Viewpoints on Energy, Geopolitics, and Civilization
Mir-Yusif Mir-Babayev: Brief history of oil and gas production
In the 13th century Marco Polo reported oil transported on camel caravans. So by the 17th century we see that
Oil was transported via wineskins on four-wheeled carts, taken across country on camels, and moved out by sea.
The development of oil production began with subsequent advances in drilling technology. Oil had been extracted in only small amounts until the mid -19th century, usually from shallow wells around naturally exposed oil. From the second half of the 19th century, the demand for oil and especially its components began to rise.
Recent research has established that the world’s first drilling of an oil well, to a depth of 21 meters, took place on the Absheron peninsula (in the Bibi-Heybat region of Baku) in 1846. Major Alekseev, director of the Baku oil fields, supervised the operation which employed the percussion method, with wooden rods. Prince Mikhail Vorontsov, Viceroy of the Caucasus, confirmed in his note dated 8-14 July 1847, that the completion of the world’s first oil well on the coast of the Caspian Sea (Bibi-Heybat) in 1846, with positive results [1-5] .
An interesting fact: Caucasus Vice-Roy Prince M. Vorontsov led the Russian delegation to the Great Exhibition which opened in London on 1 May 1851. Samples of Baku oil were displayed in the Chemical products section under the numbers: 32) Black oil from the Shemakha province of Baku district, from the Bibi-Heybat, Balakhani and Surakhany wells; and 33) White oil from the Surakhany well. Note that this was eight years before the drilling of the first well in the USA.
1859 is recognized as the beginning of the American oil production industry. There were 75 wells in the Oil Creek river valley by November 1860. More than 500,000 barrels of oil were produced by the end of that year.
The percussion method was developed in the first stages of well drilling (rod, cable and rapid-percussion drilling with flushing of the well-face). Rotary drilling with a circulating flow of fluid to flush the well was applied for the first time in the United States in 1901. In Russia (in 1902), rotary drilling with flushing was first used in Grozny to drill a well 345 meters deep.
We should note here that lifting rocks with a circulating flow of water was invented by a French engineer Favel (Favelle), in 1845, who applied the method to drill an artesian well in the Saint Dominique abbey. He circulated liquid into the internal cavity of the pipe with the cutting transport to increase the efficiency of rod tool drilling.
A gas production well was launched in Surakhany near Baku in 1901 at a plant owned by Vasily Kokorev. One year later, gas extracted from a depth of 207 meters was used to heat the plant; the gas was also transported to other areas of the Absheron fields via pipelines. The Surakhany well was the first in the world to be drilled for gas.
The first initiatives to develop down-hole motors, i.e. a motor on the drilling bit at the bottom of the well, were taken in the 1870. Engineers and constructors from several states worked on its development, designing it on the principle of using hydraulic pump energy and, later, using electrical energy. Thus, in 1873, the American H.G. Cross patented a machine with a hydraulic single-stage turbine for well drilling; a turbine down-hole motor was constructed in 1883. However, neither invention was implemented, nor the problem remained open. In 1890, Baku engineer K.G. Simchenko developed a turbo-drill (a rotational down-hole hydraulic motor for rotary drilling); he received a patent for the invention five years later. In 1897 another engineer from Baku, V.N. Delov, developed a turbo-drill and later received a patent for his percussion electric drill on a cable.
In 1895, the Azerbaijani oilman from Baku Murtuza Mukhtarov creates a modernized machine percussion drilling boom and obtained a patent. His boring tool was known throughout the world as the "Mukhtarov" and exported to many countries. At the end of the XIX century Mukhtarov enters operation a plant of drilling equipment on Bibi-Heybat (near Baku) - in the first industrial plant to produce oil equipment in the Russian Empire.
In the early 20th century, a Polish expert, Volski V., invented a rapid-percussion down-hole hydraulic drilling motor (ram of Volsci), which found a practical industrial application and became a prototype for contemporary down-hole hydro-percussions. In 1901, the first electric motors replaced steam engines in the Baku oil fields. Here it should be stated that that the problem of sealing the annulus between the casing and the borehole wall was one of the major problems encountered during drilling (especially in rotary method). This problem was solved by an engineer A.A. Bogushevsky who developed and patented in 1906 grout injection method into the casing followed by displacement of it through the casing bottom into the annulus. The method of Bogushevsky was successfully applied in Baku for cementing wells under pressure and has been widely used in both Russian and foreign practice drill.
It should be mentioned that in 1904-1911 was printed the four-volume work for well drilling. It was the first fundamental work on drilling and was written by mining engineer I.N. Glushkov, a member of Baku Branch of the Imperial Russian Technical Society named “Guidelines for Drilling”.
Earlier, in 1885, Mining Magazine had published engineer A. Vasilyev’s first thesis in Russia: “The production of oil on Absheron Peninsula and the current state of drilling work there”. The first American reference book, by Syuman, was only published in 1921. Rotary drilling was first used in Baku by oil industrialist von Haber in Surakhany in 1911. Then, in 1914 in Baku, Professor M.M. Tikhvinsky invented a method of well-oil extraction via compressed gas (gas lift). It was first applied in the “Bra Nobel” company’s Baku oil fields. In 1915-1916, deep-well pumps were placed in the Romany oil fields (near Baku) and gas lift was tested for the first time. The USA began using this method only in 1924.
Engineer from Baku M.A. Kapelyushnikov (1886-1959) elaborated and tested single stage turbo drilling with reduction gear in 1922-1923, marking a fundamentally new direction in the development of technology and techniques in oil and gas well drilling. The first 600 m deep well was drilled in Surakhany in 1924 using Matway Kapelyushnikov’s turbo drill. And in 1925, also the world's first professor of the Baku Technical Institute M.M. Skvortsov constructed a device for automatic bit feed - "automatic driller", which was first tested in Surakhany too.
Later, turbo drilling constantly improved with the creation of sectional turbo drills with reduced speed and increased torque. In the 30 years of the XX in the U.S. were tested electric drill with an anchor, and in 1936-1940 a group of engineers (Peter Shumilov, Eyub Taghiyev and others) was one of a group of engineers who devised a strong, multi-stage, direct-drive, turbo-drill able to compete with rotary drilling and turbine drilling became predominant in the USSR. Professor Eyub Taghiyev was awarded the State (Stalin) Prize three times for his scientific work: in 1942 for the development of turbine drilling; in 1947 for directional side-drilling; and in 1952 for simultaneous drilling. The whole oil world, from the North Sea to Kuwait, has benefited from Eyub Taghiyev’s discoveries. The Soviet double-simultaneous drilling unit was exhibited at the Brussels World’s Fair in 1958: the inventors, led by E.I. Taghiyev, were awarded a gold medal.
Oil engineer from Baku Taghiyev E.I. was offering direct scientific leadership drilling the deepest borehole at that time in the Soviet Union (planned depth of 7000 m) in the area Aralsor in Western Kazakhstan. So far, his books "Vibration and rotary-percussion drilling", "Hammer-rotary drilling" and "Double-barreled drilling oil and gas wells" have not lost their value for domestic and as well as for foreign oil companies. Taghiyev E. I. considered the father of Indian Oil; he worked in Brazil and Mexico.
In 1938, N.V. Alexandrov and A.P. Ostrovsky developed an electro-drill in which the bit was rotated by a wholly new submersible motor. The first well drilled in 1940 using Alexandrov and Ostro vsky’s advance was in the Azerbaijani Gala field.
A few words about offshore drilling: on 3 of October 1896, mining engineer V.K. Zglenitsky (one of the initiators on offshore oil production) appealed to the Baku mining department for permission to carry out well-drilling in Bibi-Heybat bay. In July 1900, he published a methodology of exploration by drilling on the sea bed. However, the Caucasian Mining Board rejected his inquiry.
In 1909 the “Bra Nobel Co.” under the leadership of engineer Pavel Pototsky (1879-1932) began filling the Bibi-Heybat Bay with sand, a project that was completed in 1932. This process was designed to make drilling for oil easier on the Caspian Sea since underwater drilling was not considered possible at that time.
In 1924, the world’s first offshore well №71 was drilled by the rota tion method in Ilyich bay, near Baku (now Port Bayil) on an artificially created island, which yielded oil from 461 m gave boom to the oil in dustry, which was the impetus for the exploration of oil and gas fields and other areas of the sea by means of separate drilling wells. The first two grounds on wooden stilts were built in Baku ( Ilyich bay) in 1932- 1933: piles used as 13-meter-long logs with a diameter 30 cm.
In 1933, the Khubentsov brothers suggested the construction of a floating base in the form of a flooded wooden pontoon; the first exploratory well from this base was drilled to 365 m. The first floating drilling unit in the Caspian Sea began work in September 1934. In the same year multiple drilling was conducted by N.S. Timofeev and K.M. Mikhaylov on Artyom Island (now Pirallahi) in the Caspian Sea, while in 1935 the first offshore metal platform was constructed in the same place.
It is appropriate to point out that the wooden piles used in the Gulf of Mexico (1937) for the drilling of exploratory wells at 1.5 km from the shore, the depth of the bay at this point reaches up to 4 meters, and drilling led to the pile courts measuring 95 x 45 meters.
In 1949 the unique offshore field, Neft Dashlari (Oil Rocks) was founded on the Absheron shelf with the construction of offshore steel topsides begun. Within a short period of time oil was struck after drilling down 1000 m and 100 tons of crude oil was produced daily . This was highlighted at the publication of a series of articles (since 1934) in the magazine "Azerbaijan Oil Industry" by big oil expert Fatullabek Rustambekov, who in his articles analyzing national and in- ternational experience, first outlined the theoretical and practical basis for exploration of underwater oil deposits, the organization drilling and construction of offshore oil wells in the Caspian Sea.
The next step in the development of offshore oil production is the development and application of autonomous floating installations. Institute "Gipromorneft" (opened in 1949 in Baku, the world's first Research and Design Institute for the design of hydraulic structures on the high seas) in 1958-1959 drafted up rig for test drilling. This setting (the first in the USSR) consisted of a surface platform area of 432 m², floating body (pontoon) displacement of 648 m² and struts that connected the platform to the floating body. It was designed to operate at depths up to 6.5 m for drilling of cored wells up to 600 m (total of the floating installation from October 1959 to July 1960 were drilled 17 wells of average depth - 664 m).
Typical disadvantages of floating installations were: 1) high center of gravity of the installation, making it unstable afloat in stormy weather; 2) significant restrictions on the depths of the sea and 3) the presence of a rigid connection between the pontoon and the production area, which excluded the possibility of installing the great changes in the depth of the sea.
In 1954 Orujov S.A. with team developed a base of the "Gipromorneft-1" for the water depth of 30 m. The development was so high quality that won second place at the National competition in 1955. In the future, these grounds can industrialize the construction works in the sea; they were completely manufactured in the factory and transferred to a finished product to the place of installation in a special crane ship. These large-block design bases contributed to the implementation of the Caspian Sea in the period from 1949 to 1960 exploration drilling at numerous offshore oil fields, a considerable distance from the shore.
The first jack-up installations in the Caspian Sea have been - "Khazar" (built in Holland) and "Absheron" (built in the USSR). De- signed at institute "Gipromorneft" and gathered in Baku at the shipyard named Paris Commune. Floating unit "Absheron" designed to drill ex ploratory wells up to 2,200 meters in water depths up to 16 m. It should be emphasized that before 1960, the maximum thickness of the water at the developed Azerbaijan's offshore fields is 61 m. Already in August 1966 setting "Absheron" successfully drilled the (paved) exploratory wells in the shallow waters of Sangachali-sea (8 km from the coast) under the leadership of driller V. Petchenko. And after her delivery in tow in the waters between the islands of Swinoy and Los floating unit paved two more deep wells 800 m and 1000 m.
It should be emphasized that after the 1956 Soviet (national) experts studying the American experience with the use of floating drilling units began to use the crane vessels for drilling in the protected waters of the Caspian Sea. That is, for exploration in the Caspian Sea drilling ships were used, converted from tugs and other vessels (for example, the drilling vessel "Bagration" successfully implemented various types of drilling operations in the oil fields of Azerbaijan).
Interesting facts on offshore drilling: 1) The first Azerbaijani platform "Oil Rocks" (Neft Dashlari in Azeri language) is on the list of Guinness World Records («Guinness World Records») as the oldest offshore oil platform (1949), 2) a unique drilling vessel "Glomar Challenger" Company «Global Marine Drilling», leased Institute of Oceanography, USA, in 1969 conducted drilling to clarify the structure of the earth in the area where the ocean depth reaches 6100 m.
The turbo-drills invented were to be significant in the drilling of deviating wells. In 1941, an oil well 2000 m deep was drilled successfully by Aga-Neymatulla’s team in Ilyich bay by turbine directional drilling; this method then spread throughout the world. Improvements to directional drilling have sped the exploration of undersea fields and in rugged terrain (the marshes of Western Siberia etc.) Here, several deviating wells are drilled from one small area (cluster drilling); this reduces the cost of construction and up to 20 wells can be drilled in this way. In the same year began drilling the deepest well in the USSR (3200-3400 m) in the Hovsany field (near Baku).
In the 1938-1941 years, in the Soviet Union developed the main provisions of the method of continuous tilt adjustable turbine drilling with a stationary drill string, i.e. establish a single (standard) method for drilling directional wells. However, already in 1941, Timofeev N.S. offered in stable rocks to use splitters drilling.
On 2 of October 1948, in Surakhany (settlement of Baku), an oil gushed from the first ultra-deep well (№ 1308) in Europe and the USSR, drilled by Ali Yulla to a depth of 3800 m.
In Western Siberia, the first well to produce natural gas did so on 23 of September 1953; it was near the Berezovo settlement of North Tyumen province. The first Western Siberian oil well gushed on 21 of June 1960 in the Konda River basin. It is appropriate to mention here that the famous Azerbaijani geologist F.K. Salmanov (1928- 2007) worked on the development of oil-and-gas in Tyumen province and across Northern Russia for more than 30 years.
In 1964, in the United States was designed the single-start helical hydraulic motor, and in 1966 in the Soviet Union has created a multi- start screw motor to allow for the drilling of directional and horizontal wells for oil and gas. Note that by 1970, the drilling of wells for oil and gas in the Soviet Union, mostly conducted with turbo drills. In the U.S., on the contrary, the predominant distribution has received rotary drilling. In Western Europe the turbodrills applied in inclined drilling and drilling vertical wells.
Also, we consider it necessary to show to a reader a list of ten deepest wells in the world to date, representing the records of scientific and commercial drilling:
- Well in Russia - OP-11 (12345 m). The drilling of the world´s deepest hole was completed in January 2011. OP-11 is in the Odoptu oilfield in Sakhalin; the horizontal length of the well bore is (11475 m). Drilling was completed by Exxon Neftegas in 60 days.
- Well BD-04A in Qatar - (12289 m). This well in the Al-Shaheen oil field was reported in May 2008. The horizontal length of the well bore is 10902 m. It was drilled in 36 days by the Maersk Company.
- Well in the USSR - SH-3 (12262 m). The well was drilled in 1984 on the Kola Peninsula, Murmansk region, and was included in the Guinness Book of Records as the most profound human intrusion into the earth’s crust.
- Well Bertha Rogers (United States, 9583 m). This well is in the area of oil and gas Anadarko Basin in Oklahoma in 1974, first broke the barrier of 9 km. Using the latest equipment and a denial of the fence core drilling has taken for the company Lone Star only 502 days and was stopped when the sinker came across a field of molten sulfur.
5) Well Baden Unit (USA, 9159 m). Another chink of Lone Star in the pool Anadarko. Work began in 1970 and lasted 545 days. Used drilling rig height 43.3 meters and lifting capacity 908 tons. Winch power - 2000 kW, and each of the two pumps - 1000 kW. Wellhead blowout valves equipped with a pressure 105.5 MPa. Only the well took about 2.2 tons of casing, 1.7 million tons of cement and 150 diamond drill bits.
6) Well Hauptbohrung (Germany, 9101 m). Deep drilling program approved in Germany in 1978. The place chosen for the well in the mountains of Bavaria near the junction of two plates intended. For the works was built tower with height of 83 meters and a drilling rig carrying capacity of 800 tons. The well was drilled Hauptbohrung from 1990 to 1994, but the projected depth of 12 km could not to reach because of technological difficulties.
7) Well Zistersdorf UT2A (Austria, 8553 m). The deepest drilling at the time of exploration wells outside the United States ended in May 31, 1983. In 1977, at Vienna's oil and gas basin, where in 1930 opened a small oil field, was drilled Zistersdorf UT1A. At a depth of 7544 m it was showed relatively large, but unrecoverable gas re- serves.
- Well "Saatly" (Azerbaijan SSR, 1977, 8324 m). Well in the lowlands near the confluence of the Kura and Araks rivers was to reach the mark of 11.5 km and assist in geological prospecting of oil and gas. In contrast to the "Kola super-deep", which is the responsibility of the USSR Ministry of Geology, "Saatly" curated Minnefteprom. The fact that one of the 11 wells (2 of them were in the USSR) planned for drilling in 5 countries (USSR, Canada, West Germany, USA and Japan) was drilled in Azerbaijan must be viewed as a vote of confidence in the professionalism of Azerbaijani scientists and engineers. That is one of the reasons why Baku oil institute (which established in November of 1920) was called “The Oil Academy” of the USSR.
- Well Mirow-1 (DDR, 8008 m). In the DDR there was a large- scale program of geological exploration, a key element of which was drilling ultra-deep wells. Total by 1990, 10 wells were drilled deeper than 6 km. The deepest - Mirow-1 in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, the drilling of which lasted from 1974 to 1979.
- BP and SOCAR, on January 13, 2020 drilling of the first exploratory well (SAX01) began in the Azerbaijani sector of the Caspian Sea on the Shafag-Asiman offshore block. Well drilling is carried out by SOCAR Caspian Drilling Co. (CDC); the total depth of this well will reach 7000 m, and drilling operations will continue for 9 months.
In conclusion, we note that the further development of large offshore fields was made possible using various modifications of fixed and floating drilling rigs. The XX century was the beginning of intensive development work on oil and gases offshore the various seas of the world (the Caspian and the North Seas, the shelves of Mexico and Gulf of California and others). For example; recently (on November 5, 2020), the Turkish vessel "Fatih" has started drilling and exploration well "Tyurkali-1" in the new Sakarya gas field in the Black Sea; drilling works will last 75 days. The reserves of the field are estimated at 405 billion cubic meters.
Discovered oil and gas reserves offshore are the basis for the development of large-scale works on oil and gas production in the XXI century, which is directly related to the development of the world economy, with growing demand for motor fuels.
BP-Azerbaijan Co., operating the development of offshore fields Azeri-Chirag-Guneshli has announced on 15 April of 2013 that the jacket for the West Chirag platform built as a part of the Chirag Oil Project had sailed. The West Chirag jacket is the heaviest jacket ever built on the Caspian Sea and it was fully constructed in Azerbaijan, using local construction infrastructure. The jacket has s total weight of 18200 tons (which includes 1500 tons of floatation pontoon) and is about 185 meters of height.
Relatively recently ( on June 27, 2019) SOCAR AQS Drilling Co., led by Ramin Isayev, completed the construction of well No 342 on the offshore platform 7 of the Guneshli field. The well was drilled to a depth of 2660 m using a new generation drilling rig Bentec 3000HP.
Currently, Azerbaijan has a place on the energy map of the world: securing its sustainable socio-economic development and energy security, republic of energy imports became an exporter of oil and gas to regional and world markets. For example: on 19 of September, 2020 President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev took part in the ceremony of laying the foundation for offshore operations at the Absheron field (the main company participates in the Absheron field development project is French Total).
In confirmation, we emphasize that at the moment the Southern Gas Corridor (SGC), which will supply gas produced on the shelf of the Caspian Sea to Europe (Shahdeniz-2, South Caucasus Pipeline, TANAP and TAP) is one of the largest energy projects in the world. Vice President of BP for SGC Joe Murphy, said in 2015: “When we discovered Shahdeniz in 1999, together with SOCAR, we know that we were going to deal with massive and geologically-challenging gas field. With over 1 trillion cubic meters of gas resource in place the field represents the largest gas discovery in BP’s over 100 years’ history and remains one of the largest oil and gas field in the world. BP (with SOCAR) is taking a leading role in the development of the Southern Gas Corridor” .
1. Фукс И.Г., Матишев В.А. Иллюстрированные очерки по истории российского нефтегазового дела. Часть I . Север и Юг европейской части России (до 1917г.). – М.: Изд-во Нефть и Газ, 2000. – 176с.
- Mir-Babayev M.F. Azerbaijan’s oil history. A chronology leading up to Soviet era // Azerbaijan International Magazine, Sherman Oaks (US). – 2002. – Summer, AI 10.2 – p.34-41.
- Mir-Babayev M.F. Brief history of the first drilled oil well; and the people involved – “Oil-Industry History” (USA), 2017, v.18, # 1, p.25-34.
- Wysatta Mike. History of Azerbaijan oil chronical further in second book – “Reservoir Solutions” (USA-Canada), April-June 2017, v.20, #2, p.10-12.
- James Douet. The Heritage of the Oil Industry
TICCIH Thematic Study - The International Committee for the Conservation of the Industrial Heritage. 2020 - 79p.
- Mir-Babayev M.F. Oil Rocks: the first city on the Caspian Sea – “Reservoir” (Canada), 2012, v.39, # 4 (April), p.33-36.
- “Caspian World” magazine, Baku, 2015, p.33.
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