Wild­cat­ters drill for oil in far west

China Daily (USA) - - XINJIANG - ByXINHUA in Urumqi

Yi Shim­ing’s job is as rig­or­ous as it is re­ward­ing. As a wild­cat­ter, a per­son who sinks ex­ploratory oil wells, Yi is among hun­dreds of work­ers tasked with look­ing for black gold in China’s far west.

Orig­i­nally from Chongqing mu­nic­i­pal­ity, about 4,000 km from Xin­jiang Uygur au­ton­o­mous re­gion, Yi, 48, is a con­tract worker for Chuan­qing Geo­phys­i­cal Prospect­ing, which be­longs to China Na­tional Pe­tro­leum Corp.

He has worked in Xin­jiang’s Tarim Basin for more than one-third of his life.

He leads an 11-mem­ber team, cur­rently based in Tuger­min, a 200-sq-km area that sits along the Kuqa De­pres­sion, where sev­eral oil de­posits have been ex­plored, in­clud­ing Kela-2, China’s No 2 nat­u­ral gas field, a ma­jor sup­plier to the West-East nat­u­ral gas pipeline.

The pipeline be­gan to trans­port gas from re­source-rich Xin­jiang to the coun­try’s east in 2004.

Along the Kuqa Belt, at least two more large oil­fields have been found in the past decade: Dina-2 was found in 2001, with de­posits of 175 bil­lion cu­bic me­ters of gas; and Keshen, found in 2008, boasts de­posits of 476 bil­lion cu­bic me­ters. Both feed gas into the West-East pipeline.

“My job is to con­duct an ‘X-ray’ of the moun­tains. We help un­cover where the oil and gas de­posits are,” Yi said.

Yi and his col­leagues drill along ex­plo­ration lines drawn by ge­ol­o­gists who use seis­mic imag­ing to un­der­stand the ge­o­log­i­cal struc­ture of moun­tains to lo­cate new oil fields.

There are 15 straight lines in Tuger­min. Yi and his col­leagues need to sink 9,633 wells, from 10 to 40 me­ters deep, along the lines. The wells are 40 me­ters apart from each other and the mar­gin of er­ror can­not ex­ceed 1 meter.

The wild­cat­ters be­gan this task in May, and their work must be com­pleted by this month, when the win­ter weather will start to make work dif­fi­cult, Yi said. After Tuger­min, they will move on to another area along the Kuqa Belt.

Chal­leng­ing en­vi­ron­ment

Though drilling is deemed an en­trylevel po­si­tion, wild­cat­ters have one of the most im­por­tant jobs.

Yi and his team must be hardy and strong.

Ev­ery­day, Yi and his col­leagues have to carry heavy drilling ma­chines, tools and bar­rels of oil and wa­ter across the steep moun­tains.

A well takes about three hours to drill, but mov­ing from one well to another is the most phys­i­cally de­mand­ing.

In Tuger­min, there are more than 200 moun­tains that the team must climb.

“In my dreams, I am still car­ry­ing heavy things,” said Cai Ziyou, 30.

“For each one of us, four or five pairs of shoes and seven or eight pairs of long pants wear out ev­ery year,” Yi said.

Though pay for the com­pany’s man­age­ment level is cut due to low oil prices, work­ers like Yi are not af­fected be­cause they work in harsh con­di­tions, said Ma Chuan, project man­ager at Tuger­min.

Prospect­ing

Oil and gas re­sources in Xin­jiang ac­count for about 20 per­cent of the na­tional to­tal, sources at Tarim oil­field said.

By last month, Tarim oil­field had sup­plied 170 bil­lion cu­bic me­ters of gas, equal­ing 200 mil­lion tons of coal, to the West-East pipeline.

The gas is used by 400 mil­lion res­i­dents and more than 3,000 en­ter­prises in more than 120 medium and large cities across 15 prov­inces and mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties.

Find­ing more oil de­posits is key to sus­tain­ing the pipeline in the fu­ture and to the na­tion’s en­ergy safety, Ma said.

“There is a great chance of find­ing oil in Tuger­min, oth­er­wise we would not have in­vested so heav­ily here,” he said.

Four or five pairs of shoes and seven or eight pairs of long pants wear out ev­ery year.” Yi Shim­ing, Xin­jiang oil wild­cat­ter

TA XUAN / FOR CHINA DAILY

Wild­cat­ters of China Na­tional Pe­tro­leum Corp drill on a moun­tain in Xin­jiang.

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