“To the layman, it looks like dumb iron, but you’d be shocked about what’s inside,” says Art Soucy, president of global products and services at Baker Hughes.
All this information is sent to engineers via fiber-optic cables. They run the information through supercomputers as powerful as 30,000 laptops to create a picture of the earth thousands of feet below the surface.
The people analyzing this data – and even directing the drill bits – are often sitting hundreds of miles away.
Shell’s Pennsylvania drilling operations are directed from a center in Houston, where experienced drillers monitor the progress at several sites across the country from a single room.
And when the drilling is done, the rig itself can “walk” a hundred feet or so to another location and start drilling again. In the past, rigs had to be taken down and reassembled, which could take days. New rigs are built on sliding “shoes” that allow hydraulic lifts to shuffle the rig forward in short steps.
“It has made possible things that were unthinkable 10 years ago,” says Claudi Santiago, managing director at First Reserve Corp., a private-equity firm that invests in energy companies.
Now, drillers are finding oil faster than the world is using it. At the end of 2001, the industry had enough “proved oil reserves” to satisfy world demand for 45 years, according to BP’s annual statistical review, a closely watched study. By the end of 2011 that had grown to 51 years – even though a decade’s worth of oil had been used and daily demand had grown 14 percent. And “proved reserves” refers to oil that can be economically tapped using today’s technology. Tomorrow’s methods could yield even more.
This is good news for a global economy that remains dependent on fossil fuels, but it’s terrifying to climate scientists.<< previous 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 next >>