In 2021, about 81% of well completions were done using directional or horizontal drilling.
Over the years, directional drilling has become increasingly popular compared to vertical drilling. While it may initially seem counterintuitive, directional drilling offers various benefits that make it one of the most effective drilling techniques for a range of projects.
In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about directional drilling. Keep reading for more.
What Is Directional Drilling?
Directional drilling is a drilling technique that’s typically used in the oil and construction industries. Oil companies use it to access underground oil reserves, and construction companies use it for a range of purposes.
Vertical drilling involves drilling directly downwards. Directional drilling can be any other direction sometimes a slight angle, sometimes completely horizontal.
Understanding Directional Drilling
Companies have been using directional drilling for about 100 years, and the drilling equipment involved has come a long way since then. Originally, it used the same equipment as vertical drilling, but modern equipment is much better at accommodating non-vertical drilling.
Hydraulic jets are one of the more modern pieces of equipment used. These guide the drill direction, and are highly reliable and efficient.
Drill operators control the angle of the drill bit in real time using computers. These are coupled with a locator which allows them to see the position and angle of the drill bit at all times. Find the latest locating systems if you want to be able to do this efficiently.
Advanced software even allows engineers to produce 3D models of oil fields. This makes it easier to determine the best entry point for the drill and set up point for the drilling rig.
Advantages of Directional Drilling
Over the years, more companies have started using directional drilling. It offers various advantages, and these have become more substantial as the technology available has improved.
Directional drilling often allows companies to reach reservoirs that vertical drilling wouldn’t be able to reach. This can be due to location or shape, and being able to access these wells results in better productivity. In some cases, traditional drilling methods may not even be able to access the entirety of a well.
Because it doesn’t go straight down, it’s possible to use longer pipe lengths. Several wells can also be drilled from the same location. This helps to save time and money, making the whole process more efficient.
Reduced Environmental Impact
Environmental impact is one of the major negative effects of the construction industry, and even more so within the oil industry. Being able to reduce the environmental impact of a project is always a good thing.
In many cases, directional drilling requires fewer wells than vertical drilling to obtain the same yield. This reduces the surface disturbance and minimizes the effects of oil spills. Such issues can pollute the local environment and harm the ecosystem.
It also tends to use less water and produce less waste than traditional drilling methods. Some other drilling methods may even require explosives, which isn’t the case with directional drilling.
Safety is always an important factor when working with heavy machinery. Due to the way directional drilling works, fewer employees are needed on site, which naturally lowers the risk. The operator can control the drill from a remote location so they won’t be in any danger.
Directional drills can go under bridges, rivers, roads, buildings, and more. This avoids damaging the surface and keeps the risk of accidents to a minimum.
Companies often choose to create boreholes far in advance. This makes it easier to plan things out and avoid gas ruptures.
There are various aspects of directional drilling that make it an economical solution. One of these is the reduced need for piping installations and less surface disturbance. This means fewer materials are needed, helping to keep material costs down.
Fewer workers are needed on-site, which lowers the overall labor costs. It’s also often a faster method, and the faster you can get a project done, the less it will cost.
This is perhaps one of the most important benefits, as it directly relates to the results you’ll get. It’s more accurate than traditional methods thanks to the advanced technology used.
With vertical drilling, the drill will go in a specific direction that can’t then be altered. When it comes to directional drilling, however, the operator will have full control over the drill bit.
You can choose the direction to get started in, and make adjustments as needed. This is ideal for drilling under structures as you won’t need to disturb them.
It’s worth noting that directional drilling operations can be quite complex. Things need to be planned out properly to ensure there are no issues.
If an oil well is found, there could be challenges in accessing it using traditional methods. In some cases, it would require sectioning off areas that people often use. This could interfere with public areas, traffic, or even businesses.
There’s far less need for this with directional drilling. As such, local people can go about their day-to-day lives without issue.
Should Your Company Be Using Directional Drilling?
This ultimately depends on the project you’re looking at, but in many cases, it’s the best option. Directional drilling often results in the best yield and is more efficient overall. It’s also typically safer and more environmentally friendly than traditional drilling techniques.