The First Natural Gas Wells
Drilling for natural gas is something many of us believe originated during the nineteenth century. However, sophisticated drilling techniques were actually invented by the ancient Chinese in Sichuan Province as far back as 200 B.C. These early drillers developed and implemented techniques to permit boreholes to reach deep natural gas pockets, including constructing a variety of drill bits to contend with the various rock types encountered. Equally amazing is that their technology would be easi ly recognized by a present-day production engineer. The Chinese raised derricks as high as 180 feet over selected drill sites. They stacked rocks with holes in the center to use as a guide for their drills, and these donut-shaped rocks were also aligned vertically below the earth's surface down to bedrock. Using ropes and cables of hemp and bamboo, as well as cast iron drills, they were able to bore hundreds of feet to tap into natural gas reserves. Connecting pipes made of bamboo, the natural gas was then delivered to various destinations. Why did they drill for natural gas over 2,000 years ago? Although there were many uses, the natural gas primarily served as fuel to evaporate water from brine to produce a valuable commodity, critical to human survival as both a food supple-ment and preservative: salt.