100 Years of Offshore Drilling, The Changing Technology Used in Lake Erie Drilling
May 13, 2013 marked the 100th anniversary of the drilling of the Glenwood Lake Erie #1 well 100m from the shoreline of Tilbury East Township in southwestern Ontario. Exploration for natural gas in southwestern Ontario had been ongoing for over two decades when Glenwood Natural Gas Company drilled offshore under the waters of Lake Erie to search for natural gas. The focus of the very early drilling was to extend the prolific Tilbury Gas Pool out under the waters of Lake Erie. Drilling of a handful of wells from wooden platforms constructed in the shallow water near to shore was soon followed by constructing platforms further from shore. In the 1950's Consolidated West Petroleums had perfected the technology of building portable steel platforms that were transported to sites on a barge and a cable tool rig was hoisted on top to drill a gas well in 30-45 days. In the early 1960's rotary drilling technology transformed the Lake Erie offshore quest for natural gas reserves. Consolidated West Petroleums’ Timesaver II jack up rotary platform allowed operators to drill in water depths of up to 100’. A typical well could now be drilled in a week. Several other operators followed suit. By the late 1970's and early 1980's five rotary drilling rigs were active in Lake Erie and upwards of 100 wells were drilled annually in Lake Erie. To date over 2000 wells have been drilled in the Canadian waters of Lake Erie. Traditional Silurian carbonate and clastic reservoirs is the primary target for the Lake Erie driller. The Guelph reef buildups with draping Salina carbonates are the producing zones in the western portion of Lake Erie. Natural gas from the vuggy dolomite reef reservoir typically flowed at rates of over 28,300 m3/d (1 MMcf/d). The clastics of the Clinton-Medina Group (Thorold-Grimsby and Whirlpool Sandstones) in east Lake Erie were more modest producers typically in the 2,800–5,700 m3/d (100-200 Mcf/d) range and these “blanket” sand reservoirs were much more extensive producing gas from a much larger area. These traditional reservoirs have reached a mature developed phase and drilling activity has fallen to zero in recent years. Horizontal drilling technology was just starting to be employed and has merit in exploiting lower productivity portions of these traditional reservoirs.
AAPG Datapages/Search and Discovery Article #90195 © 2014 Eastern Section Meeting, London, Ontario, Canada, September 27-30, 2014