Challenges for Offshore Oil and Gas Production

Oil and gas production methods are dangerous and require special fail-safe devices and constant monitoring, even under the best situations. However, when they are in the water, miles from land, they pose a whole different level of concern. While accidents are rare, they are costly and dangerous when they do occur. Finding the spot to drill in the first place requires equipment and expertise, especially when the depth of the water may be in the thousands of feet.

First of all, offshore rigs are more expensive to build and maintain. Unlike onshore operations, where equipment can be trucked to the site, all equipment must be sent by ship to the proposed site. The site itself must be built to withstand waves, storms, and the occasional hurricane.

Workers on offshore rigs are housed where they work, so accommodations on the rig must include housing, kitchen facilities, and other necessities for an extended stay. And supplies must be continuously shipped to the rig, sometimes under adverse weather conditions.

The drilling process itself, once everything is in place, may take a long time, and thousands of feet of line. Working under pressure in deep water requires technology that will allow the job to get done without endangering workers. Much of this is accomplished through remote control devices and robotics, which are capable of being manually controlled to do every job from guiding pipe and line to tightening bolts. Blowout protectors, standard safety measures for every oil operation, are more difficult to install under water, and more difficult to maintain. They are also more difficult to monitor.

From a safety and environmental perspective, offshore rigs are harder to evacuate in case of emergency, and more difficult to control environmentally in the event of a disaster.

One solution to the problem of offshore drilling is slant drilling. With this process, you can technically drill offshore, under the seabed, or lake, and still keep the rig on shore. Drilling is run horizontally, once it reaches a certain level, and can continue for miles under ground in any direction. In fact, one rig can accommodate several different wellbore sites.

With this method, there would be no need to house workers, consequently cutting down on the cost of transporting materials out to sea, the actual wellbore would be easier to monitor, and emergencies easier to handle. There is no doubt that we need these wells, so technology will continue to make them more cost efficient, and safer to operate.