On the outer edges of east Russia stands a monument to human ingenuity and thirst for oil. Underneath the blue building pictured above is the world's longest oil well, running 7.67 miles below the surface, finished in only 60 days.
With oil crossing $100 and demand still rising in many countries, governments and corporations alike have been forced to work in the most remote parts of the world. Sakhalin Island, which lies north of Japan in the frozen Sea of Okhotsk, has been overtaken by the world's energy companies seeking to tap what may be 45 billion barrels of oil and natural gas under the waters. It's cold — temps hit -22 degrees last week — remote and wedged on top of an active earthquake zone, which makes it one of the best places to use "extended-reach drilling" — where wells may run horizontally for miles instead of boring straight down.
With the oil located several miles offshore, ExxonMobil and its partners built the Yastreb rig, the blue tower above. Designed by a Texas firm, the drill — a 3,000-hp, 230-ft. tall monster — hit a total length of 40,502 feet on the well named OP-11, with a horizontal reach of 37,648 feet. It's the sixth drilling record set at the site using Yastreb, which can move along special tracks to drill new wells. The natural gas from the site is mostly sent to Russia, China and Japan, while the oil can make it all the way to California.
This being oil exploration, ExxonMobil's also going the hard route with a ocean rig, the Orlan, moored off the coast. Instead of balancing on iron or steel risers, the Orlan rests on reinforced concrete, to resist the pressure from the ice floes that surround it most of the year.
Given how long it took ExxonMobil to dig this well, and the popularity of extended-range drilling to reach the oil the world demands, this record should stand a few months at best.