WOODWARD — Improved technology, drilling practices and regulation combined to help create the oil and natural gas boom throughout western Oklahoma, according to speakers Thursday at the TriState Oil & Gas Convention in Woodward.
Tulsa-based Unit Petroleum Corp. over the past three years has returned to Beaver County, where oil was first discovered more than half a century ago and an area that was widely considered to be depleted.
Horizontal drilling, however, changed the game, said Frank Young, vice president of Unit Petroleum's central division.
“The horizontal technology was required to make that play,” Young said. “That was the only way you were going to take advantage of the natural formation of the rock.”
In a traditional vertical well, producers drill down through various layers of rocks. They can use hydraulic fracturing and other methods along the way, but they only have a limited area to produce from each horizontal layer of rock.
With horizontal drilling, producers target one rock layer at a time. They drill down vertically to that rock layer depth and then drill a horizontal section — known as a lateral — that can extend as much as two miles through the narrow horizontal layer.
Horizontal drilling allows better access to much more surface area of the target layer along the well bore.
The benefit is especially great in areas like Beaver County, where the rock contains numerous natural cracks and fractures, which make it easier for the oil and natural gas to flow through the rock layer and into the well.
In much of Beaver County, the Marrowton rock layer that Unit is targeting contains numerous natural fractures in an east-west pattern.
To best take advantage of the rocks, Unit is drilling horizontal wells that run north and south, intersecting the natural cracks.