New drilling techniques spark oil boom

Oct. 29, 2011 at 12:03 PM
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LOS ANGELES, Oct. 29 (UPI) -- Advances in oil drilling techniques are creating opportunities at marginal oil wells and reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil, experts say.

"Today, we drill a lot of wells on the computer before we drill underground," said Hal Wash burn, chief executive officer of Breitburn Energy Partners, explaining one step in a process that can give new life to an oil well thought to be on its last legs.

The Los Angeles Times reported Saturday that 60.3 percent of the oil consumption in the United States in 2005 was imported oil. Now, imports have dropped to 47 percent of total U.S. oil consumption.

In the same time span, U.S. oil production has risen from 1.89 billion barrels per year to 2 billion, in part because the number of U.S. oil wells in operation is at a 24-year high.

Daniel Yergin, author of "The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World," said, "What's happening across the U.S. demonstrates how technology again and again opens new doors, and also old doors, that people thought were closed forever."

For example, there was once nearly 2,000 wells pumping oil from the underground wealth at Orcutt oil field in Santa Barbara County, Calif., the Times said.

The vertically dug wells averaged 3,000-feet deep, but missed the shallow layer of oil trapped in a "brown shale" level underground.

Now aiming for oil 900 feet below the surface, the field is producing 90,000 barrels of oil per month, up from a previous run at 50,000 barrels per month.

In the old days, "they didn't have the science. They didn't have a clue," said Breitburn senior staff reservoir engineer William Fong.

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