While there is some disagreement as to its prospects, some say that offshore drilling looks to be one of the biggest growth markets in the energy industry. In an effort to find more viable deposits, producers are turning to ultra-deep-water projects for new supplies. Goldman Sachs predicts that the offshore drilling industry will grow 40 percent annually through 2016. Some of the most promising advancements in offshore drilling have come from extended-reach horizontal drilling. While more difficult than traditional vertical drilling, recent technological advancements have helped improve horizontal drilling’s accuracy and helped lower its cost.
Extended reach drilling, or ERD, of horizontal wells isn’t a new idea. In the 1970s, British Petroleum’s Wytch Farm project was the first to use ERD to reach deposits under Poole Bay, just off the coast of Dorset. Because the area was a popular recreation destination, traditional vertical drilling was not going to be possible. Instead, BP used a horizontal method, extending about 33,000 ft., to develop the field with minimal environmental impact. Their efforts actually won them the Queen’s Award for Environmental Achievement. You don’t often hear of petroleum companies winning environmental awards.
Extended reach drilling starts off like traditional drilling. Beginning at an on-shore site, the well is initially drilled vertically and then deviated, continuing horizontally…