An offshore oil rig.
Although the basic principle of petroleum engineering, pumping oil out of the ground, has changed little since the discovery of oil drilling in the 1800s, technological advances make drilling safer, less costly and more environmentally sound. The potential of oil drilling may be in doubt due to dwindling oil supplies, but the near future looks only to get bigger for petroleum drilling.
Oil skimming from whales was the primary source of oil for society until overfishing almost wiped them out. The early methods of petroleum drilling were little more than estimations about the location of oil deposits, according to Science Clarified. In 1859, Edwin Drake of Pennsylvania’s Seneca Oil drilled what history considers the first man-made oil well.
The types of drilling in petroleum engineering can save companies millions of dollars and reduce the impact of oil drilling. New technology allows a single well to dig in many directions—even drilling under the ocean from onshore sites—instead of constantly drilling many holes in the ground, according to Wisconsin University’s Geology Department.
Petroleum drilling comes in three varieties: vertical, horizontal and slant drilling, according to Lloydminster Heavy Oil. Vertical drilling essentially just drills a hole straight into the ground, and while the easiest method, it also is the least efficient. Horizontal drilling uses a vertical hole, but has special drill bits that can rotate in different directions. Slant drilling also uses an angular drill bit, but at angles between 30 and 45 degrees.
The geography of the land plays one of the most vital parts in helping a petroleum engineer decide on what type of drilling to use. Undersea sources of oil sometimes require a specialized offshore rig. However, you can also slant an onshore oil derrick to reach oceanic deposits, according to the Energy Information Administration. Horizontal drilling usually works best in particularly rocky areas sediment and rock tend to break up deposits into smaller pools.
Until greener sources of energy like solar and hydrogen become viable, petroleum drilling looks to become only more efficient and environmentally friendly and have a growing importance in the world. New 3-D mapping technology allows geologists to more accurately map out underground deposits, and software gives engineers computer models that predict the environmental effects of oil and natural gas drilling, which are usually found together, according to petroleum company Chevron.