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Directional drilling

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Directional drilling is defined as the practice of controlling the direction and deviation of a wellbore to a predetermined underground target or location. This section describes why directional drilling is required, the sort of well paths that are used, and the tools and methods employed to drill those wells.

Applications of directional drilling

Listed are some of the major applications of directional drilling

Multiple wells from a single location

Field developments, particularly offshore and in the Arctic, involve drilling an optimum number of wells from a single platform or artificial island. Directional drilling has helped by greatly reducing the costs and environmental impact of this application.

Inaccessible surface locations

A well is directionally drilled to reach a producing zone that is otherwise inaccessible with normal vertical-drilling practices. The location of a producing formation dictates the remote rig location and directional-well profile. Applications like this are where “extended-reach” wells are most commonly drilled.

Multiple target zones

A very cost-effective way of delivering high production rates involves intersecting multiple targets with a single wellbore. There are certain cases in which the attitudes (bed dips) of the producing formations are such that the most economical approach is a directional well for a multiple completion. This is also applicable to multiple production zones adjacent to a fault plane or beneath a salt dome.


This technique may be employed either to drill around obstructions or to reposition the bottom of the wellbore for geological reasons. Drilling around obstructions, such as a lost string of pipe, is usually accomplished with a blind sidetrack. Oriented sidetrack is required if a certain direction is critical in locating an anticipated producing formation.

Fault drilling

It is often difficult to drill a vertical well through a steeply inclined fault plane to reach an underlying hydrocarbon-bearing formation. Instead, the wellbore may be deflected perpendicular or parallel to the fault for better production. In unstable areas, a wellbore drilled through a fault zone could be at risk because of the possibility of slippage or movement along the fault. Formation pressures along fault planes may also affect hole conditions.

Salt-dome exploration

Producing formations can be found under the hard, overhanging cap of salt domes. Drilling a vertical well through a salt dome increases the possibility of drilling problems, such as washouts, lost circulation, and corrosion.

Relief-well drilling

An uncontrolled (wild) well is intersected near its source. Mud and water are then pumped into the relief well to kill the wild one. Directional control is extremely exacting for this type of application.

River-crossing applications

Directional drilling is employed extensively for placing pipelines that cross beneath rivers, and has even been used by telecommunication companies to install fiber-optic cables.

Directional-well profiles

A directional well can be divided into three main sections:

Different factors are involved at each stage within the overall constraints of optimum reservoir penetration.

Types of directional wells

The major types of directional wells are:

Designing directional wells

Today, most directional-well planning is done on the computer. Modern computer technologies, such as 3D visualization and 3D earth models, have provided geoscientists and engineers with integrated and interactive tools to create, visualize, and optimize well paths through reservoir targets, as shown in Fig. 1. Furthermore, recently developed geosteering systems and RSSs allow more-complex directional-well trajectories that are designed to drain more of the reservoir. The future is the real-time integration of the drilling and logging-while-drilling (LWD) data with geosteering and the earth model. The 3D visualization of real-time data, together with the earth model, would allow integrated knowledge management and real-time decision making.


See also

Directional survey

Directional deviation tools


"directional+drilling" Directional drilling search

Noteworthy papers in OnePetro

External links