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An oil well is a boring in the Earth that is designed to bring petroleum oil hydrocarbons to the surface. Usually some natural gas is released as associated petroleum gas along with the oil. A well that is designed to produce only gas may be termed a gas well.

History

an early oil field exploitation in Pennsylvania, around 1862

The earliest known oil wells were drilled in China in 347 CE. These wells had depths of up to about 240 metres (790 ft) and were drilled using bits attached to bamboo poles.[1] The oil was burned to evaporate brine and produce salt. By the 10th century, extensive bamboo pipelines connected oil wells with salt springs. The ancient records of China and Japan are said to contain many allusions to the use of natural gas for lighting and heating. Petroleum was known as burning water in Japan in the 7th century.[2][3]

According to Kasem Ajram, petroleum was distilled by the Persian alchemist Muhammad ibn Zakarīya Rāzi (Rhazes) in the 9th century, producing chemicals such as kerosene in the alembic (al-ambiq),[4][verification needed] and which was mainly used for kerosene lamps.[5] Arab and Persian chemists also distilled crude oil in order to produce flammable products for military purposes. Through Islamic Spain, distillation became available in Western Europe by the 12th century.[2]

Some sources claim that from the 9th century, oil fields were exploited in the area around modern Baku, Azerbaijan, to produce naphtha for the petroleum industry. These places were described by Marco Polo in the 13th century, who described the output of those oil wells as hundreds of shiploads. When Marco Polo in 1264 visited Baku, on the shores of the Caspian Sea, he saw oil being collected from seeps. He wrote that "on the confines toward Geirgine there is a fountain from which oil springs in great abundance, in as much as a hundred shiploads might be taken from it at one time."[6]

Galician oil wells

In 1846, Baku (settlement Bibi-Heybat) the first ever well was drilled with percussion tools to a depth of 21 metres (69 ft) for oil exploration. In 1848, the first modern oil well was drilled on the Absheron Peninsula north-east of Baku, by Russian engineer F.N. Semyenov.[7]

Ignacy Łukasiewicz, a The earliest known oil wells were drilled in China in 347 CE. These wells had depths of up to about 240 metres (790 ft) and were drilled using bits attached to bamboo poles.[1] The oil was burned to evaporate brine and produce salt. By the 10th century, extensive bamboo pipelines connected oil wells with salt springs. The ancient records of China and Japan are said to contain many allusions to the use of natural gas for lighting and heating. Petroleum was known as burning water in Japan in the 7th century.[2][3]

According to Kasem Ajram, petroleum was distilled by the Persian alchemist Muhammad ibn Zakarīya Rāzi (Rhazes) in the 9th century, producing chemicals such as kerosene in the alembic (al-ambiq),[4][verification needed] and which was mainly used for kerosene lamps.[5] Arab and Persian chemists also distilled crude oil in order to produce flammable products for military purposes. Through Islamic Spain, distillation became available in Western Europe by the 12th century.[2]

Some sources claim that from the 9th century, oil fields were exploited in the area around modern Baku, Azerbaijan, to produce naphtha for the petroleum industry. These places were described by Marco Polo in the 13th century, who described the output of those oil wells as hundreds of shiploads. When Marco Polo in 1264 visited Baku, on the shores of the Caspian Sea, he saw oil being collected from seeps. He wrote that "on the confines toward Geirgine there is a fountain from which oil springs in great abundance, in as much as a hundred shiploads might be taken from it at one time."[6]

Galician oil wells
According to Kasem Ajram, petroleum was distilled by the Persian alchemist Muhammad ibn Zakarīya Rāzi (Rhazes) in the 9th century, producing chemicals such as kerosene in the alembic (al-ambiq),[4][verification needed] and which was mainly used for kerosene lamps.[5] Arab and Persian chemists also distilled crude oil in order to produce flammable products for military purposes. Through Islamic Spain, distillation became available in Western Europe by the 12th century.[2]

Some sources claim that from the 9th century, oil fields were exploited in the area around modern Baku, Azerbaijan, to produce naphtha for the petroleum industry. These places were described by Marco Polo in the 13th century, who described the output of those oil wells as hundreds of shiploads. When Marco Polo in 1264 visited Baku, on the shores of the Caspian Sea, he saw oil being collected from seeps. He wrote that "on the confines toward Geirgine there is a fountain from which oil springs in great abundance, in as much as a hundred shiploads might be taken from it at one time."[6]

In 1846, Baku (settlement Bibi-Heybat) the first ever well was drilled with percussion tools to a depth of 21 metres (69 ft) for oil exploration. In 1848, the first modern oil well was drilled on the Absheron Peninsula north-east of Baku, by Russian engineer F.N. Semyenov.[7]

Ignacy Łukasiewicz, a Polish[8][9] pharmacist and petroleum industry pioneer built one of the world's first modern oil wells in 1854 in Polish village Bóbrka, Krosno County[10] who in 1856 built one of the world's first oil refineries.[11]

In North America, the first commercial oil well entered operation in Oil Springs, Ontario in 1858, while the first offshore oil well was drilled in 1896 at the Summerland Oil Field on the California Coast.[12]

The earliest oil wells in modern times were drilled percussively, by repeatedly raising and dropping a cable tool into the earth. In the 20th century, cable tools were largely replaced with Ignacy Łukasiewicz, a Polish[8][9] pharmacist and petroleum industry pioneer built one of the world's first modern oil wells in 1854 in Polish village Bóbrka, Krosno County[10] who in 1856 built one of the world's first oil refineries.[11]

In North America, the first commercial oil well entered operation in Oil Springs, Ontario in 1858, while the first offshore oil well was drilled in 1896 at the Summerland Oil Field on the California Coast.[12]

The earliest oil wells in modern times were drilled percussively, by repeatedly raising and dropping a cable tool into the earth. In the 20th century, cable tools were largely replaced with rotary drilling, which could drill boreholes to much greater depths and in less time.[13] The record-depth Kola Borehole used a mud motor while drilling to achieve a depth of over 12,000 metres (39,000 ft).[14]

Until the 1970s, most oil wells were vertical, although lithological and mechanical imperfections cause most wells to deviate at least slightly from true vertical (see deviation survey). However, modern directional drilling technologies allow for strongly deviated wells which can, given sufficient depth and with the proper tools, actually become horizontal. This is of great value as the reservoir rocks which contain hydrocarbons are usually horizontal or nearly horizontal; a horizontal wellbore placed in a production zone has more surface area in the production zone than a vertical well, resulting in a higher production rate. The use of deviated and horizontal drilling has also made it possible to reach reservoirs several kilometers or miles away from the drilling location (extended reach drilling), allowing for the production of hydrocarbons located below locations that are either difficult to place a drilling rig on, environmentally sensitive, or populated.

Before a well is drilled, a geologic target is identified by a geologist or geophysicist to meet the objectives of the well.

  • For a production well, the target is picked to optimize production from the well and manage reservoir drainage.
  • For an exploration or appraisal well, the target is chosen to confirm the existence of a viable hydrocarbon reservoir or to learn its extent.
  • For an injection well, the target is selected to locate the point of injection in a permeable zone, which may support disposing of water or gas and /or pushing hydrocarbons into nearby production wells.

The target (the end point of the well) will be matched with a surface location (the starting point of the well), and a

The target (the end point of the well) will be matched with a surface location (the starting point of the well), and a trajectory between the two will be designed. There are many considerations to take into account when designing the trajectory such as the clearance to any nearby wells (anti-collision) or if this well will get in the way of future wells, trying to avoid faults if possible and certain formations may be easier/more difficult to drill at certain inclinations or azimuths.

When the well path is identified, a team of geoscientists and engineers will develop a set of presumed properties of the subsurface that will be drilled through to reach the target. These properties include pore pressure, fracture gradient, wellbore stability, porosity, pore pressure, fracture gradient, wellbore stability, porosity, permeability, lithology, faults, and clay content. This set of assumptions is used by a well engineering team to perform the casing design and completion design for the well, and then detailed planning, where, for example, the drill bits are selected, a BHA is designed, the drilling fluid is selected, and step-by-step procedures are written to provide instruction for executing the well in a safe and cost-efficient manner.

With the interplay with many of the elements in a well design and making a change to one will have a knock on effect on many other things, often trajectories and designs go through several iterations before a plan is finalised.

The well is created by drilling a hole 12 cm to 1 meter (5 in to 40 in) in diameter into the earth with a drilling rig that rotates a drill string with a bit attached. After the hole is drilled, sections of steel pipe (casing), slightly smaller in diameter than the borehole, are placed in the hole. Cement may be placed between the outside of the casing and the borehole known as the annulus. The casing provides structural integrity to the newly drilled wellbore, in addition to isolating potentially dangerous high pressure zones from each other and from the surface.

With these zones safely isolated and the formation protected by the casing, the well can be drilled deeper (into potentially more-unstable and violent formations) with a smaller bit, and also cased with a smaller size casing. Modern wells often have two to five sets of subsequently smaller hole sizes drilled inside one another, each cemented with casing.

To drill the well
Well Casing
  • The drill bit, aided by the weight of the drilling rig which contains all necessary equipment to circulate the drilling fluid, hoist and turn the pipe, control downhole, remove cuttings from the drilling fluid, and generate on-site power for these operations.

    Completion

    Modern drilling rig in Argentina

    After drilling and casing the well, it must be 'completed'. Completion is the process in which the well is enabled to produce oil or gas.

    In a cased-hole completion, small holes called perforations are made in the portion of the casing which passed through the production zone, to provide a path for the oil to flow from the surrounding rock into the production tubing. In open hole completion, often 'sand screens' or a 'gravel pack' is installed in the last drilled, uncased reservoir section. These maintain structural integrity of the wellbore in the absence of casing, while still allowing flow from the reservoir into the wellbore. Screens also control the migration of formation sands into production tubulars and surface equipment, which can cause washouts and other problems, particularly from unconsolidated sand formations of offshore fields.

    After a flow path is made, acids and fracturing fluids may be pumped into the well to fracture, clean, or otherwise prepare and stimulate the reservoir rock to optimally produce hydrocarbons into the wellbore. Finally, the area above the reservoir section of the well is packed off inside the casing, and connected to the surface via a smaller diameter pipe called tubing. This arrangement provides a redundant barrier to leaks of hydrocarbons as well as allowing damaged sections to be replaced. Also, the smaller cross-sectional area of the tubing produces reservoir fluids at an increased velocity in order to minimize liquid fallback that would create additional back pressure, and shields the casing from corrosive well fluids.

    In many wells, the natural pressure of the subsurface reservoir is high enough for the oil or gas to flow to the surface. However, this is not always the case, especially in depleted fields where the pressures have been lowered by other producing wells, or in low permeability oil reservoirs. Installing a smaller diameter tubing may be enough to help the production, but artificial lift methods may also be needed. Common solutions include downhole pumps, gas lift, or surface pump jacks. Many new systems in the last ten years have been introduced for well completion. Multiple packer systems with frac ports or port collars in an all in one system have cut completion costs and improved production, especially in the case of horizontal wells. These new systems allow casings to run into the lateral zone with proper packer/frac port placement for optimal hydrocarbon recovery.

    Production