Before a rig goes up and production begins, there are three general phases in the identification and production of hydrocarbon reserves: exploration, delineation and development.
Jamie Rhoads, Henry Resources drilling engineer, explains. "Exploration is when your trying to identify a yet to be discovered hydrocarbon reserve or pool of oil and gas. Delineation is you have an existing field. You know there's a hydrocarbon reserve there and your trying to delineate what the extent of that reservoir is. And we're now in development, which means you know the extent of the reservoir."
But a few steps still have to be taken before drilling can begin. "The first step in actually taking it from an idea to the operations phase falls in our land department and they go out and aquire leases to the mineral rights that allow us the opportunity to come out and do the producing of the oil and gas," explains Blake Braun, Henry Resources drilling engineer.
Once they have approval from the Railroad Commission and the oil company has structured a deal with the drilling contractor, the rig can go up at the site.
Once it's up, the drilling process can begin. Braun says, "The first thing we'll do is drill a large diameter hole. For the Wolfberry in the area, that can be anywhere from a 17 1/2 inch hole down to an eleven inch hole for our suface casing. "
When the surface hole is drilled, they trip out of the hole and run surface casing down the hole and cement it in place to prevent groundwater contamination. "Once we have our surface casing set and cemented, in this particular application, (we) begin our production hole drilling right out from under our surface casing," says Braun.
Braun says the crew can then drill an average of 10,800 feet. That's a little more than 2 miles in the ground. "At that point, that's our total depth for this well, we'll trip out with our drill string and run our production casing, which will be the life of the well. That's the casing or the pipe that the well will be produced out of. It's run and then cemented in place. From spud, which is the beginning of the drilling process, to the running and cementing of the production casing, for us, usually takes anywhere from 10 to 13 days."
At this point, the rig can be taken down and moved to another location and the fracing process can begin. The well is fraced so the target formations are better able to flow oil into the wellbore. When that's complete, a pulling unit is brought in to clean out the plugs from the frac.
And finally, a pumping unit, also known as a pump jack, can be placed over the well so production can begin.
From roughneck to the oil company CEO, it takes a lot of team work to complete this process. Beginning next Thursday, we'll speak with a variety employees, some working on the rig and others off, that come together to produce oil and gas here in the Permian Basin.