The concept of horizontal drilling is not new. In fact, hundreds of thousands of horizontal wells have been drilled safely and successfully in the United States for decades. But in just the past decade, significant advances in technology and knowledge have led to increasingly effective directional drilling and the ability to drill horizontal wells.
Drilling a horizontal well involves curving the path of the well, gradually moving from a vertical to a horizontal path. The well itself is very narrow, usually only 8.5 inches in diameter.
Technological advances in drilling allow us to steer our equipment away from the straight line that traditional wells take, deviating to reach a point that could be up to two miles away from the entry site.
One of the key tools is measurement-while-drilling technology, or borehole telemetry. This technology allows our engineers and geologists to monitor in real-time the drilling progress deep beneath the surface. Using this technology, we are able to plot and manage the path of the well as it curves from a vertical to a horizontal path.
Another important tool which has been developed over many years is the steerable downhole motor assembly. Conventional drilling of vertical wells occasionally requires downhole motors placed above the drill bit to help penetrate particularly hard rock formations. Adding the ability to steer these motors means that a well’s path can be controlled while continuing to drill. This allows us to introduce the deviation in the well’s path, carefully steering the drill bit into a horizontal path.
Bonanza Creek is currently developing its Wattenberg position exclusively utilizing horizontal drilling. This technique allows us to recover more oil and natural gas for less cost than the traditional vertical method of drilling that has been used in this field for decades.
A horizontal development program not only possesses more attractive economics, it also minimizes our impact on the surface as each section requires less wells to develop the same amount of resource. Fewer wells on the surface help us avoid negative impact to the environment and allow us to be a good neighbor to the communities in which we operate.
Hydraulic fracturing is a long established process of creating fractures in rock formations to release the oil and natural gas trapped inside. This technique uses high water pressure and sand to crack a rock formation deep underground. By pumping this fluid into a drilled well, we are able to open up tiny fissures, up to several tenths of an inch wide, which then allow oil and natural gas trapped in tight rocks to flow back through our pipes and up to the surface.
Hydraulic fracturing has been used to extract oil and natural gas for decades, having first been used in Kansas in 1947. Since then, over 2.5 million fracture treatments have taken place around the world. A majority of U.S. domestic production comes from hydraulically fractured wells.
These operations carried out by Bonanza Creek in the Wattenberg Field occur at depths greater than 6,000 feet below the surface, and in the Cotton Valley sands in Arkansas at depths between 6,500 and 9,000 feet below the surface. This process is usually performed at the start of the life of a well, which can then produce for 30-50 years without needing further treatment.