Nodding Donkeys Fail as Long Shale Wells Make Pumping Oil Harder

12 Dec 2017   Shale Oil

Imagine trying to slurp a thick chocolate shake through a J-shaped straw four miles long. That’s the kind of cheek-puckering test the American shale industry must overcome to prolong a record boom in oil output. For almost a decade, drillers have been using new techniques to tap vast petroleum reserves scattered within deep, porous rock layers in places like west Texas, Pennsylvania and southern Canada. By digging extra-long wells that went down and then sideways at different angles, engineers were able to capture a lot more crude than from a vertical hole. While those new methods unlocked a torrent of new supply and turned the U.S. into the world’s largest producer, the increased difficulty of sucking fluid from so far underground is overwhelming pump systems that have changed little in decades. The mismatch […]

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