they would be very, very happy and, chances are, very, very dead.

The point of mediareport's metaphor is not lost on me, though... yes, we are addicted to oil and sure enough, we're scrounging for more resources that will indeed one day run out.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 7:48 AM on April 5, 2010


Is that a human voice?
posted by mrgrimm at 7:49 AM on April 5, 2010


Wikipedia's article about oil shale gives an estimate of 2.8-3.3 trillion barrels of recoverable oil from oil shale. Taking the low end of that estimate, at a global oil consumption rate of 85 million barrels of oil per day (from that page delmoi linked to), there's about 90 years of supply from oil shale alone. So there's quite a bit of this, it seems.
posted by FishBike at 7:51 AM on April 5, 2010


I have to admit I prefer hearing about horizontal drilling and stimulation in contexts other than the production of petroleum.

Isn't santorum a petroleum byproduct?
posted by me & my monkey at 7:51 AM on April 5, 2010


I was thinking of doing an FPP about a related story, mostly about how drilling and sea water fracking cause earthquakes in Texas natural gas drilling.

I want to be the kind of environmentalist that takes a staunchly pragmatic approach; fuck cute bunnies and trees, toxic waste sludge and rivers that catch fire are what worry me. I still haven't decided where I think "harmless" earthquakes fall on that spectrum. On the one hand, it hasn't caused any property damage or injury to life. On the other hand, oh my god we are making earthquakes.

Either way, it seems to be acceptable to (Texan) environmental regulators and the oil drilling companies so it doesn't show signs of stopping.
posted by fontophilic at 8:12 AM on April 5, 2010


I like the end of the video, where the camera pans out on the utopian view of more and more little oil well-heads dotting the once uselessly empty countryside...
posted by Scattercat at 8:32 AM on April 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


. . . and then cue the flag.
posted by Ickster at 8:46 AM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


As I'm watching this, I'm thinking wow, this is a lot of time, energy, expense, and risk just to avoid walking to work and turning out the damn lights.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 8:46 AM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


since oil companies have started making plans to extract natural gas from the Marcellus Shale underlying large parts of PA and NY.

Some of that is in progress right now on the property next to my parents' farm. They've been putting up a dozen rigs for natural gas within a mile or two of their place. The initial rigs are huge, vertical towers, that once activated, have several "burn off" days that shoot flames 100' or more. Then the giant rig is removed, a small pump and storage tank is installed, and then they only return to empty the storage tank occasionally.

I have been somewhat impressed with their operation. They are giving a fair rental rate to anyone who owns the property their gear is on, and those with mineral rights (almost the entire county's mineral rights were bought up in the 30's during the depression, but my family had been living on that property of over 20 years, so we got our mineral rights back, luckily) get a cut of the profits, and even those who just have lines running across their property, get paid by the foot for the pipelines.

Their cleanup process after the install is good, the only things that remain are two metal boxes, about 40'x15x15, and a well made gravel driveway. Looks pretty much like a car garage in the middle of nowhere. They've put a lot of work in improving the roads around the sites, some of which the county/township never could get around to paying for. They have gone out of their way to keep the landowners and locals happy, and it's been a great infusion of cash to the local farms, who can always use some extra reliable income.

My family's only problem was their trucks were knocking over a part of our split rail fence once a week at least. Understandable, it's a tight turn on a narrow road, and those trucks are huge. They kept paying my parents to replace it, and they told us our fence was known by all the drivers and managers of their company from Pennsylvania to Texas. Finally, they asked if they could remove a section of it, and they would buy us a whole new fence once the rig installs were complete. Even though the well itself is about 100' from out fence on our neighbor's side, they'll be getting a cut of the returns on the well as well.

So my experience wasn't too bad, people generally feel they are getting a fair shake, and I'm happy my parents will have some additional income when they retire soon.
posted by chambers at 9:08 AM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


me & my monkey: "Isn't santorum a petroleum byproduct?"

petroleum based lubes dissolve latex condoms, so it really shouldn't be.
posted by idiopath at 9:11 AM on April 5, 2010


"Next, because the shale is tight, the well will have to be fracked."

BSG fans may commence giggling here
posted by koeselitz at 9:24 AM on April 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Going after shale oil always makes me think of a junkie licking the inside of those little plastic bags, hoping to get that last taste after running out.

Conventional oil (the stuff you can get with oil wells) is estimated to be 30% of total oil reserves. The other oil resources require something other than simple drilling to obtain the resource. That's not a junkie licking the inside of the bag, it's the dealer driving farther and hire more bodyguards to get his shipment, because the junkie is willing to pay more.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:39 AM on April 5, 2010


What the frak!
posted by zonem at 9:41 AM on April 5, 2010


Metafilter: Perfing and Fracing
posted by djrock3k at 9:42 AM on April 5, 2010


In the short term anyway, shale oil and gas as an emerging source of energy production is going to be fairly disruptive, much like the Internet has affected print media and advertising. New technologies allow previously inaccessible reserves to be exploited, meaning more and more small scale operations in places that have never had an oil and gas industry (upstate New York and Poland, for example).

Increased production is also bringing the price of natural gas down (or keeping it down), which has major negative effects for governments that have leveraged petrodollars over the past decade to finance expensive entitlement programs.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:46 AM on April 5, 2010


it's the dealer driving farther and hire more bodyguards to get his shipment, because the junkie is willing to pay more

For stuff that's dirtier and more difficult to process, and which produces more toxic byproducts (greenhouse gases, e.g.) than the already dirty stuff the junkie's already hooked on.
posted by mediareport at 9:48 AM on April 5, 2010


Keep in mind that most of the oil is pretty well mapped. What happens is that as the cost of oil increases, what had been previously prohibitively expensive to recover then becomes profitable to recover.

My great grandfather bought then-useless mineral rights all over West Texas back in the 1920s, at less than pennies on the dollar. The rights were located below 3,000 feet, at the time, not recoverable. During the 1950's they began production of that oil, and there are pumps still producing today, though not much. However, the extension of Barnett Shale down at 11,000 to 15,000 feet is now a hot property, and is very rich source of natural gas.

So, y'all use as much natural gas as you can! Let's get that price up! Over $10 per MCF would be sweet, sweet, sweet!
posted by Xoebe at 9:50 AM on April 5, 2010


Do we have to have the conversation about URR vs extraction rate in every thread about oil? Let's have it again.

URR (Ultimately Recoverable Reserves) is a relatively unimportant measure of a field. Extraction rate is the Thing That Matters. Low extraction rate relative to daily requirements is what makes most of these unconventional sources of "oil" (because sometimes the shit that comes out of these places does not bear much resemblance to what you probably think of as oil) an unconvincing answer to the peak argument.
posted by adamdschneider at 10:00 AM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


What happens is that as the cost of oil increases, what had been previously prohibitively expensive to recover then becomes profitable to recover.

Yeah, that's the key, and the part that keeps reminding me of a junkie. It's a bizarre market-driven rush to squeeze the last profitable drop of shitty oil from the planet because the addicts will pay whatever it costs, when we should be weaning ourselves off the drug completely and onto healthier alternatives. The idea that relentlessly rising oil prices will make licking the bag economically feasible should horrify anyone with a brain.
posted by mediareport at 10:03 AM on April 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


To run with the junkie metaphor, imagine if methadone took 20 years to get started and cost 10 times more in the beginning than heroine?

Thats a roughly accurate picture of what the (mostly) carbon-free, baseload-ready, technology of nuclear power looks like in the US.

You're going to have to expect the junkie to stop living hand to mouth, save capital, and start planing for something 20 years from now. Trying this with free-market capitalism should be fun.
posted by fontophilic at 10:18 AM on April 5, 2010


So, if nuclear is heroine, and oil is meth, what does that make coal and solar panels?

I really don't know the economics (of drugs or energy), but I like to think solar is pot, in that you can set it up at your house and grow your own power. Coal's probably crack, in that it's cheap, unhealthy, and destructive.

Meanwhile, biofuel is Jenkem.

NOT-VEGGIEOILCAR-IST
posted by mccarty.tim at 11:21 AM on April 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


Opps, got it backwards re: meth and heroine.
posted by mccarty.tim at 11:33 AM on April 5, 2010


This method of drilling is used for other purposes too - geothermal and water namely. Great video.
posted by Big_B at 12:17 PM on April 5, 2010


Meth isn't methadone, it's crystal methamphetamine...
posted by sexyrobot at 12:25 PM on April 5, 2010


Yeah, I'm offering nuclear (methadone) as a less harmful drug to become permanently addicted to. Liberals should like it for it's positive effect on getting people off drugs (carbon-free), but in reality they don't like the effect it has on their property values!

Solar might be kinda like pot, except it can't be grown everywhere and won't get you nearly as high.

Maybe wind is like E, it's only any good at night and you need to drink lots of water. (uphill water pumping as off-peak energy storage)
posted by fontophilic at 12:33 PM on April 5, 2010


Do we have to have the conversation about URR vs extraction rate in every thread about oil? Let's have it again.

URR (Ultimately Recoverable Reserves) is a relatively unimportant measure of a field. Extraction rate is the Thing That Matters. Low extraction rate relative to daily requirements is what makes most of these unconventional sources of "oil" (because sometimes the shit that comes out of these places does not bear much resemblance to what you probably think of as oil) an unconvincing answer to the peak argument.


Were we talking about Peak Oil?

The shit that comes out of the places relevant to the FPP (tight oil plays, like the Bakken) is actually light sweet crude. Don't confuse your unconventional resources: oil shales -- like the immature kerogen rich rocks of the Colorado Plateau, oil sands -- like the Albertan Athabasca sands, and shale gas (Barnett, Marcellus, many others) are totally different things. A lot of the technology used to make the Bakken tight oil and various shale gas plays work are the same, however.

The production rate of horizontal multi-frac completion in tight rocks is similar to a conventional vertical well in more permeable rocks. Since oil companies are very sensitive to the time value of money, production rate matters hugely, and there would be no Bakken play if, as you insinuate, you could only get a trickle out of a tight oil play.

Mediareport:
As has been pointed out, your metaphor is a bit off. The junkie part is fair enough, but the idea that all are left is the dust in the bag that we're left licking? Well, the fact is that the hydrocarbon resources (meaning the total hydrocarbon endowment of the Earth) is many, many orders of magnitude greater than our hydrocarbon reserves (amount of oil and gas that are known with a high degree of confidence, and are economically producible under current conditions). Its like you've been handed a dime bag of coke in the middle of a ten thousand acre farm of coca leaves. There's a lot more where that came from, if you can work it. But its probably better just to drop the metaphor.

Its not just economics driving the push to unconventionals -- adjusted for inflation, oil was a lot more expensive at the turn of the 80s than today. Shale gas wasn't even considered as a possibilty two decades ago. Subsalt production in 3 kilometers of water was unimagineable in the 60s. No one knew that sand reservoirs even existed off the continental shelves, let alone that we could find them and produce them. Junkie done and got smart.

Finally, decrying the shift away from the low hanging fruit (conventional onshore production of the supergiant fields) is not simpe either. Some of the unconventionals are arguably problematic (Albertan oil sands, for reasons of water pollution and CO2 emissions), but some unconventionals arguably represent the possibility of a huge step forward to decreasing carbon dioxide emissions: replacing coal fired electricity with shale gas electrical generation really is the low hanging fruit on the road to decarbonizing our energy system.
posted by bumpkin at 12:56 PM on April 5, 2010 [6 favorites]


Were we talking about Peak Oil?

Not directly, no, but we were kind of dancing around it with the idea that this represents X years of our usage from URR numbers.

I am intrigued by the rest of your comment. I have more than a little interest in this issue, and it's always cool to have your comment get smacked around by someone with real knowledge.
posted by adamdschneider at 1:09 PM on April 5, 2010


Multistage fraking
posted by doctoryes at 1:25 PM on April 5, 2010


While the technology is interesting, the environmental damage potential of hydrofracing for oil or natural gas is tremendous.

Each hydrofrac operation requires about 3 million gallons of water, which ends up being treated with approximately 15,000 gallons of chemicals that make the water gel for a brief period (for better fracture?). The frac water will probably come from the aquifer that they've been so careful to protect (thank you). Trucking in that much water is very likely impractical.

When all of the hydrofracturing is done, the now really contaminated water contains, in addition to the chemicals added on purpose and a bunch of undissolved solids, heavy metals, perhaps radionuclides (there is uranium in SW Virginia), and dissolved minerals that weren't there before. The water has to go somewhere. Back to the aquifer? Into a river or creek? Just onto the ground? I don't know. I don't know if there are any regulations.

If a community impacted by this drilling actually has wastewater-treatment facilities, which many do not, they are going to have a problem. Many people in those areas likely to be impacted rely on well water. And folks are getting pretty excited about leasing land to the Marcellus Shale developers. I shudder when I think of what might happen.
posted by WyoWhy at 1:56 PM on April 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


A lot of frac water actually is trucked in. In shales, salty brines are preferred and these may be taken from a saline acquifer, in which case no competition with domestic or ag use occurs.

The additives are typically hydrocarbons -- generally light ends, polymers and proppant. The precise recipe varies from play to play, from oil services company to oil services company and is kept extremely secret. Generally, the clients (that is, the exploration company) aren't privy to the full details either. Here's the rationale: the services companies do not patent their fracing formalae, because these would then go on record, and could be copied without the patent holder being aware of infringement. The research monies that go into fracing technology is in the hundreds of millions of dollars. The problematic side is that a local landowner with a well could have a hard time establishing whether her well drawing from an acquifer contaminated by fracing fluid.

From a contamination standpoint, hyrdrocarbons and volatile organics are the main concern. Things like benzene, for instance, which is a carcinogen. The other major additive is "proppant": this will be fine sand grains, beads of silica, or specificaly shaped pieces of silica or aluminum (prisms, plates, other shapes). This serves to hold open the fractures that the fluids have opened up. These are completely inert.

So what happens to the fracing fluid? Well, generally, it doesn't make it anywhere near any fresh water acquifers since the shale gas plays are thousands of feet below the surface and few fresh water acquifers are anywhere near that deep (if there were a connection, there wouldn't be any hydrocarbon accumulation, since hydrocarbons are generally lighter than water and rise in water saturated rocks). The fluid fills the new formed cracks, some of it is absorbed into the formation but most will be produced along with gas or oil. Producing water along with gas or oil is pretty typical, and provision has to be made to separate water from the fluid. Treatment and disposal procedures vary greatly (and yes, there are regulations), but it is very common to re-inject into an old, unsuccessful well converted into a disposal well, or reinjected deeper to maintain reservoir pressure.

Again, the concern is that a shallow, freshwater acquifer can be contaminated, either by the fracing fluid or hydrorcarbons along newly formed connectivity. On the one side, there is typically on the order of thousands of feet of rock separating the fracced and producing horizons from freshwater acquifers. On the other, it is a weird fact about fraccing is that no one really knows the geometry and extent of the fracture network. The new fractures can be imaged indirectly at best.
posted by bumpkin at 3:39 PM on April 5, 2010 [6 favorites]


some unconventionals arguably represent the possibility of a huge step forward to decreasing carbon dioxide emissions: replacing coal fired electricity with shale gas electrical generation really is the low hanging fruit on the road to decarbonizing our energy system.

bumpkin, I'd love to learn more about the above claim. Can you point me to anything online, or books or whatever?
posted by mediareport at 4:39 PM on April 5, 2010


The model presented in this video looks tidy and safe, but I'm not sure that the actual practice of Marcellus Shale drilling follows this model. It's been a pretty sticky topic in West Virginia for the past few months, especially after a giant fish kill in Dunkard Creek (technically in PA but on the border with WV). I think the official culprit blamed was a leak from an existing abandoned mine, but a lot of the evidence pointed to illegal dumping of shale waste waster, most notably the number of Total Dissolved Solids in the water.

There's been a couple of other incidents of possible water contamination from Marcellus Shale - here's one newspaper article that mentions a few of them. The Dunkard Creek was big news here for sure.

On a smaller scale, I've talked to a few folks in WV (mostly up near Wheeling) who weren't that happy with the shale drilling that they agreed to have done on their property. One older couple was sure that their cattle were dying because of water contamination. Another wasn't very happy with the restoration they did on the impacted site.
posted by ajarbaday at 7:38 PM on April 5, 2010


I liked the remake better.
I prefer the original.


I have this on VINYL!

...these are the jokes, folks.
posted by drfu at 12:21 AM on April 6, 2010


Non-profit journalism concern ProPublica has a long series of investigative reports up about this method of gas drilling. There are a lot of unknowns about the environmental impact of this stuff. The chemicals and water they pump down there have to end up somewhere, after all. See here, and keep scrolling down, as there's a lot of reports: http://www.propublica.org/series/buried-secrets-gas-drillings-environmental-threat

The graphic on this page includes some steps (the trucks, the waste water) that the industrial video seems to leave out: http://www.propublica.org/special/hydraulic-fracturing-national
posted by blueloggy at 8:01 AM on April 6, 2010


The video shows a practice that covers environmental concern. However, once this starts to take off inevitably competition will cut out that step. In the 90's coal bed methane was producing a lot of money in northeastern Wyoming. Then every land owner jumped in and of course went with the lowest bidder. You can't make Wyoming uglier so nobody there cared about dumping toxins on the ground as long as it created temporary jobs.

Montana is down river from Wyoming so Montana's started getting pissed. If Montana didn't have a geologist governor and a M&M CEO living on the Tounge river, the coal bed methane would probably never stop dumping toxic chemicals.

All you have to do is spend a day in Butte, Montana to see why the state is a little touchy about companies polluting and then taking off.
posted by agent of bad karma at 10:59 AM on April 6, 2010


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