The difference between traditional directional or slant drilling and modern day horizontal drilling, is that with directional drilling it can take up to 2,000 feet for the well to bend from drilling at a vertical to drilling horizontally. Modern horizontal drilling, however, can make a 90 degree turn in only a few feet! The concept of horizontal drilling is not new. In fact, the first patent for horizontal drilling was issued in 1891 to Robert E. Lee, for drilling a horizontal drainhole for a vertical well. The advances in technology and the increasing focus on accessing less accessible reservoirs to meet rising demand have allowed for a proliferation of horizontal drilling.
Horizontal drilling technologies have been heralded by many as the greatest advances since the conception of the rotary drilling bit. Horizontal drilling now accounts for 5 to 8 percent of active onshore wells in the U.S., and seems to be increasing every year. The ability of horizontal drilling to reach and extract petroleum from formations that are not accessible with vertical drilling has made it an invaluable technology. Horizontal drilling allows for an increase in the recoverable petroleum in a given formation, and even increases the production in fields previously thought of as marginal or mature. Horizontal drilling also allows for more economical drilling, and less impact on environmentally sensitive areas. In fact, in some areas in which drilling is not allowed for environmental reasons, it is possible to drill horizontal wells to the targeted deposit without harming the environment above. To learn more about the environmental effects of drilling for natural gas. In addition, with this technology, fewer wells are needed to produce the same amount of hydrocarbons.