How Deep Do We Drill for Oil?

Whether directly or indirectly, we all have contact with oil in one way or another. Whether it’s about getting hot water in our homes or fuel in our vehicles, oil is a part of our daily lives. It will be no wonder if some people never think where it came from or how it is extracted, but we are consuming more and more oil every day than it is replacing itself. Since it takes millions of years for oil to replenish itself in the earth, it is safe to say it is a finite resource. What does this mean for our consumption level and finding a replacement? We should begin to ask some questions like could we be running out of oil? How deep do we have to drill to get to it?

How Deep Do We Drill For Oil?

Still Moving Deeper Underground

There was a time when oil reserves were discovered bubbling on top of the earth’s surface in the middle east but that is not around anymore. From some of the earliest records, oil wells were around 3,600 feet deep in the 1940’s. not up to 60 years later, those shallow reserves were depleted and oil wells started getting close to 6,000 feet deep. Some years the increase in depth is not significant but the trend of increase is a constant one. The truth remains that we keep digging deeper for oil because it is running out.

Diagram of Earth's Crust

It is not an easy task to bring out oil from the ground. About 71% of the surface of the earth is covered in water and this only increases the complications involved. Old as well as new technologies have to be used to drill oil offshore and onshore at the same time. The results from innovative methods in the industry have been spectacular so far.

Types of Deep Water Drilling Rigs

There are 2 basic types of mobile drilling rigs for deepwater drilling, semi-submersible drilling rigs, and drill ships. Deep water drilling can also be performed from a fixed position installation which is anchored to the sea floor which includes Jack-up Rigs, Complaint-tower Rigs, Floating Production System, Tension-Leg Platform, Subsea System and Spar Platform.

World’s Deepest Oil Wells

There are some real life examples of deep oil wells we can examine to put things in perspective.

  • Texas oil well: the great canyon is about 2,600 feet below the earth, and the average Texas oil well is even deeper at 3,500 feet.
  • Moshen-1: this oil well is deeper still. It is deeper underground than the hydraulic fracturing and is at 24,600 feet.
  • Deepwater Horizon: this oil well was the cause of the disastrous 2010 BP oil spill and is at 35,050 feet.
  • Z-44 Chayvo Well : the winner, and world’s deepest oil well is in Russia at 40,502 feet deep.

Deep Drilling

Kola Superdeep Borehole

Deep drilling occurs in various applications other than oil drilling such deep drilling for natural gas, mining drilling geothermal power production, and scientific drilling.

Natural Gas drilling is similar to deep water drilling offshore and on onshore for oil. Top five countries involved are Russia, Iran, Qatar, Turkmenistan and United States.
Mining drilling is done for exploring and locating mineral mines.

Geothermal drilling is done to study high-temperature hydrothermal systems as deep as supercritical zones. It is done to use geothermal fluids that can improve power production. Iceland has a huge Geothermal drilling project underway. 24 countries are part of The International Geothermal Association (IGA) which produce Geothermal power. Top five countries with highest Geothermal electric capacity are United States, Philippines, Indonesia, Mexico and New Zealand.

Scientific deep drilling is done to study the Earth’s crust. Main countries involved in scientific drilling include but not limited to are Russia, Germany and Japan.

World Records Involving Deep Drilling

World record apart from deep water oil drilling include Kola Superdeep Borehole in Russia which reached the depth of 40,230 feet in 1989 and still is deepest drilled point below the Earth’s surface.