The World’s Deepest Oil Well: How Bad Science Spreads on the Internet

Guest eye-rolling by David Middleton

This eye-catching blog post was published in 2017 by “Fuel Fighter“…

Figure 1. Wrong.

Fuel Fighter sells home heating oil in the UK… Yet this has been treated as if it was an actual oil industry source.

It was picked up by Internet “news” sites like Business Insider

The world’s deepest oil well is over 40,000 feet deep
Jeff Desjardins, Visual Capitalist Mar. 21, 2017, 7:33 PM

In the world’s deepest gold mine, workers will venture 2.5 miles (4 km) below the Earth’s surface to extract from a 30-inch (0.8m) wide vein of gold-rich ore.

While these depths are impressive, mining is limited by the frailty of the human body. Going much deeper would be incredibly dangerous, as limitations such as heat, humidity, logistics, and potential seismic activity all become more intense.

Luckily, the oil industry does not have such human obstacles, and drilling deep into the Earth’s crust is instead limited by a different set of circumstances – how deep can the machinery and technology go before the unfathomable heat and pressure renders it inoperable?

The world’s deepest oil well

Today’s infographic comes to us from Fuel Fighter, and it helps to visualize the mind-boggling depths of the world’s deepest oil well, which is located in a remote corner of eastern Russia.

[…]

Business Insider

Several “sciencey” websites also described it as the deepest oil well in the world and/or reposted the Fuel Fix infographic:

And it generated hilarious comments like this:

Remember folks: oil may be found 13 km deep but oil that’s of biotic origin! Rotten dinosaurs, honest!

Seriously, the Russians were right all along, oil is obviously of abiotic nature. Or at least, ALSO of abiotic nature.

“Cloggie” at Peak Oil

While several of the media reports and the Fuel Fix infographic allude to drilling “sideways” or “extended-reach,” they all seem omit the word “vertical.” And all of them leave the reader with the impression that this is the deepest oil well ever drilled. This isn’t even wrong.

When wells are drilled, the depth is measured from a reference datum, usually the Kelly bushing (KB) of the drilling rig. In vertical holes, the measured depth equals the true vertical depth. In directional drilling, the measured depth is greater than the true vertical depth. The greater the hole angle, the bigger the difference.

Figure 2. TVD vs MD. Drilling Course

Measured depth is basically how far the well was drilled. True vertical depth is how deep the well was drilled.

The Chayvo wells were impressive accomplishments…

ERD advances push limits on Chayvo wells

Apr 22, 2014
Extended-reach drilling project from onshore rig surpasses previous Sakhalin campaigns, sets world records for MD

By Vishwas P. Gupta, ExxonMobil Development Co; Angel H.P. Yeap, Kyle M. Fischer, Randall S. Mathis, Exxon Neftegas; Michael J. Egan, consultant to Exxon Neftegas

The second drilling campaign at the Chayvo field, located offshore Sakhalin Island, targeted a new reservoir zone using extended-reach wells from onshore. A total of four oil producers and one gas injector were planned to develop the northern portion of the reservoir. To effectively drain the east and west flanks of this reservoir, record-length wells beyond the current extended reach drilling (ERD) envelope were required. Key challenges included high torque and drag, wellbore positioning in a thin oil column, wellbore stability, long horizontal completions, and downhole tool telemetry.

Three of the project wells set ERD records for measured depth (MD). The longest well, Z-42, established records for MD (12,700 m) and horizontal reach (11,739 m). Completion designs were optimized to successfully run an approximately 3,600-m open-hole completion, and the well was finished in approximately 70 days.

[…]

Drilling Contractor

While the Chayvo wells are impressive in terms of measured depth, they aren’t particularly deep.

Figure 3. Drilling Contractor

The measured depth (MD) of “the world’s deepest oil well” is over 40,000′. However, the true vertical depth of “the world’s deepest oil well” is only about a very unremarkable 11,000′ deep… The Z-44 well was designed for a horizontal completion, so its measured depth was exceptionally long. It’s not only not “the world’s deepest oil well,” it’s about 20,000′ shy of the deepest oil well in the Gulf of Mexico, possibly deepest in the world. BP’s Tiber discovery on Keathley Canyon Block 102 logged oil pay below 30,000′ TVD. Despite its depth, the bottomhole temperature was only about 280 °F, within the oil window. This discovery has yet to be developed. However, there are quite a few oil wells in the Gulf producing from oil reservoirs at true vertical depths of 20,000′ to 28,000′. All of these have bottomhole temperatures less than 300 °F

Deeper wells have been drilled for natural gas. One of the more interesting was the Lone Star Producing Company’s Bertha Rogers #1 in the Anadarko Basin of Oklahoma.

On April 13, 1974, Bertha Rogers No. 1 reached a total depth of 31,441 feet – where it encountered liquid sulfur. According to Lone Star Producing Company, the bottom hole pressure and temperature were an estimated 24,850 pounds per square inch and 475 degrees Fahrenheit respectively. It required about eight hours for bottom hole cuttings to reach the surface almost six miles above.

“It was the deepest hole in the world until it was surpassed by a well in the Soviet Union several years later,” Dorman reports. “Even so, Bertha Rogers reigned as the deepest well in the United States for three decades, finally exceeded in 2004.”

[…]

Although no gas was produced at its record depth, the well was successfully competed as a natural gas discovery at 13,000 feet. “Like its predecessors, the Bertha Rogers as a business venture was a losing proposition,” he notes. “It cost $7 million but yielded relatively little gas. Some observers classified it as an ultra-deep dry hole.”

[…]

Among the deepest wells in the world have been the “Kola Superdeep Borehole,” a 1989 experimental well drilled the Soviet Union. It reached 40,230 feet deep. In 2008, an oil well was drilled to 40,318 feet in Qatar. In 2011, a 40,502-foot well was drilled offshore of the Russian island of Sakhalin.

American Oil & Gas Historical Society

The MD vs TVD issue even evaded the notice of the American Oil & Gas Historical Society.

Personal connection: Lone Star Producing became Enserch Exploration in 1975 and was my first employer in the oil & gas industry. I worked for Enserch from 1981-1997. Many of the executives had pieces of sulfur that were recovered from the Bertha Rogers well.

The Chayvo oilfield

The Chayvo oilfield is very impressive for many reasons; however the depths of the wells and the oil & gas reservoirs are not among those reasons. The reservoirs are relatively shallow, young (Miocene to Pliocene Epochs) and the entire total petroleum system is within the Neogene Period (less than 23 million years old.

Figure 4. North Sakhalin Basin TPS Stratigraphic Column (Lindquist, 2000)

The Chayvo prospect was first identified on 2d seismic surveys in 1971, drilled in 1979 and assessed as a gas resource in 1982. At this time development was deferred. In the mid-1990’s, Russia opened up its oil & gas potential to western companies and ExxonMobil went to work:

Figure 5. Chayvo Field Overview (Apotria et al., 2005)

Here is the Fuel Fighter infographic at the same scale as a cross-section of the Chayvo oilfield:

Figure 6. Perspective… What a novel concept! Cross section from Apotria et al., 2005.

References

Apotria, Ted, Poffenberger, Mike, Powell, Rick & Venner, Bridget. (2005). Chayvo Field, Sakhalin Island, Russia: Identification of a Significant Oil Leg From 3D Seismic and Execution of a World-Class Extended-Reach-Drilling Program. AAPG 2007 Annual Convention, Long Beach, California, April 1-4, 2007. 10.2523/IPTC-10573-MS.

Handbook of Texas Online, Jeff Seidel, “ENSERCH CORPORATION,” accessed April 17, 2019, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/dqe01.  Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Lindquist, Sandra J. & USGS World Energy Assessment Team. & Geological Survey (U.S.). Office of the World Energy Resources Program. & Geological Survey (U.S.).  (2000).  The North Sakhalin Neogene total petroleum system of eastern Russia.  Denver, Colo :  U.S. Dept. of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey

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153 thoughts on “The World’s Deepest Oil Well: How Bad Science Spreads on the Internet

  1. That first map chart showing highest clouds at 29,000 feet is ridiculously wrong, as I am sure most people here know.
    Run of the mill T-storms are higher than this.
    Severe ones are typically 50,000′.
    And the ones over the ITCZ in the deep tropics can be 80,000′.
    Other types of clouds can be even higher, like nacreous clouds as much as 82,000′
    Noctilucent clouds can be several times as high as nacreous clouds.

    • You’ve gotta wonder how high they were when they made that graphic. I especially like how they depict it as soil the entire way down.

    • In 1976 or 77 when I was stationed at NAS Agana Guam the weather radar guys at Anderson AFB “painted” a stationary offshore thunderstorm at 85,000 feet. It was a beauty. It had three ‘anvils’ one above the other. Of course since it was in the tropics it didn’t have the dynamics to be severe but I’m sure if it had been over the island there would have been flooding.

      • That is amazing.
        There are some very interesting videos of large storms on you tube.
        Some of my favorites are the high speed filming of lightning, and the ones showing clouds from space, where red sprites and blue jets and such are visible.
        I was just looking at one report of a storm near the Texas Mexico border than reached 75,000′.

    • Anytime a graphic purports to equate altitude with depth in the Earth, you know the person(s) authoring the graphic are solely in it for publishing glory.

      Add in lazy research and their products are bad jokes.

    • I flamed out one engine in my F-4 at M1.6 (but very little indicated airspeed) at 65000ft on the TexArkana border. The tops of the extensive squall line were well over 10000ft above me! I had a fantastic weekend in OK City… Luckily I didn’t loose pressurisation otherwise I wouldn’t be here to write this drivel!

      • I honestly want to know: Are you happier for having this halcyon memory, or sadder because you can’t do things like that anymore? As I too get older and my kids are growing up, this is a key question.

        • Very happy to have the memory of this and many more close shaves but I have moved on to live a very full and exciting life. Commercial aviation, the natural progression for older fighter pilots, presented its own challenges – mostly the enormous responsibility of having close to 400 souls counting on my experience and judgement every time I went to work. I have enjoyed it all and am now embarking on a more cerebral journey; equally as challenging!

  2. Drilling four times further in a horizontal direction than in a vertical direction is impressive indeed.

    And it’s not like petroleum explorationists have had to look deeper for oil, we’ll look wherever the technology allows us to go. I would wager that more is being mined right at the surface today than at any point in history – again, it’s technology and economics, not being ‘forced’ to look elsewhere.

    • The fact that ExxonMobil geo’s identified the oil rims from seismic anomalies (multiple flat-spots) with sufficient confidence that they got the Chayvo-6A well drilled is possibly the most impressive thing.

  3. BTW, that chart did list the highest height for a hot air balloon, but not for a guy in a lawn chair with a six-pack of Miller beer.
    That record, of course, is over 16,000 feet.
    Held by some guy named Larry, who had only planned to go up about 30′ , but miscalculated.
    He won an official Darwin Award for that.
    Sorry if this was OT.

      • I saw this after posting.
        I was not aware Larry had launched a new extreme sports craze, although it seemed to be a more recent development.
        Too bad about that guy in South America.

      • Sadly, the story recounts that he committed suicide about 11 years later.
        The guy had style though: He shot himself through the heart, not the head.

    • Couldn’t have been an actual Darwin Award, which requires that the stunt kill you without progeny.

    • The graphic got the hot air balloon height wrong as well. Multiple sources say something to this effect: “On November 26, 2005, Vijaypat Singhania set the world altitude record for highest hot-air-balloon flight, reaching 21,290 m (69,850 ft). He launched from downtown Bombay, India, and landed 240 km (150 mi) south in Panchale.”

      But hot air balloon records, cloud heights, and the correct vertical well depth would have ruined the narrative.

      • I was going to check on those others, figuring they may all be wrong.
        He does seem to have the height of Everest at least approximately right.
        69,850′ for a hot air balloon is kind of surprising.
        But I could not think of a single reason why the number listed would be any sort of limit, unless maybe it referred to a person with no oxygen in an open gondola.
        Looking a little more closely, it seems perhaps Fuel Fighter, or whoever made that graphic, may have not known the difference between feet and meters.

      • Anyway, when I first saw the graphic, I immediately thought of the story of Joe Kittinger, who went all the way up past 100,000′ in a helium balloon back in 1960.
        Then jumped out with just a parachute.
        I recall the interview I saw, in which after he stepped off his platform, he thought he was not falling and was going to die when his oxygen ran out, since he was so high there was no sensation of wind rushing past him.
        But then he looked back up and saw his balloon receding away.
        That guy was brave.
        It took over 50 years for anyone to beat his record.
        Over 41 km is the present record.

      • The referenced well being about 30,000′ shy of 40,000′ deep didn’t exactly help the narrative .

  4. So the scientific ring leader alGore claims there are these incredibly hot rocks, several million degrees a couple of kilometers or so down.

    The Hugoton Embayment of the Anadarko Basin is 5,000 feet vertical TD. Now I hear they are leasing drilling beneath the gas pay zones.

  5. “However, there are quite a few oil wells in the Gulf producing from oil reservoirs at true vertical depths of 20,000′ to 28,000′”.
    Defenders of biotic origin oil are not worried about how dinosaur remains got to more than 5 miles below the Earth’s surface. That is quite some subduction. The dinosaurs must have met the Methane coming on the way up. Defence of existing hypotheses is always supported by the fear of a void in our understanding. Just-So stories in the garb of hypotheses support many current theories.

    • “That is quite some subduction”

      No. That is mostly Mississippi/Missouri. Go visit the Medicine Bow mountains in Wyoming. On top of the range there is a strange, flat plateau. Look around at the surrounding ranges. Plateaus at the same altitude.
      Those are remnants of the original pre-Oligocene land surface “the Medicine Bow Peneplain”. Most of the rocks originally below that level have been eroded away, carried downstream by the rivers and deposited in the Gulf.

      I recommend that you read up a bit on geology. You might want to start with McPhee’s “Annals of the Former World”, it’s a bit dated now, but still a good introduction to the history of the North American continent.

      • Much of which wound up under the Gulf of Mexico as beautiful 30% porosity, 1,000 milidarcy permeability reservoir “rock.” 😎

  6. Terrific post. Max Clouds height obviously wrong, vertical drilling depths obviously wrong (um, length does not equal depth unless plumb vertical…).
    Shows the many dangers of the internet. A subject explored in some depth in my ebook The Arts of Truth. Culminating long chapter was CAGW, vetted by Prof Lindzen of MIT just weeks before he retired. Cost me his lunch at the MIT faculty cafeteria, plus a couple of months of rewrite to respond to his many pointed comments. What a memory.

    • We seem to be living through a period of time where facts have become passé.
      At least it is easier than ever to check stuff, but the problem is, one has to have the idea that something is wrong or at least dubious, in order to make a decision to check.
      For too many people, what is truth has become a matter of who said a thing.

      • In this case… I had “filed” this away for a couple of years. I recalled a paper on the geology/geophysics of the Chayvo field… I knew the TVD’s were unremarkable, but I just never had the time to look up the drilling details.

  7. From the article: “The measured depth (MD) of “the world’s deepest oil well” is over 40,000′. However, the true vertical depth of “the world’s deepest oil well” is only about a very unremarkable 11,000′ deep.”

    Well, does finding oil (petroleum) at over two miles below the surface support the abiotic theory of oil formation or not?

    An abiogenic hypothesis for oil contained in subsurface geological formations was first proposed by Georgius Agricola in the 16th century, and most recently was popularized by Thomas Gold from 1980-2000.

    It’s hard to believe there has been that much vertical movement in Earth’s surface (i.e., two miles subduction) over the last several hundred thousand to several hundred million years. But I invite scientists more knowledgeable than me to comment on this.

    • It doesn’t support the myth of abiotic oil in the slightest.

      A few hundred million years is a lot of time for sediment to build up.

      • MarkW, well, one fairly comprehensive research paper “Variation of ocean sediment thickness with crustal age,” by Peter Olson, Evan Reynolds, Linda Hinnov, and Arghya Goswami, published online 17 APR 2016, and available for download at https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1002/2015GC006143 )
        indicates a global average ocean sedimentation rate of about 5 meters per million years, with a range of 1 to 11 m/Ma covering all the world’s oceans. At the maximum rate, this would only account for 2200 m of sedimentation over two hundred million years . . . that’s far short of the stated 3350 m (11,000 foot) true depth discovery of oil that I referenced. And I’m not even factoring in the compaction of the sediments as they pile up.

        “Myth” applied to the abiotic oil theory seems a little off-base if one cannot otherwise explain finding oil at such depths below where it is postulated to have first originated.

        • Red areas indicate ~20,000 meter sediment thickness.

          The Gulf of Mexico has accumulated more than 60,000′ of sedimentary column over the last 200 million years. The Cenozoic section, alone, is more than 40,000′ thick in places. The Quaternary can be more than 30,000′ thick in some locations. Most of the sedimentary column is composed of thick, organic-rich shale.

          Petroleum-like substances have been associated with hydrothermal vents in basins with thick organic-rich sediments. However nearby hydrothermal vents with little to no sediment cover (rises) do not exhibit evidence of “hydrothermal oil.”

          Producible oil doesn’t exist below the oil window, only gas. And the hotter it gets, the drier the gas. This isn’t based on a theory. It’s based on over 100 years of drilling.

          Crude oil cracks if exposed to temperatures above about 300°F for an extended period of time. It generally can’t exist at depths anywhere close to the mantle.

          Walker Ridge 758 Chevron #1 is the deepest active oil producer in the Gulf of Mexico; drilled to a true vertical depth (TVD) of 28,497’ (8.7 km) in a water depth of 6,959’. It was completed in a Lower Tertiary Wilcox sandstone (26,831’ – 27,385’). The bottom hole temperature was 226 °F. The oil migrated upward from deeper Mesozoic and Lower Tertiary source rocks. Even deeper oil reservoirs have been discovered in the oil window, many of these will be coming on production over the next few years.

          There are no oil wells in the Gulf of Mexico with bottom hole temperatures outside of the oil window. The ultra-deepwater Lower Tertiary oil discoveries are well within the oil window. The shallow water Lower Tertiary gas discovery at Davy Jones is well out of the oil window, but in the gas window… and has never produced anything.


          The depths on the chart are approximations based on a generalized geothermal gradient. The geothermal gradient is highly variable. Water and halite (salt) are less dense than most rocks. When the overburden consists of 8,000’ of seawater and 2,000’ of halite, 30,000’ of overburden weighs a lot less than it does when it’s all composed of more dense rocks.

          The ultra-deepwater Lower Tertiary play in the Gulf of Mexico and the deep subsalt plays offshore Brazil are often cited as examples of abiotic oil because the reservoirs are supposedly too deep, too hot and/or too highly pressured to be in the oil window. This is simply wrong.

          Tabular salt acts like a radiator. It conducts heat away from the substrata toward the surface. The combination of thick layers of salt and deep water depths enable oil to exist at depths previously unexpected. Salt and water are also less dense than most other overburden. This enables reservoir quality rocks to exist at deeper depths than previously expected.

          I’ve drilled wells deeper than 20,000’ in the Gulf of Mexico. The bottom hole temperatures were in the range of 215°F (100°C). Ten wells in the Gulf of Mexico, drilled to true vertical depths greater than 20,000’ have each produced more than 20 million barrels of oil. The maximum bottom hole temperature (213°F) was encountered in the Mississippi Canyon (MC) 777 TF001 well, drilled by BP. The average bottom hole temperature of those ten 20 million barrel producers was 197°F.

          It’s possible that crude oil-like substances can form at higher temperatures… however, producible volumes of oil haven’t been found below the oil window.

          https://wordpress.com/post/debunkhouse.wordpress.com/6995
          https://wattsupwiththat.com/2017/02/18/oil-where-did-it-come-from/

          • David Middleton, thank you for your very comprehensive, informative reply.

            I note that the NOAA graphic of total sedimentation across Earth’s oceans is generally consistent with the data presented in the Peter Olson, et. al. paper that I referenced above. The very low INDICATED sedimentation depth in the oceans far removed from the continental shelves must be the result of both seafloor spreading and subduction, and neither process occurs is the areas of deep red (greatest vertical depth of sediment) indicated in the NOAA plot: the Gulf of Mexico and the western part of the Indian Ocean. Of course, large quantities of oil are found in other ocean areas apart from just these two.

            Separately, do you know if oil extracted from vertical depths greater than, say, 5,000 m (~16,000 ft TVD) below land/seafloor surface has ever been scientifically age-dated? If the oldest oil sampled is not much beyond 400 million years age (~start of Carboniferous period), I believe that would be the “nail in the coffin” for the abiotic theory of oil.

            My quick Web search only turned up a reference to isotope dating Alberta oil sand deposits to 112 million years ago: https://phys.org/news/2005-05-world-age-oil.html . That announcement was 14 years ago, and I could not find a more recent article or publication on using this technique on oil.

            Has any oil sample been found to scientifically date to prior to the beginning of the Triassic period, approx. 250 Mya?

          • Where applicable, the oil has been dated and matched to geochemically consistent kerogen in source rocks. Dating methods include vitranite reflectance and 13C isotope ratios in diamondoids (which aren’t diamonds). The presence or lack of 14C can also be indicative of the age.

            The oceans were in a totally different configuration when most of the source rocks were deposited.

          • Yes…

            Ghawar’s source rocks are an organic-rich Silurian shale formation. The Bakken is Devonian. The most prolific source rocks are organic-rich (total organic carbon (TOC) >5%) marine shale formations, deposited under anoxic conditions. The conditions for source rock formation were most prevalent in the Jurassic and Cretaceous Periods.

          • David, thank you very much for the bar chart graphics from Grunau and Klemme & Ulmeshek. While they do not appear to based on directly dating the hydrocarbons, the geological strata referenced and those strata in which hydrocarbons have NOT been found in any significant quantity does, to me, seem to rule out the abiotic oil theory on the following grounds:
            1) No reasonable explanation for why hypothesized abiotic oil production would not have existed sometime prior to about 500 Ma ago, given Earth’s approximate age of 4,500 Ma.
            2) No reasonable explanation for why hypothesized abiotic oil production would have peaked 70-200 Ma ago and declined since then.

            One other observation: the higher ratio of gas to oil in the deeper (older) strata compared to that in the more shallow (younger) strata is consistent with the cracking of liquid hydrocarbons to produce gaseous hydrocarbons due to increasing heat with depth. However, if hydrocarbons (both gas and liquid) tend to percolate/migrate upward against gravity, as others have mentioned, one wonders what mechanism/geology is so effective at preventing gas diffusion for as long as 400 million years? Wow!

          • Those are source rocks, not reservoir rocks. It’s where the oil formed; not when it formed or where it was produced. The raw material in Cretaceous source rocks was deposited during the Cretaceous Period. The oil formed after the source material was buried to a sufficient depth to raise the temperature to 60-175 °C for an extended period of time. It can take 100’s of thousands to millions of years for oil & gas to form and then begin the long, slow process of migration from the source rocks into porous and permeable reservoir rocks with overlying impermeable rocks and lateral trapping mechanisms. Even then, the oil & gas aren’t permanently trapped. They eventually leak out or will eventually leak out.

            There’s no evidence of significant abiotic oil formation on Earth at any time in its history.

            It’s not a matter of ruling out abiotic oil. Traces of octane and other heavier hydrocarbons, presumably formed by the Fischer-Tropsch process have been detected at the Mid-Atlantic Lost City hydrothermal vent.

            Methane isn’t oil. Octane isn’t even oil. Oil is a mixture of complex hydrocarbons: alkanes (parafins), napthenes, aromatics and asphaltenes in highly variable ratios.

            This is perhaps the most geologically ignorant sentence I have ever read…

            However, if hydrocarbons (both gas and liquid) tend to percolate/migrate upward against gravity, as others have mentioned, one wonders what mechanism/geology is so effective at preventing gas diffusion for as long as 400 million years? Wow!

            It’s mind-boggling that you seem to think it’s clever. Other than oil & gas, what do you think occupies the pore space in sedimentary rocks?

          • David Middleton posted:
            “This is perhaps the most geologically ignorant sentence I have ever read…
            ‘However, if hydrocarbons (both gas and liquid) tend to percolate/migrate upward against gravity, as others have mentioned, one wonders what mechanism/geology is so effective at preventing gas diffusion for as long as 400 million years? Wow!’
            “It’s mind-boggling that you seem to think it’s clever. Other than oil & gas, what do you think occupies the pore space in sedimentary rocks?”

            My response: I believe liquid water is found in sedimentary strata around planet Earth . . . but then again it has been implied that I am ignorant of geology.

            There is no need for you to reply. Our dialogue is finished.

          • If you “believe” that water fills the pore space, how could you also think this?

            However, if hydrocarbons (both gas and liquid) tend to percolate/migrate upward against gravity, as others have mentioned, one wonders what mechanism/geology is so effective at preventing gas diffusion for as long as 400 million years? Wow!

            Setting aside the fact that the oil & gas haven’t been trapped anywhere for 400 million years… What does gravity have to do with oil & gas migrating upward?

        • I seem to have come in late and may be way down the totem pole here, but your fundamental problem is trying to evaluate or estimate local processes based on some “global average.”

          • Most of the seafloor has a thin veneer of sediment… But, the depocenters have enormously thick sedimentary sequences.

          • Notice where the two large areas with really thick sediments are: Gulf of Bengal and Mexican Gulf. Downstream from the Himalaya and the Rockies respectively. Those sediments are ex-mountains.

            There is also narrow basins with thick sediments along much of the coasts of the Atlantic. Those are from the time when the Atlantic was just a rift valley or a narrow sea and vast amounts of sediments was eroded from the escarpments on both sides and deposited in the rift, together with salt from salt lakes and restricted hypersaline arms of the ocean.

      • I was always dubious of hydrocarbon of biogenic origin this deep in the earth. Then, Duh! Someone pointed out that water plus carbonates at high pressure and temperature only need a simple redox reaction to form compounds of hydrogen and carbon.
        But this still needs subduction because the carbonates had to get there somehow.

    • Well, does finding oil (petroleum) at over two miles below the surface support the abiotic theory of oil formation or not?

      No… not at all.

      Finding producible oil a 475 °F might.

      • Because it decomposes at or below that temp, to small chain alkanes, i.e. natural gas?

        • Pretty much. Oil cracks when exposed to temperatures greater than about 300 °F for an extended period of time.

          • Excuse my ignorance, but how does a liquid “crack”? Or is oil at that depth not a liquid?

          • Jeff Alberts,

            Way out of my comfort zone and not trying to speak for DM, but “cracking” I think is an industry term for the breakdown of long petroleum hydrocarbon chains into smaller ones, I guess which occurs at higher temperatures. Hopefully, a better explanation will follow. 🙂

          • In petrochemistry, petroleum geology and organic chemistry, cracking is the process whereby complex organic molecules such as kerogens or long-chain hydrocarbons are broken down into simpler molecules such as light hydrocarbons, by the breaking of carbon-carbon bonds in the precursors. The rate of cracking and the end products are strongly dependent on the temperature and presence of catalysts. Cracking is the breakdown of a large alkane into smaller, more useful alkenes. Simply put, hydrocarbon cracking is the process of breaking a long-chain of hydrocarbons into short ones. This process requires high temperatures and high pressure.[1]

            More loosely, outside the field of petroleum chemistry, the term “cracking” is used to describe any type of splitting of molecules under the influence of heat, catalysts and solvents, such as in processes of destructive distillation or pyrolysis.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cracking_(chemistry)

          • In an inert environment, aromatics, naphthenes and paraffins can be stable up to 1000F or even higher. Metal and inorganic surfaces can act catalytically, however.

          • Um…Jeff, pretty sure DM just gave you the opposite of a slang definition. Cracking in solids is essentially the same as the cracking of long chain hydrocarbons. In both, it’s splitting molecular bonds.

            Best regards,

            rip

          • “Um…Jeff, pretty sure DM just gave you the opposite of a slang definition. Cracking in solids is essentially the same as the cracking of long chain hydrocarbons. In both, it’s splitting molecular bonds.”

            Maybe slang isn’t the right word, but it’s obviously a shorthand or informal way of referring to molecular breakdown.

      • Gordon Dressler at 4:28 pm (i.e., two miles subduction)

        The notion I have of oil has to do with sedimentation, not subduction.
        If one says “subduction”, I say Mt. Saint Helens.

        David, please correct. Thanks.

        • The “sub” word most relevant to sedimentation is subsidence… although subduction can create accommodation space for sedimentation.

        • Well, if you say “Mt. Saint Helens”, I say “Saudia Arabia peninsula”. Did the oil form directly under the sands and rock of the peninsula strictly due to sedimentation?

          • It is really easy to look up the geologic history of any particular place.
            Plate tectonics, prevailing idea of the particulars of Earth history, the entire discipline of physical geography… these are not vague ideas or based on some shoestring hypotheses.
            Each are well described, extensively supported, and largely uncontroversial, at least as regards the big picture.
            Details of course are sketchy is some cases, being as how people are trying to get a clear idea of events that occurred long ago, and for which there is often incomplete, conflicting, or unclear evidence.

    • It’s hard to believe there has been that much vertical movement in Earth’s surface (i.e., two miles subduction) over the last several hundred thousand to several hundred million years. But I invite scientists more knowledgeable than me to comment on this.”

      The greatest subduction is at the edges of the plates, such as on the American West Coast, where the North American plate is overriding the Pacific plate, which is plunging down into the mantle. (and the stress creates, among other things, the San Andreas Fault, the Sierra Madrea, and the Rockies)

      • Around the Caspian Sea and the Gulf of Mexico sedimentary basins are over 15,000m deep.

        Basins can form through mechanisms other than subduction.
        Simple sedimentary loading is one. Keep piling the sediments on and the crust below sinks.

      • It’s not subduction. It’s more like a very large trampoline where rivers dump enormous amounts of sand and mud, driving it down with their weight. The rock bends and cracks, there are slumps and slides which displace large blocks away from the river mouths. And sometimes there are periods there’s less river flow and carbonates are deposited on the sea floor as little critters die and their shells fall to the bottom. This can drop the rocks 20 plus km, which means its possible to have 20 km thick pile of sediment under 2 km of water.

        And within that pile of sediment we find rocks holding organic material which didn’t get eaten by bacteria when it fell to the bottom. This becomes the hydrocarbon source rock.

        The problem I see is that rocks found below about 7 km of sediment tend to be low quality, temperature and pressure increase to the outer limits, and this hurts the economic returns to such an extent that looking for that deep oil can be a dicey business.

        A few years ago I was asked to review one of those deep water discoveries in the Gulf of Mexico, and although the productive layer was very thick, and the oil in place was very large, I suggested they should not expect more than a 15% recovery factor, because the fluid/rock/temperature and geology just weren’t good enough to do anything but cherry pick the better spots. Given what I know, drilling below 10 thousand meters vertical depth is a waste of money.

      • WWS, what you describe as the subduction of the Pacific plate is actually a much more complicated situation, involving a series of plates and faults and features being subducted, and also accreted onto, and sliding past, the North American plate.
        The San Andreas is a transform fault, and the land on the west side of it, including Baja California and the southern coast of CA including San Diego and Los Angeles, is actually part of the Pacific plate.
        The Pacific plate is not being subducted beneath North America at the present time.

        Other plates have been, and still are, doing so.
        There is subduction off the West Coast, but what is being and has been subducted is not the Pacific plate, but the Farallon plate, and it remnants, known as the Juan De Fuca plate in the north, the Cocos plate off of Central America, and a few slices called the Gorda and the Rivera plate, although the exact names and some of the details are still being disputed, including whether the Farallon was one plate or, more likely, a complex situation sort of like what exists now north and west of Australia.

    • I think the question is not subduction, but the vertical extent of sedimentation, no?
      IOW, how deep are ancient sediments buried?
      Well, very deep. But also keep in mind that the places where oil and gas are recovered are not the source of the material, but simply a place where the right conditions exist to trap a large amount of it as it percolates upwards, and also happens to be a type of rocked that will not only hold it in place, but also be porous enough to allow pumping it out fast to be possible. Which typically means it must be porous, and capped by an overlying layer of impermeable material.
      This being the case, and the places where this is true being relatively rare, it has to be assumed that most of the oil in gas below ground never percolates into such a place.
      Fracking of course is a method to make it possible to produce oil and gas from rocks that hold it, but are not porous/permeable enough to release it readily. Nonporous shale is shattered by high pressure fluids, and then the cracks are propped open with sand or some such material.
      Or at least, such is my understanding, in a nutshell.

      • What I was getting at is that, as deep as the deepest producing wells are, the place where the original sediment exists is even deeper.

      • “But also keep in mind that the places where oil and gas are recovered are not the source of the material, but simply a place where the right conditions exist to trap a large amount of it as it percolates upwards . . .”

        This sidesteps the basic question of how so much organic material (eliminating an abiotic origin) became so deeply buried—via subduction, subsidence or sedimentation overlay—in the first place to eventually allow its transformation into oil and its “percolation” upwards.

        • I did not sidestep the question.
          It has been directly answered several times.
          The process is sedimentation.
          Subduction, in geology, is the process whereby a tectonic plate is forced down into the mantle of the earth.
          It has nothing to do with oil formation, although it is one of the ways that large amounts of potential source material has been lost.
          One of the reasons why places like the Gulf of Mexico exist, and have such large amounts of sediment and such old sedimentary rock in place,is because they have, for various reasons, never been subducted.
          I think perhaps you could learn some very interesting science by starting at the beginning and learning about the science of geology in a systematic way.
          In any case, how much sediments exist and how they got there are not particularly germane to the question of the

          • abiotic theory of oil formation.
            IOW, whether or not such a material exists, and if it is occurring at a large volume, will not likely be settled by looking at sediments, but rather, IMO, by looking at where there are none.
            IOW, when someone finds oil where no sediments exist, then I think the idea will have some legs.
            At this point that has never, IFAIK, happened.

    • The Bakken formation lies between 4500 ft. to 11,000 ft. with the Three Forks formation below it. If you add in the pipe run horizonal over a mile or two you have a number of deep long wells. I did hear in the eighties of a test well drilled to 19,000 feet they quite when it became oblivious they were beyond the level where the oil was. The rigs in North Dakota are large because supporting two miles of pipe takes a lot of steel.

    • Subduction and burial (i.e., sedimentation) are two completely different processes. And why is it

      hard to believe there has been that much vertical movement in Earth’s surface…?

      Or is it just hard for you?

      P.S. Think Mount Everest. It works both ways.

        • I think I’ll stop (commenting, not reading). Hope it’s obvious that that was for Gordon too. I’ll just keep drinking and reading.

      • I’m late to this post and made a comment that will appear above.
        I should have read all the comments, as others have made the same point.

        I was at a lecture regarding super-volcanoes — the Bruneau/Jarbidge in sw Idaho.

      • In many place around the globe oil is found below land surfaces that currently are hundreds to thousands of feet ABOVE sea level. Is that totally explained by “sedimentation”?

        If so, then please explain the geological process by which sediments form above sea level, excluding the minor contribution of wind-born sand and dust.

        Yes, it is hard for me to understand this observation without appealing to vertical land motion associated with subduction.

        And would you please compare the areal extent of Mt. Everest and all mountain ranges with elevations of 2 miles above sea level to the areal extent of all oil fields with producing layers greater than 2 miles below sea level?

        • This is almost impossible to explain to a freshman geology student, much less people with no understanding of geology.

          Here’s a cross section of the Williston Basin in North Dakota…

          It has been an “intracratonic depression” since at least the Cambrian Period >500 million years. A craton is an old, stable, block of continental crust which forms the nucleus of a continent. Over most of the past 500 million years, the Williston Basin has experienced subsidence (sinking); however it has undergone several periods of uplift associated with episodes of mountain building (orogenies). The squiggly lines on the cross section are unconformities. These are generally erosional surfaces that formed during the periods of uplift.

          500+ million years of subsidence and uplift resulted in the Devonian-aged (~360 Ma) Bakken formation (green/yellow layer) being at depths ranging from about -4,500′ to -8,500′ below sea level. The Bakken shale members were deposited in a shallow marine environment under anoxic conditions. The Bakken shale has a total organic carbon content (TOC) which averages about 11%. It is a “world class” source rock. Horizontal drilling and frac’ing have enabled the direct production of oil from this source rock. This is the essence of the shale “revolution.”

        • Gordon, when mountain ranges erode away and get left in various places on the way to the sea, it is more commonly by water and ice, than by wind.
          All you need for a sediment to form is a place with a higher elevation, and then erosion, and then time.
          Any place where materials from uphill are deposited becomes a sediment.
          Many lakes exist at very high places.
          They can fill in.
          Places like the Great Salt Lake (the remains of a huge place called Lake Bonneville) are depositing a type of sediment called an evaporite at the margins and bottoms.
          The process whereby ocean crust…and the sediments sitting on top of them, or sediments that formed in places called inland seas…wind up as the tops of mountains or halfway to the bottom of the Grand Canyon or anywhere else that is not the top of a mountain, is called uplift, not subduction.
          Uplift occurs by any of several mechanisms.
          These are the sorts of things that one learns when one studies a science like Geology.
          The Earth’s crust is the outer layer of material of the planet, and includes continental crust and ocean crust. The crust is divided up into sections called plates, which are all shapes and sizes, and may consist of all oceanic crust, all continental crust, or some of each.
          Slow moving currents in the layers under the crust push the plates around the planet over time. This motion is typically a few inches per year. About as fast as fingernails grow.
          Sometimes many inches, sometimes barely moving, or just sitting mostly still, or spinning.
          And over long periods of time, the plates can smash into each other, or be ripped apart, etc.
          While they are moving around, they can have stuff eroded off of them, piled onto them, or extruded onto or into them by volcanoes.
          New ocean crust is always forming at the undersea places called mid-ocean ridges. Consequently, in other places, oceanic crust plunges down into the mantle and is recycled.
          As old ocean plates are subducted, sometimes islands, sediments, and anything else sitting on top of them is scraped off and accreted in the area adjacent to the subduction zone.
          Other times, when plates collide, one plate can be lifted onto another. When this happens, and part of the plate being uplifted is ocean crust, a situation occurs where ocean floor rocks and sediment get lifted onto land, and often these same collisions cause the plates to crinkle up or get fold and/or compressed, and the result is mountain ranges.
          This process is called orogeny, and has occurred many times in the history of the Earth.
          At the same time as rocks are being lifted up into mountain ranges, erosional processes are wearing them down again.
          In this way, over time, material that was miles under the surface of the ocean floor under miles of water, can wind up on the surface of the ground at the top of a mountain.
          It takes a long time, but the Earth has had plenty of time.
          Fingernails can grow a lot in 4,500,000,000 years.

        • The plate that North America sits on includes some sections that are very old, and some that are brand spanking new, and everything in between.
          The place on the East coast called the Appalachian mountains has been, over billions of years, the site of numerous cycles of uplift, orogeny, erosion, etc.
          Several separate mountain ranges have been uplifted and eroded away.
          The features we call mountains that are there now are actually the roots of mountains that were at one time deep underground…miles and miles underground. Several different times for some of these rocks.
          And further west, there is also a long history of various cycles and processes, including uplift, erosion, sedimentation, further uplift, etc.
          Hundreds of millions of years ago, the Western US was a place where a long period of erosion had worn the land down below sea level in spots, and there existed a feature called an inland sea. This is a place where a salt water sea exists, connected to the ocean but underlain by continental crust. There are many such places around right now, such as Hudson Bay.
          Some parts of this region were only kind of swampy, or were large lakes, etc.
          Nearby this inland sea were large mountains that were lifted up and eroded away.
          The sediments wound up at the bottom of the inland sea.
          Other times the whole area was lifted up by compressional forces when continents collided, which is what raised the mountains to begin with.
          Most recently, geologically speaking, the whole of the North American plate has been moving westward, and lands, island chains, small continents, pieces of ocean floor, etc, have been accreted onto the plate as it moved west and overran what used to be there.
          During some of these processes, the whole continent was compressed and the lands lifted up, and what had been inland sea and deep areas of sediment got lifted miles up. In some places the crust wrinkled into mountains, at various times and places. Volcanoes deposited material on top of the crust, and also sometimes magma welled up but never broke the surface, and the magma cooled deep underground. Some of these magmas were huge. The Sierra Nevada contains some of these types of features, which subsequent erosion brought to the surface.
          Yosemite Park is a famous example of this.
          And just as compression can uplift the land, at other times this compression may slacked, and the uplifted terrain then gets stretched out and drops.
          This also happened in the Western US in the recent geologic past, giving rise to what is called the basin and range province, as the crust broke into large blocks and some of the tilted a certain way.
          Earth history is like a giant jigsaw puzzle melded to a mystery story, and figuring out what has happened by looking for various clues is what geologists spend a lot of time doing.

          • Nicholas McGinley, thank you for your patient, in-depth explanations that have educated me, the “a freshman geology student”, with no understanding of geology.

            I will cease asking questions on this subject matter in deference to those I have obviously upset. My apologies to all.

  8. “Fuel Fighter”
    Are they against the benefits fuel does for people?
    Are the only acceptable fuels for people are the things they eat but not the fuel that powers machines used to help grow and harvest what people eat?
    Am I still allowed to use a lighter to light my cigarette or do I need to go back to matches? (I know. Bad and unhealthy habit.)
    Doesn’t the sulfur in matches contribute to “acid rain”?
    Maybe these guys are opposed to people producing “heat’ of any kind?
    There goes The Population Bomb!
    (Hmmm…should I close with a sarc/tag or a “smiley face”?)

  9. David Middleton,
    Thanks for this precautionary tale of internet inaccuracies, illustrating succinctly why skepticism is an intrinsic part of a rational mind.

    • It is not uncommon for people to get stuff wrong, and not very surprising.
      What is more so is when erroneous sources are quoted by others, including what one might think are more reliable sources of info.
      I came across an crazy example of this, or at least a purported example, a month or two ago when reading some material posted by others on Twitter, during one of those never ending comment threads that occur there.
      It had to do with the original of the term “greenhouse effect”, and the various attributions thereof.
      Here is a link to the site of a geologist who appears to have researched it carefully, and gives references, etc, including details of how one person giving a misattribution can lead to others repeating things that are not true, over a century later.
      First a snippet of it for a teaser, then the link:

      “The “Greenhouse Effect” was originally defined around the hypothesis that visible light penetrating the atmosphere is converted to heat on absorption and emitted as infrared, which is subsequently trapped by the opacity of the atmosphere to infrared. In Arrhenius (1896, p. 237) we read:
      “Fourier maintained that the atmosphere acts like the glass of a hothouse, because it lets through the light rays of the sun but retains the dark rays from the ground.”
      This quote from Arrhenius establishes the fact that the “Greenhouse Effect”, far from being a misnomer, is so-called because it was originally based on the assumption that an atmosphere and the glass of a greenhouse are the same in their workings. Interestingly, Fourier doesn’t even mention hothouses or greenhouses, and actually stated that in order for the atmosphere to be anything like the glass of a hotbox, such as the experimental aparatus of de Saussure (1779), the air would have to solidify while conserving its optical properties (Fourier, 1827, p. 586; Fourier, 1824, translated by Burgess, 1837, pp. 11-12).
      In spite of Arrhenius’ misunderstanding of Fourier, the Concise Oxford English Dictionary (11th Edition) reflects his initial opening description of the “Greenhouse Effect”:
      “Greenhouse Effect noun the trapping of the sun’s warmth in the planet’s lower atmosphere, due to the greater transparency of the atmosphere to visible radiation from the sun than to infrared radiation emitted from the planet’s surface.”
      These descriptions of the “Greenhouse Effect” all evade the key question of heat transfer.”

      http://geologist-1011.net/net/greenhouse/

      • Actually hothouses don’t work like Arrhenius thought. They work by preventing the warm air inside from convecting away from the surface. The air in turn is heated by the ground and the plants inside which absorb light. Whether the glass is transparent to IR or not is irrelevant. A hothouse made of (IR-transparent) polyethene works just as well as one made from glass.

  10. I seem to recall that at one point the Russians (was probably the Soviets at that point in time) had decided to try to drill all the way through Earth’s crust to test the idea that there could be primordial methane trapped down there.
    Did anything ever become of that effort?
    I do remember reading about the deepest hole ever drilled, and how it turned out to be a huge waste of money, but not sure if this was the same project?

  11. Would the error of using MD for TVD be picked up by Facebook’s ‘Department of Truth’ and all references to it removed?

    • Probably not. The trouble is the ambiguity of “Measured Depth,” which is really the length of the bore and only vaguely linked to actual depth. Most people will read that term and immediately misunderstand it. I had a long, beer soaked discussion years ago about this with a friend who worked as a mud logger on the north slope.

      • Engineers tend towards MD because that’s where things actually are in the wellbore. Geo’s tend toward TVD because it’s the only way to correlate the well with other wells and the seismic data.

  12. Question: This is the first I recall hearing about that pool of molten sulfur at the bottom of a well in Oklahoma.
    The Wikipedia on that borehole says that the sulfur melted the drill bit, and that is why they stopped?
    Is hitting molten sulfur common?
    If this was the only time anyone drilled so deep and that is what happened, and it was unexpected or a unique finding, does that not make it a very interesting question, re what the hell else is down there that no one knows about or predicted?
    Was this the first time it occurred?
    Was it pure sulfur?
    What other types of materials might exist unexpectedly way down there?
    Sulfur melts at about 116° C, which is not all that hot, so why did the bit melt, or was that misinformation?

    • The bottomhole temperature was 475 °F (246 °C) and the pressure was pushing 25,000 psi. They couldn’t drill any deeper, the well was unstable… They shouldn’t have drilled that deep. They were 17,000′ deeper than the deepest hydrocarbon bearing formation in the well. It wasn’t the last time Lone Star/Enserch turned an exploration well into a science project/engineering demonstration.

      • I have a little desk plaque with two pockets one containing sulfur crystals and the other with rock cuttings from the Bertha Rogers Well.

      • I remember being told once that the USGS had a sort of “gentleman’s agreement” with at least some of the oil companies that if they hit economic basement, they should keep drilling long enough to recover enough rock to characterize it. I suppose molten sulfur would count as “economic basement”.

  13. Question: This is the first I recall hearing about that pool of molten sulfur at the bottom of a well in Oklahoma.
    The Wikipedia on that borehole says that the sulfur melted the drill bit, and that is why they stopped?
    Is hitting molten sulfur common?
    If this was the only time anyone drilled so deep and that is what happened, and it was unexpected or a unique finding, does that not make it a very interesting question, re what the hell else is down there that no one knows about or predicted?
    Was this the first time it occurred?
    Was it pure sulfur?
    What other types of materials might exist unexpectedly way down there?
    Sulfur melts at about 116° C, which is not all that hot, so why did the bit melt, or was that misinformation?

    • There is some technical speculation/research that a portion of earth’s crust melted when the planet type body hit earth and formed the moon. This could possibly account for molten sulfur. My thought would be that the “molten sulfur” was either gaseous or liquid hydrogen sulfide or even sulfur dioxide. It would depend on how the “molten sulfur” was sampled. I worked on a project offshore Greece that had crude oil that was 70% liquid hydrogen sulfide.

      • There is a lot of native sulfur in Gulf sediments. It is produced by bacterial action when hydrocarbons come into contact with sulfate minerals (which are plentiful in salt deposits).

        It has been mined by pumping down superheated water and melting the sulfur (Frasch process), though nowadays most sulfur is obtained by removing the sulfur content of oil and gas.

        If buried deep enough the sulfur will undoubtedly melt naturally.

  14. Sixty years ago, I worked as a floor hand on daylights when the world’s deepest well hit the bottom at 24,0002 feet in dark gray Hunton shale. It was also the deepest core in the world at the time. As one of my keepsakes I have very bottom 3 inches of the the 2 inch core. We were running a three inch drill string on the bottom section of the well and a four inch drill string on the top. We were using elevators and a slide table instead of slips. A trip meant 8 hours around the rotatory table for each crew. We were using Black Magic as the drill fluid which made the drill floor slippery as fresh owl defecate. The derrickman would snag at least one tripple each trip. You had to stand spraddle-legged all the time to prevent getting your foot/ankle being cut off when the tripple fell and hit the derrick floor. Before starting out of the hole we spotted 50 sacks of bar and pumped it down to the diamond bit level. We had a five man crew. Roughnecking jobs today are for sissies and weaklings. The cost to drill a well is also much higher in real terms. We also plugged back and made a gas completion at 12,800 feet.

    it would be interesting to read Fuel Fighter’s account of this well.

  15. Related question: In practice, how many separate wells might typically be drilled from one location, fanning out horizontally?
    I ask this in the context of modern fracking technology, such as might be employed in the UK in Lancashire, if the political hurdles are ever overcome (which I now doubt they ever will be). Most objectors probably envisage drilling rigs covering the landscape and blotting out the sun like pictures from early days in Texas/California, but I don’t see the need for it to necessarily be this way.

    • Funny how the same people do not object to the blight of windmills covering the landscape or the concrete pads they are sited on being dug into pristine terrain.
      The number of wells to drill all depends on the geology and of course the size of the accumulation. Consider sandstone reservoirs vs chalk reservoirs. Many more wells need to be drilled into a chalk reservoir than a sandstone reservoir because of the properties of the reservoir rock. The same goes for shale. Any one well has a very limited area of influence. The overriding factor is economics which is frighteningly skewed today in the world of wind and solar.

    • The largest number I have heard of is 50 something wells from an offshore platform. I worked on a development plan which required platforms with two drilling rigs sitting over 28 well bays each. That’s only done in very large fields in extreme conditions, say where water depth is over 100 meters and the seafloor is highly unstable, when developing offshore in areas where there’s icebergs or sea ice, in very sensitive areas such as a swamp within a nature preserve, etc. I also worked on projects with 30 wells in a single drilling pad in Russia, and 28 heavy oil wells in Venezuela.

      Horizontal wells drilled to tap poor quality rocks have to be designed considering the possible use of artificial lift equipment, and this imposes restrictions on the well radius of curvature and other issues. If we assume the field has two target layers, and want to be reasonable, it’s better to plan on 16 wells per pad, wells drilled in four forks with four tines each, set in a skinny rectangular shape.

      • The most slots on a fixed platform (the largest category) in the Gulf of Mexico (US OCS) is 62 on the Mississippi Canyon 194 “Cognac” facility in 1,023′ WD. The most on a shelf fixed platform is 60 on Grand Isle 17 in 55′ water depth. The average number of slots on a fixed platform in the Gulf is 8.

        The most slots on a TLP (tension leg platform) is 32 on the Auger A facility on Garden Banks 426 in 2,860′ WD.

        The most slots on a Spar platform is 20 on the Genesis A facility on Green Canyon 205 in 2,590′ WD and on the Holstein A facility on Green Canyon 645 in 4,340′ WD.

        Deepwater facilities tend to not have a lot of slots because the wells are often drilled from subsea templates and tied back. Shell’s Perdido spar on Alaminos Canyon 857 in 7,835′ WD has no slots. All of the wells are tiebacks. It’s currently producing about 60,000 bbl/d and 110 mmcf/d (~78,000 BOE/d) from 8 wells… And it’s still ramping up.

  16. Hey..this sciency stuff is way too complicated but impresses the heck out of the Arts major who put it together. “So I got a few numbers wrong but hey that is why I dropped the bits of science I did not like at school to concentrate on the real important stuff like real science……social science”. Given the shear hysterics around AGM put around by people with very weak understandings of the sciences, who is surprised if they get the numbers wrong….who cares but isn’t the graphic very pretty?

    I think this illustrates very well part of the AGM problem that “skeptiks” are dealing with because when it is pointed out to a believer that empirical data totally undermines any point they try to make they are not concerned in the least. Indeed the reply is usually” Well those are just “your numbers”and if I push the point further that they are not my numbers but the real data the reply is usually either that I work in the oil industry so am automatically biased or that they do not want to discuss this anymore with a denier” or finally I get the nail in the head, the infantile “consensus” argument.

  17. It would be nice if there was a filter to block the word abiotic, or at least the words dinosaur and maybe Gold from the comments in Dave’s posts. We actually do know where oil comes from. He has patiently explained it many times. If someone has not taken the time read and understand those posts they really should not clog up the comments with the same old rhetoric

    • I can sort of understand the use of “abiotic.” But, “dinosaurs” implies that there isn’t even a starting point for communication.

      • This dinosaurs meme gets its start maybe from Sinclair and their wonderful logo and plastic green dinos at every station; or perhaps for those very entertaining Chevron TV commercials of the late 1970s and 80s. The typical person “believes in PR.”

        • No doubt… We have a Sinclair dino sign on the fence in our driveway and about a dozen inflatable Sinclair dinos… I always pick a couple up at Sinclair’s booth at NAPE.

        • Actually there might theoretically be a little bit of ex-dinosaur in oil. Dinosaur carcasses are (rarely) found in marine sedimentary deposits (including shales), presumably after coming down a river or possibly washed out to sea by hurricanes or tsunamis. Remains of birds (which are dinosaurs) are slightly more common.

          • There’s probably a little bit of everything in crude oil… It’s just mostly algae and phytoplankton.

      • It is incredible to me people think oil comes from dead dinosaurs.
        Then again, are we not all reminded over and over again how many people there are who have pretty much zero actual scientific knowledge?
        The worst part of it is, most of them think they have a pretty good idea about stuff they know zero about.
        “So much they know, that is not so”, is in most cases worse than outright ignorance.
        If one is aware that they do not know something, it is possible to learn, easy even.
        But if they “know” something that is false…well… good luck.
        That person has a low chance of ever getting themselves straightened out.
        But people that are aware that pretty much all knowledge is provisional, to at least a certain extent, have a far better chance of doing so.

    • Science is not an argument. It is not emotional.

      Science is the looking at and re-looking at theories and observations.

      David is ignorant and uninterested concerning the geological paradoxes.

      Obviously someone else needs to summarize the paradoxes and the issues.

      The geological paradoxes are interesting as there are now more than four paradoxes. There is only one possible ‘solution’ to make the paradoxes go away. This is a Forest Gump breakthrough. Any high school student could make the paradoxes go away.

      This is a strawman written to knock down.

      Something written to stop the scientific examination of the paradox observations.

    • I know where oil does not come from, plants and dinosaurs at 40,000 feet.
      Its Abiotic, Rockefeller had his hand in creating the label, “Fossil Fuel” Nonsense.
      Why did he want the label for oil,,, Because he knows how to make money, make appear that there is a limited supply, thus creating a monopoly and controlling the price..

      Do your own research on whether Oil comes from plant matter, etc.

      Liars everywhere..

      • The American Petroleum Institute has a secret spy agency taking care of individuals who come close to the abiotic oil secret. If you insist I am sure you will find yourself in a basement wearing a Sinclair shirt, and they’ll keep you watching videos made by geologists to make you believe oil comes from dead dinosaurs until you are left an empty husk who whispers “source rock” and “TOC” all day long.

        • It’s locked up in the API vault in between the perpetual motion machine and the formula for turning water into gasoline… 🤣

      • You actually started out correctly…

        I know where oil does not come from, plants and dinosaurs at 40,000 feet.

        Oil does not come from “plants and dinosaurs at 40,000 feet.” Algae and phytoplankton aren’t dinosaurs and are not exactly plants either.

  18. “World record for a hot air balloon flight – 21,000ft” – Er wrong, by a factor of more than 3!

    “On November 26, 2005, Vijaypat Singhania set the world altitude record for highest hot-air-balloon flight, reaching 21,290 m (69,850 ft)” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flight_altitude_record#Hot-air_balloons

    And for good measure, renown hang glider pilot, Judy Leden broke the World Hang Gliding Altitude Record by being towed to 41,307 feet by a hot air balloon. http://old.fai.org/news/personalities/35338-judyleden

  19. Just a word of real thanks to David Middleton for this and other postings relating to the technicals of the oil industry. He’s completely on top of his subject and a master of communication.

    Though always interested in all branches of science and engineering, it has taken me a long time to realise just how little I knew about it. A shame that the fantastic achievements of this industry are ignored or dismissed by by so many, and of course especially by the [arts-dominated] mainstream media. David opens our eyes.

    • Funny story… I knew nothing about geology when I decided to major in Earth Science. My interest was in meteorology. After my first Physical Geology class in September 1976, I realized that I knew even less than I thought I did… 😉

  20. Science these days seems to be more and more filled with impressive illustrations and animations which at bottom are not based on real data directly and are heavily influenced by someone’s opinion about how things work. I think they are dangerous when not clearly marked as “primarily wild eyed guesswork”. For example here is a “cell dynamics video” I randomly selected. I’m not sure it is more close to reality than an ‘Iron man” action sequence — and in fact it was created using the same technologies used to make the Marvel films.

    • It has always been the case that some people take the newest research or hypothesis as more than just an idea or some guesswork, but instead see it as “knowledge”.
      I doubt there will ever be a day that no new textbooks are needed.

  21. What people are NOT realizing:

    Much of the oil off the coast of places like Santa Barbara, California is now reachable from onshore drilling. We wouldn’t need offshore rigs to reach a lot of that oil and gas.

    • EROEI is just about the dumbest concept to ever come out of academia. “Societies” don’t produce energy, businesses do.

      1 barrel of crude oil = 5,722,000 Btu
      1,000 cubic feet of natural gas = 1,037,000 Btu

      Current prices:
      WTI = $64.40/bbl = $11.25/million Btu
      Natural gas (Henry Hub) = $2.70/mcf = $2.60/million Btu

      I could “spend” 2 Btu of natural gas to produce 1 Btu of oil and make over a 2:1 return on capital. The bottom line isn’t denominated in joules, watts or Btu… It’s denominated in $$$.

      I don’t spend energy to fill my gas tank. I don’t give energy back to the gas & electric companies in exchange for them being nice enough to heat and light my home. My company doesn’t drill for oil & gas to make energy.

      I spend money to fill my gas tank. My company drills wells for oil & gas to make money. My gas & electric bills are paid for with money. My pay check, ChevronTexaco, ExxonMobil & Shell credit card statements and checks to the gas & electric companies aren’t denominated in joules, kilowatts or Btu – They are denominated in $.

      I don’t give a rat’s @$$ if 1 barrel of amoeba farts uses less energy to produce than 1 barrel of crude oil… Because the barrel of amoeba farts costs $1,100 and can’t be produced in sufficient quantities to be waiting for me at the Chevron, Texaco, Exxon or Shell station when I need it.

      If oil companies (or any businesses) used EROEI to guide their investment decisions, they would go out of business (unless the government was footing the bill).

  22. The Lone Star Producing – Bertha Rogers was a dry hole, drilled near Sayer OK, but the Deep Anadarko Basin has some the deepest productive gas wells in the world. In the Sweetwater Gas field ( Jct 6 & US 283 , north of Sayer, OK ) most of the wells in the field were drilled to 20k 25k ft.

    Sweetwater field is also the site of a huge blow out, the Apache – Keys #1, in 1982, when the tree was blown off the wellhead

    • Bertha Rogers technically wasn’t a dry hole. It was completed as as gas well in the Granite Wash at about 13,000′. It produced until 1997. Did it ever pay out the cost of drilling to 31,000′? Probably not.

      Deep drilling in the Anadarko Basin is facilitated by a ~40,000′ thick sedimentary section and the top of geopressure can be deeper than 20,000′.

      • The zones were layers, about 7 potential zones, the Granite Wash was the last one to test as you came uphole. The layered zones made it practical to dill these very deep wells as a field. Those that hit one of the deep productive zones had an extremely long production life for a gas well, and still had all the remaining upper zones remaining to complete in the future.

        The was an even more of a science experiment drilled south of Sayre towards Magnum & Granite.
        They drilled assuming it was an overthrust, and tried drilling through the granite

        You can see the entire Anardako geological sequence on the road cuts as you drive I35 through the Arbuckle Mountains, the zones are laying sideways

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