They say, rich is a person who has stacks of gold in his locker. But blind are these people who can see the uselessness of this yellow metal but cant see the usefulness of the most precious substance to human life,i.e. oil. Probably some people did realise its utility and named it “the black gold”.
The name “black gold” is aptly personified, it is the genuinely the most important ingredient of human lives and we all know it how. Oil is a fossilised fuel which is used in “n” number of ways.It is found deep inside the earth crust. Now, we all are aware of the process that leads to the formation of oil. But very few of us know how it is procured. Someone would definitely answer, they just drill in the earth and get it out. But the real questions in how? Really want to know? Then read on.
Deep sea drilling-What lead to it?
Millions of barrels of oil are consumed everyday throughout the world and this demand is increasing each day. To meet this unquenchable demand, petroleum companies are leaving no stone unturned to seek new and valuable sources of oil. This search of theirs has taken them to distant and unexplored places in the remotest corners of the world. They have already drilled all the possible places on land but just couldn’t get enough.
Three-fourth of the earth is covered with water. The only option left with these companies was to explore the ocean beds. Moreover scientists came to a conclusion that there is more oil available beneath the sea beds than it is available on land. Thus, as necessity is mother of invention, they started looking for ways to drill oil from the sea bed.
A Brief History
Drilling oil from land is achievable but how to do it from the floor of oceans? Keeping in mind the great depths, uneven surfaces and the dark and unfriendly environment, it was near to impossible even to envision such an idea. The solution came in the form offshore platforms, the first being installed in 1897 near California. This was very near to the land. In later years, companies started exploring deep seas. The first deepest and farthest oil drill was built in the Gulf of Mexico in 1947.
Today oil drilling platforms resemble floating cities with hundreds of people living and working on it. These drilling platforms have all the facilities that are available on land. Moreover they have oil drilling facilities that explore oil 4000 feet into the depths. Some of the platforms are the largest floating structures on earth. You can take a look at the pictures below and that will give you an idea about the concept of oil rigs and platforms
Let us have a look at the different methods these petroleum companies take into consideration for digging out this black gold.
Hunting for Oil
Even though the process of drilling is quite elaborate, the difficulty starts much before that. The reason for this is obvious since one cannot spend huge sums of money, time and efforts unless there is some certainty about the presence of oil in a region.
Before starting to drill, how do the companies find out if the surface has oil reserves below it? Geologists have come up with different methods to sense the presence of oil below a surface of earth which vary in their reliability and usage depending on situation. These methods are as follows.
Gravity Meter - this method of detection is depends on detecting a deviation or fluctuation in gravity caused by subterranean flow of oil. But this method is not viable if millions of dollars are invested in the whole process, as the gravity varies with depth.
For higher reliability companies use two main methods to check reserves of oil
- magnetic survey
- seismic surveying
Once the presence of oil is found under a surface, the place is marked, exploratory drills are carried out and government permission is sought for. We will continue our exploration and extraction of black gold from the oceans in our next article.
Drilling Technology in Nontechnical Language by Steve Devereux