Renewable energy sources might make the headlines, but the world still runs on oil and gas. However, this doesn’t mean the petrochemical industry is stuck in the past. Energy companies like Gulf Coast Western lead the charge by investing in innovative practices and technologies that make oil and gas safer and more profitable.
Gulf Coast Western embraced an unconventional drilling method that enables the retrieval of oil and gas from complex sandstone formations, boosting energy production even more. Gulf Coast Western shares how its unconventional gas plays into the future of the petrochemical industry.
The Basics of Conventional Oil Exploration
Conventional oil drilling dates back to the 1800s. This process primarily focuses on extracting oil from vast underground reservoirs through vertical wells.
It starts with extensive site preparation, which includes building roads and infrastructure for water and electricity. It takes a massive amount of equipment to dig an average 10,000-foot well and it takes up to 35 semitrucks of material to build.
The crew then drills a hole 4,500 feet into the ground with a drill bit, adding liquid to the drilled hole to cool the bit. All wells go 50 to 100 feet below the water table, which is protected from contamination by a steel and concrete casing. At this stage, derrickhands log the condition of the well to see if it’s viable for oil and gas production. If it’s a producer, they add a production casing throughout the length of the well and add a conduit for oil and gas to flow to the surface.
But sometimes, the pressure isn’t enough to bring oil and gas to the surface, or the formation is too tight to extract hydrocarbons easily. If this happens, oil and gas companies will use a perforating gun that ignites underground explosive charges and perforate holes in the well. Known as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” this process allows more oil and gas to flow out of the well. Once the conventional well is in place, it operates 24/7, pausing only once a year on Christmas.
Conventional drilling worked well for a while but isn’t always practical or profitable. Vertical wells rely on massive underground oil and gas reservoirs, which are rare today. They’re also impractical for drilling in urban areas or other places where a pad site doesn’t make sense. Conventional drilling won’t be sustainable going forward, so providers like Gulf Coast Western are exploring alternative drilling methods.
Gulf Coast Western: Company Profile
Based in Dallas, Gulf Coast Western has invested in oil and gas exploration since 1970. The company primarily manages joint ventures in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Colorado. Gulf Coast Western largely operates in areas with sandstone formations, which is possible thanks to its investment in horizontal drilling.
Today, Gulf Coast Western aims to be one of the most forward-thinking companies in oil and gas. prioritizing strategic partnerships and advanced drilling techniques.
Gulf Coast Western’s Drilling Techniques
Gulf Coast Western uses horizontal drilling, which is key for exploiting sandstone formations. These formations are naturally very porous, so natural gas doesn’t flow as easily to the well bore or in sufficient volumes.
Creating a horizontal well is very similar to setting up a vertical well. However, horizontal wells drill much further, drilling to a kickoff point, which curves for just under a quarter-mile. Once the curve is complete, crews drill laterally. It takes 350 pieces of pipe weighing nearly 87 tons to drill a 10,500-foot well.
Once Gulf Coast Western reaches the target distance, workers add production casing and cement, just as they would with a vertical well. The only difference is the well is deeper and longer, which provides access to more of the sandstone formation. Fracking is also necessary for tight sandstone structures. However, horizontal wells use multistage fracking to perforate the sandstone throughout the well so hydrocarbons can flow to the surface.
Comparison With Conventional Drilling Methods
Conventional drilling is much cheaper but isn’t sustainable as the world depletes large underground oil and gas reservoirs. Unconventional drilling is a more drawn-out process because it requires more drilling, so it takes longer for the oil or gas to move to the surface. Because of the added equipment, horizontal drilling is also much more expensive.
Even so, the pros of unconventional drilling outweigh the higher costs. It’s easier for horizontal wells to hit targets that vertical wells can’t — and they have the luxury of exploring additional formations from a single pad site.
Conventional and unconventional drilling aren’t in competition with each other. Oil and gas companies use both techniques to release hydrocarbons, depending on the geology of where they’re drilling. Some companies, like Gulf Coast Western, specialize in one method.
Economic and Environmental Considerations
Oil and gas companies would have to drill more vertical wells without horizontal drilling, significantly increasing prices and environmental impact. One horizontal well takes up the same amount of real estate on the surface while expanding production. It isn’t unheard of for a single horizontal well to outperform a dozen vertical wells.
Because a horizontal well can drill in different directions, it hits hard-to-reach areas that were previously inaccessible. These wells cost as much as three times more than conventional wells, but it’s possible to harvest oil and gas repeatedly from the same well. This makes horizontal wells economically viable despite the higher setup costs.
Gulf Coast Western: Pioneering the Future of Oil and Gas
Gulf Coast Western’s drilling techniques are the future of oil and gas. These methods improve production and pave the way for environmentally conscious resource extraction. As the industry continues to evolve, the innovative approaches of companies like Gulf Coast Western will likely become the new standard, shaping the future of energy production.