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comparison between horizontal and vertical well production rates of natural gas in the Barnett Shale. Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration based on HPDI, LLC

Horizontal drilling, the real marvel of innovation

Zachary Toliver | Shale Plays Media

Many times, the terms hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drillings are used interchangeably. However, even though the pairing of the two have led the shale boom, according to John Kemp of Reuters who quoted Forbes magazine contributor, David Blackmon, horizontal drilling is “the real marvel of engineering and scientific innovation.”

To drill an economically sensible horizontal well, Kemp notes that the industry had to master the use of flexible drill pipe and steerable down-hole motors, as well as technology enabling drillers to monitor changes in the rock in real time so the well bore can be kept within the target formation.

According to the weekly rig counts published by oilfield services company Baker Hughes, two-thirds of oil and gas wells are now drilled horizontally. In addition, it took a decade of experimenting in the Barnett shale of North Texas to master a technique that dates back over 2,000 years ago to the first horizontal well drilled for water access in Egypt’s Western Desert. However, the first true horizontal well was drilled in Texas in 1929.

Read the full history and significance of horizontal drilling in the modern energy age in John Kemp’s insightful and in-depth article, “The real shale revolution.”

Related: Six formations made the Permian Basin top dog in oil production

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