What is Slant Drilling

There are several advantages to slant drilling that are causing a lot of interest around the country with environmentalists. First of all, with slant drilling, you can actually drill several wells by using one platform. This takes up less space, less land, and is more environmentally efficient. The second benefit to slant drilling is the fact that a platform could sit on the shore, while drilling under a lake or into the seabed, eliminating the need for an offshore rig.

Slant drilling is just that. In the oil industry, it is a method of drilling for oil using a slant method, by drilling nearly, perpendicular lines to the oil, instead of the more common vertical drilling angle.

A normal drilling operation requires that, once an area is designated as a possible site for oil or natural gas, a well is dug straight down, and then run horizontally. With a slant drilling technique, the initial drilling operation runs downward at a slant, with the possibility of a greater chance of making contact with the oil or gas.  

The fact is that not all wells are vertical, and this did not become accepted or recognized until the early 20th century, when complaints were filed against oil companies for encroaching on adjoining property. Property owners that adjoined oil and gas fields complained that the oil wells were actually taking oil out of reservoirs on their property with their processes.

The first step in using the slant drilling method, is to determine the inclination of the wellbore. Through the wonders of underground testing and viewing technology, scientists can predetermine where the drilling should take place, and keep an eye on how the drilling is progressing through the use of small remote cameras.

Some of the benefits of slant drilling include, increasing the reservoir by drilling through more of the actual reserve, and the possibility of drilling where vertical drilling would not be allowed, or is too difficult, such as under a town or a lake.

Another benefit, of course, is that you get more wellhead for your dollar. One wellhead can actually tap into several wells from the same facility, in many circumstances, replacing expensive, and potentially dangerous alternatives, such as offshore drilling. Offshore rigs are costly, require housing for workers, and pipes or ships to move the fluids to shore.

Slant drilling has its safety perks as well. Wells, that are out of control, or “blow out” wells can be contained easier using “relief wells”, that can be drilled to relieve the pressure build up in the original wellbore. Fluid is pumped into the relief wellbore to contain the high pressure in the out of control wellbore.

Those who oppose slant drilling do so mostly for legal issues. In the past there was some concern over slant wells encroaching on other’s personal property or even other country’s personal space. Since slant wells go horizontally, they could easily be on their own land, and still trespass underground. New techniques can produce slant operations that could easily stretch underground for hundreds of miles.

In the past, one of the main objections of slant drilling was the time and expense, but new methods have increased the efficiency of this method, and new equipment has decreased the initial expense.

In general, decreasing the number of oil rigs would definitely be a plus for the landscape, but the legalities of underground pipes beneath state and national boundaries will undoubtedly lead to complicated and costly legal concerns.