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The 21st Century

Oil and gas exploration and production dates back to the 19th century. However, the oil and gas industry employs emerging technologies and is contantly striving to modernize exploration drilling, well completion and production techniques.

Recent industry innovations include:

Three Dimensional Seismic. Improvements to standard seismic techniques (using sound energy to determine if a rock formation is potentially oil or gas bearing) allow earth scientists to look at the total shape of the formation - the width, length and depth. This more advanced seismic technology helps oil and gas companies find reserves that previously may have been missed by less sophisticated means. By better understanding the subsurface before drilling, the industry can also reduce the number of dry holes and limit environmental impact.

Directional Drilling. Beginning several hundred feet below the earth's surface, directional drilling involves the controlled deviation of a hole. The total depth of a well can reach a destination from a few feet to several thousand feet away from the surface location of the drilling rig. Drilling can therefore occur beneath environmentally sensitive areas using surface locations far removed from that area. Directional drilling helps target formations that may lie under land or water that is not readily accessible by conventional means.

Horizontal Drilling. One step beyond directional drilling, this innovation allows for drilling horizontally (instead of the more common vertical drilling) from a kick-off point below the surface out to a predetermined target that may be more than one thousand feet away. In addition to protecting environmentally sensitive areas, horizontal drilling also enhances oil and gas recovery over traditional methods. In some cases, one horizontal well can replace several vertical wells, minimizing surface activity.

Secondary and Tertiary Recovery. Only a fraction of the original oil and gas in place - often less than a fourth - can be removed using traditional methods. New technologies for getting more oil and gas production from existing wells, like hydrojet technology, are being developed. Flooding, or essentially "pushing" oil or gas through the formation with water or carbon dioxide can also enhance recovery by making oil or gas easier to move out of the formation and into the well. Although these techniques are very costly in their introductory stages, they ensure maximum production from existing wells.