This Modern Age

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ANWR: The Miracle of Directional Drilling

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Jonah Goldberg, of National Review fame, wrote a piece on ANWR that was originally published  in 2001.  But now with $4/gallon gas drilling ANWR is again the topic du jour I thought I would go back and reread it. 

Amidst Jonah’s natural wit and humor there was one part of the description of the drilling that struck me:

Opponents of drilling are absolutely right: Oil exploration isn’t pretty. The Alpine site looks like a few gravel parking lots connected by a gravel road. There’s industrial piping piled up and corrugated trailers and loading paddocks everywhere. The whole place looks like the floor of one of those giant construction pits before they put up a skyscraper in downtown New York. But what the opponents are reluctant to acknowledge is that the place is tiny: The entire Alpine installation, including living quarters for up to 700 people, covers less than 100 acres (97, to be exact). Those 100 acres represent two-tenths of 1 percent of the 40,000-acre oilfield. The drilling that once would have required perhaps a dozen wells, spread out across the tundra, now requires only one.

This is the miracle of directional drilling, a relatively new technology that environmentalist ideologues are loath to admit even exists, because it runs completely counter to the earth-gouging stereotypes of yesteryear. Directional drilling makes it possible to drill in virtually any direction for miles. Indeed, the drilling can go down hundreds of feet, then sideways, then upwards again, like a fishhook. Don’t think of an oil well as a straw, but as an octopus, with tentacles stretching out in all directions. If the Washington Monument were an absurdly tall directional oil well, it could extract oil from underneath the Bethesda suburbs, Arlington National Cemetery, and the Capitol dome – without waking up a sleeping Bethesda baby, rattling an Arlington headstone, or knocking Tom DeLay’s bullwhip from the wall.

 Well, what do you know?  

If you don’t want to trust the authority of Wikipedia to verify this technology, a Google Search for “directional drilling” yields hundreds of thousands of results. 

Honestly, I wasn’t terribly concerned about footprint that could have been left behind in this minor part of ANWR.  However, it is interesting to know that the impact of drilling is significantly less than many of us would have ever imagined. 

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Written by thismodernage

June 27, 2008 at 5:23 pm