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3-D models help scientists locate a good spot for drilling. But to be certain that large amounts of oil and gas actually exist there, you have to go underground.
You Know the Drill
Oil companies have used rotary drilling for the last century. In this process a rotary drill spins rapidly as it carves a hole deep into the Earth. At the same time fluid called mud, which is actually a special type of clay mixed with water, is pumped down the center of the drill pipe. It cools the drill bit as it spins and prevents the newly drilled hole from caving in.
When people struck oil back in the early 1900’s, oil often blasted high into the air. What a mess! Today, Shell engineers maintain the pressure inside the hole by adjusting the pressure of the mud. This enables them to avoid such a mess.
Drilling calls for handling a lot of heavy pipe and equipment. To make the job safer and easier, Shell uses rig automation systems that let workers handle the equipment by remote control. On an automated rig, one driller and an assistant can control a drill from inside a specially designed control cabin. Without automation, the job requires five to seven people!