National Driller cut its teeth as a water well magazine. We have great pride in it and won’t forget it. But things evolve. Just as many of our readers and advertisers have gotten horizontal, in a business sense, so have we. That’s why you see me write about water, geothermal, HDD utility drilling and just about anything else that involves a rig. We need to reflect our audience.

Given that, I spent some time in Houston learning the ins and outs of horizontal drilling for gas. The oil and gas sector will likely get more attention here and in the magazine in the future, so I wanted to learn what I could at the Horizontal Drilling USA Extended Laterals Congress 2014 and do some networking.

Laterals—for those who work in other drilling sectors and don’t give a thought to gas or tight oil drilling—put the horizontal in horizontal directional drilling. Drillers in the Bakken, Permian or any number of United States shale plays drill to depth, then kick off horizontally to stay in thin strata holding gas deposits. The idea is, if you drill straight down to a 50-foot thick deposit, you’d have exactly 50 feet of access to its valuable resources. Drill down to the deposit and follow it for thousands of feet, and you increase your yield quite a bit.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration reports the natural gas boom has supplanted imports from Canada and boosted exports to Mexico. In fact, “over the longer term, the EIA Annual Energy Outlook 2014 projects the United States will be a net exporter of natural gas beginning in 2018.”

A big part of that energy equation lies in extending laterals and putting more of them on each drill pad.

“The definition of a long lateral has changed over the last two years,” Don Robinson of Range Resources told the crowd in Houston. He asked attendees to raise their hands to indicate the maximum distance from kick off they’d drilled. He started at 3,000 or 4,000 feet, and went up from there, watching hands drop as he passed 10,000 feet, then 11,000. The longest in the room? More than 15,000 feet.

That’s half the height of Mount Everest. A driller did that. And his feat of engineering daring helped change the course of U.S. energy production and consumption.

Readers can get a glimpse of the scope of that change in this story. The author’s maps track rig movements across the U.S. over the first seven weeks of 2014. It’s breathtaking just how busy these drillers are. Author Kevin Thuot’s thoughts? “The big take away for me is that the Permian has been the clear winner, having acquired rigs at the expense of the Granite Wash, Woodford, Barnett, Haynesville, Eaglebine, and Eagle Ford plays.” I encourage you to check out the story, since it’s a peek at how energy will play out in this country in 2014.

I’m interested to hear from drillers who have made the jump to oil and gas from other sectors. It’s a different animal, to be sure. Did you do it for the money, for the challenge? Were you just following the jobs? Tell me your story. Send an email to

Stay safe out there, drillers.