There is a popular saying among oil and gas drillers which goes: “A good cable-tool man is just about the most highly skilled worker you’ll find.” In the olden days, this saying was true to the last word. Mining was a very complex matter back then and finding a reliable cable-tool man who could bore a straight, sturdy well right to the bottom of the seas and bring oil to the ground was tough. Even today, drilling oil and gas remains a very complex process that costs multiple millions to several billion dollars.
However, one thing that has changed since man first brought oil to the surface of the earth is the technology used to accomplish that process. Drilling which basically refers to digging deep holes began long time ago even before oil and gas became of meaning to man. For centuries, man had to dig by hand or shovel as these were the best technologies available. Often, the drillers ended up with serious injuries as some were buried in the mines and others burnt to death in “burning springs.”
The first advancement of drilling technology came in the form of a spring pole that could be used to assist in pummelling holes into the ground to find water. The water would then be used to produce salt in a process known as brining.
The advent of cable tooling brought a different dimension to the oil and gas drilling industry. Drillers would use a wooden chisel to drill deeper and deeper into the earth’s surface. Later, steam power was introduced and the drillers found yet another way to deepen their drills since steam provided more power than humans ever could.
By 1901, the rotary rig had been discovered which could drill up to 11,000 feet or more. In Russia, for example, an oil rig managed to drill a 40,000-foot deep oil well within ten years. Today’s drilling is essentially based on the initial principle of the rotary rig.
As many as 20 new drilling technologies are currently being studied. These include; laser jet rock cutting, hydrothermal spallation, electrical plasma, erosion drilling, chemical plasma drilling, and direct transfer of heat. The one that has attracted most attention is high-energy electrical plasma. This method has lower energy efficiency than most of the other technologies but is also comes with several advantages. For instance, it makes production of boreholes of different ranges of diameters possible. However, only a very small number of oil and gas drilling companies have embraced the technology till now. Hopefully, more companies will embrace it after they witness its immense potential.