When we look back on the history of oil wells, the images of Drake Well in Pennsylvania and Spindletop in Texas come to mind. Our industry has encountered many global innovations since then, but the history of oil runs “deeper” than we may think.
Oil was discovered in China in 600 BC, used as a versatile resource to fuel fires and to boil sea water to create salt for seasoning food and distilling water for drinking. The transportation of natural gas was just as flexible and adaptable as the resource itself. Chinese communities fashioned bamboo into pipelines to transport natural gas to light their capital, Peking, as early as 400 BC.
Centuries later around 347 CE, the first-known oil wells in China were created by combining iron drill bits with bamboo pipe. Without modern drilling techniques, the process of breaking the ground by chipping away at rock ran the course of several months -- not to mention the time required to extract the debris packed at the bottom of the hole during drilling.
Similar to the modern oil and gas industry engineering practices, Chinese workers were inspired to innovate new tools and techniques to overcome common drilling complications. New retrieval methods were developed to successfully recover lost tools, and new compounds and procedures were created to soak up water, repair holes and prevent cave-ins.
The wells created by these techniques went to depths up to 790 feet. For perspective, the Drake Well, the first commercial oil well in the U.S. drilled in 1859, is 69.5 feet deep. Spindletop, the largest gusher the world has seen before 1901, was drilled to 1,020 feet with a cable-tool drilling system with a heavier, rotary-type bit.
Modern-day drilling technologies are being developed to continually push the limits of known drilling depths and pressures. To accommodate these challenging applications, we must continue to improve our technologies to meet the increasing demands and standards for drilling projects around the world.
In support of this, Freudenberg Oil & Gas Technologies (FO>) has developed a portfolio of BOP pressure control products, certified to meet and exceed industry testing standards. Several of these products, like our WellProtek™ annulars and temperature rated Ram-style products are developed with proprietary elastomers to extend performance and meet 16A 4th edition testing requirements.