Fuel for Thought

  • How Far Do We Drill To Find Oil?

How Far Do We Drill To Find Oil?

Nov 05 2014 Read 4834 Times

From our cars to heating our homes, most of us come into contact with oil - albeit indirectly - on a daily basis. But have you ever considered where it came from? How deep underground did we have to go to actually find it?

We’re going deeper underground

Back when records began, oil wells were an average of 3,635 feet deep. But that was 65 years ago - and since 1949 we have used up these ‘shallow’ reserves. Oil is a finite resource, meaning we now have to dig deeper to find it - with the 2008 average depth coming in at an average of 5,964 feet. It’s a steady upward trend and, except a few odd years, the figure looks set to grow.

Extracting oil from the ground is far from simple. The challenge is made all the more apparent considering around 71% of the earth’s surface is covered by water. That means we have to dig both onshore and offshore, via oil rigs, fast drilling techniques, and other technologies. The industry is constantly having to innovate and adapt to changing depths of extraction - and the results are certainly impressive.

The deepest oil wells in the world

We’ve covered the average depth of oil wells, but what about the deepest examples? Here’s where the topic gets really interesting - and almost incomprehensible.

First, imagine the depth of the Grand Canyon. The average Texas oil well is 900 feet deeper again - but this is quite literally just scratching the surface. Hydraulic fracturing reaches depths ranging from 5,000 feet to 20,000 feet. Now consider the average depth of the ocean - 12,430 feet - and you’re beginning to get an idea of scale.

But this is far from the deepest method of oil extraction. Deepwater Horizon - the well responsible for the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico - sits at 35.505 feet beneath the surface. And the world’s deepest oil well - Sakhalin-I in Russia - reaches an incredible 40,604 feet. That’s 7.7 miles or 15 times the height of the world’s tallest building the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

As time goes on, we are having to go deeper and deeper underground in order to find oil reserves. But as the years go by, technology and engineering takes great leaps forward. The question is - where will it stop? Will we be able to reach the deepest oil reserves? Or will it run out before we get to that point?

In this article, we’ve looked at how deep companies drill for oil, but how it oil located in the first place? You can find out in: How to Find Oil and Gas

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