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You’ve drilled a hole and hit oil or natural gas. What’s next? Long before products like fuel can be made, drilling specialists must first pump the crude oil out of the ground.
Branching Out: Multilateral Wells
A traditional well is a single vertical hole that runs straight down into the Earth. Multilateral wells have many well holes that stretch out from the central hole called the mother bore like branches on a tree. Those “branches” can get at smaller pockets of oil or gas buried within the rock, which allows more oil to be extracted from a given area, and it reduces the footprint on the surface.
Incredible Growing Foam!
Sometimes, too much natural gas is present in an oil well. Shell scientists have come up with a special foam that soaks up natural gas, growing bigger as it does. The expanded foam is flushed out of the pipe, so the oil can be safely extracted and pumped to a refinery, where it is separated into a variety of useful products such as fuel and chemicals. Shell is the first company in the industry to test such a product in its wells!
Twister Supersonic Separator
Natural gas underground isn’t always pure. It’s often mixed with water or other materials. To remove the water before the natural gas reaches the surface, Shell engineers use a new machine called the Twister Supersonic Separator. The device cools wet natural gas underground to super-low temperatures, then swirls it around. The cold water is forced out of the gas, creating a thin film. The film is removed, leaving dry gas behind. The natural gas can then be collected and sent to a refinery for processing.