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High-impact drilling and completion technologies

Advances in technologies used for well drilling and completion have enabled the energy industry to reach new sources of oil and natural gas to meet rising demand around the world. New technologies have also helped reduce the environmental impact of energy production by allowing more oil and gas to be produced with fewer wells.

For example, the Gorgon Jansz development offshore northwest Australia includes wells that deliver natural gas at rates in excess of 300 million cubic feet per day. Just one of these wells could meet the residential gas demand of more than 40 million households in China every day.

Advances in technologies will play a critical role in meeting global energy demand because they enable the discovery of new resources, access to harsh or remote locations and the development of challenged reservoirs that previously were not economic to produce.

The Arctic is the world’s largest remaining frontier of undiscovered oil and gas resources. With its remote location, harsh weather and dynamic ice cover, the Arctic presents extraordinary challenges. Technology solutions include ice-resistant and iceberg-resistant platforms, iceberg surveillance research to characterize the hazards associated with icebergs and simulation capabilities to predict the potential magnitude of ice impacts.

For example, at the Sakhalin-1 project offshore eastern Russia, advances in drilling technologies have enabled several fields far offshore to be reached by a land-based drilling rig, improving production rates and reducing environmental risk.

These fields have been developed with the Yastreb rig, one of the world’s largest and most sophisticated land-based drilling rigs. Since 2007, ExxonMobil has drilled 43 of the world’s 50 longest extended reach wells, including the Z-44 well drilled at the Chayvo field. This well extended for a total length of 12,376 meters (40,604 feet) — more than 7 miles. Because of the application of other proprietary technologies, these Sakhalin-1 wells were also the fastest-drilled extended reach wells in the world.

Well completion is the final step of the drilling process, where the connection to hydrocarbon-bearing rock is established. Here again, advances in technology have enabled more oil and natural gas to be recovered from the length of each well, improving production and reducing the environmental footprint of energy production.

For example, by combining extended reach drilling capability with advanced stimulation technology, operators can optimize how and where stimulation fluid interacts with rock, allowing sustained production rates along the length of the wellbore. Companies are pushing completions in excess of 3,000 meters (9,842 feet) in length, compared to a typical completion of 30 meters a couple of decades ago. 

These types of drilling and completion technologies have also enabled the recent growth in production from shale and other unconventional oil and gas reservoirs in North America, using a combination of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal, extended reach drilling. ExxonMobil’s Piceance project in Colorado pioneered the capability to place multiple hydraulic fractures in a single well, and was first to use efficient pad drilling operations that now characterize all unconventional oil and gas production.