UH Professor Touts Extended Reach Drilling Technology for Environmentally Sensitive Areas

A University of Houston professor is trying to get the word out about an offshore drilling technology that doesn't utilize offshore rigs or platforms. Houston Public Radio's Ed Mayberry reports.

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Extended reach drilling enables long horizontal offsets to be drilled radially several miles out into a body of water from a central onshore site. That might help in environmentally sensitive areas where there is opposition to setting up offshore drilling rigs and producing platforms. The technology has been around for a while, according to University of Houston Geosciences research scientist Tom Bjorklund.

"It began in field drilling with just very short horizontal drilling and over the past decade it's developed much longer potential for drilling horizontal wells. In fact, it's reached as far as seven miles horizontally offset from the drilling location."

Bjorklund discussed extended reach drilling in a presentation at the recent AAPG annual convention in Long Beach, as a less-instrusive way of reaching huge volumes of oil and gas awaiting recovery offshore California.

"Environmental groups have the greatest exposure to the public in California, and their view is 'no offshore drilling.' And it's a very difficult--even onshore drilling is difficult--because of all the regulation. Virtually all major company exploration in onshore California Los Angeles basin near-shore areas stopped about 35 years ago."

Bjorklund says while Congress has been discussing drilling hundreds of miles offshore, they've been missing the possibility of reaching out as many as seven miles offshore without offshore rigs or platforms.

"The use of extended reach drilling from onshore locations to offshore locations was a technology that hadn't been considered in any of the national energy policy debate I'd been reading about in the papers. So I thought we need to make the public more aware of what can be done in offshore development without installing more platforms."

Bjorklund says the industry and California residents historically have had a delicate relationship, but this technology could make safe development of the huge offshore resources possible.

"Well, all of the environmental issues that often come up with offshore drilling are mitigated with the onshore development: spilling of fluids in the ocean, pipelines in the ocean, which are the greatest source of spills these days in the Gulf of Mexico. And it's economic."

Ed Mayberry, Houston Public Radio News.

Bio photo of Ed Mayberry

Ed Mayberry

Local Anchor, All Things Considered

Ed Mayberry has worked in radio since 1971, with many of those years spent on the rock 'n' roll disc jockey side of the business...