Industry Article: Despite New Technologies, Critical Subsalt Challenges Remain

Publication: Offshore Engineer
Publication Date: 01/01/2009

Once the bane of offshore exploration, subsalt plays have emerged as one of the most fertile drilling theaters in the world. Despite announcements of world-class discoveries in deep and ultradeep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, Brazil, and elsewhere, technical challenges remain. Advances in seismic imaging, vibration-resistant downhole assemblies, steerable drilling systems, and other new generation technologies have helped level the playing field to an extent. Nevertheless, in an arena where well depths can exceed 30,000 ft (9,144 m), well-control problems related to imperceptible pressure regimes, the unpredictable incursion of tar that can slam the brakes on a drilling program, and excessive BHA-wrecking vibration are among the difficulties that make subsalt exploration one of the industry’s most technically demanding ventures.