In general terms, directional drilling refers to the process of drilling a pilot hole along a defined route between predetermined entry and exit points. In the oil and natural gas industry, directional drilling is defined as the science or practice of deviating a wellbore to a predetermined underground location.
Directional drilling is useful because it makes the boring of underground holes without disturbing the surface possible. In oil exploration, it also allows the drilling of multiple holes from a single rig.
Directional drilling has a wide range of applications not only in the construction industry but in oil exploration as well.
Here are some of the most common applications for directional boring:
1. Side Tracking
One of the primary applications of directional boring, side tracking, deflects a borehole by creating a new one at any point higher than the bottom of the old hole.
Sidetracking was originally intended as a bypass for obstruction lost in the original wellbore. It was later utilized for other purposes like exploring the capability or extent of a producing area of a particular section of a field. It is possible to make multiple sidetracks from a single wellbore, with each of those drilled for a different purpose.
2. Straight Hole Drilling
This method of drilling is intended to keep the hole vertical for certain reasons including:
- To avoid crossing lease lines
- To comply with specifications of the drilling contract
- To be consistent with the well spacing requirements of a developed field
3. Controlled Directional Drilling
This drilling method is used for drilling multiple wells from a man-made structure such as man-made islands, drilling pads or offshore platforms.
4. Inaccessible Locations Drilling
This drilling method is used when oil deposits are located beneath locations that are difficult to access including rivers, buildings, mountains, and shorelines. It is also applicable to contractors who are engaged in installing utility pipelines in areas where buildings, roads, and structures exist on the surface. This is the method used by drilling companies in Colorado and the directional drilling Denver businesses prefer.
5. Fault Drilling
This is applied in situations where it would be difficult to drill a vertical well such as steeply inclined fault planes.
6. Salt Dome Exploration
Producing formations in some oil fields are covered by hard caps of overhanging salt domes. Directional drilling is the best way to get access to the oil in these formations.
7. Relief Well Drilling
This is a highly specialized type of directional drilling. It is especially useful when a well blows out or becomes uncontrollable and inaccessible from the surface. When this situation arises, a relief well is necessary to intersect with the uncontrolled well, then mud and water are pumped out from the wild well into the relief well.
8. Horizontal Well Drilling
Horizontal well drilling is an application of directional drilling which is used to retrieve oil or natural gas where the reservoir is difficult to access. Horizontal wells are typically dug at an angle greater than 80 degrees to a vertical wellbore. They can also be utilized to maximize the production of wells that haven’t been efficiently drained with other methods.
9. Drilling Multilateral Wells
This is another application of directional drilling. It is used for drilling additional wells from a parent well, allowing a single well to produce from multiple reservoirs. Drilling multilateral wells is a practical approach for increasing production at lesser costs.
Directional boring has a lot of applications and they are all useful depending on the industry and situation where they are utilized. In the construction industry, we use directional drilling as a means to create a trenchless path for laying underground utility pipelines.
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