China starts world's second deepest well, says it will only be for scientific purposes

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China has started drilling this week, in the Taklamakan desert, of what will be the second deepest well in the world. If the forecasts of the engineers are met, the excavation will reach 11,100 meters in about two years, a depth only exceeded by the Kola superwell (Russia) which is 12,226 m.

The Chinese authorities have presented the project as an initiative with exclusively scientific purposes, to improve knowledge of relatively deep layers of the earth's crust and the history of the formation of the Earth, but it is not ruled out that the initiative will also serve to improve techniques for deep excavation in especially difficult areas and, finally, as an intermediate step in the exploitation of mining resources at great depth; including hydrocarbons.

Excavation facilities, in an isolated and desert area.


The official agency xinhua has indicated that the operation began on Tuesday, May 30 at 11:46 local time (03:46 GMT), in what "represents a significant advance in China's deep exploration of the Earth and provides an opportunity to study the subsurface areas of the planet".

Location of the well (red mark) that China has begun to excavate.

Location of the well (red mark) that China has begun to excavate.


The head of the new Chinese super-well is in the Tarim Basin in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. The Chinese authorities have not provided much technical information about the project, noting for example that "during the excavation process, the work equipment includes drill bits and drilling pipes weighing more than 2,000 tons, which will make it possible to penetrate the earth and will penetrate more than 10 continental strata, including the Cretaceous system", indicates the note from xinhua.

Wang Chunsheng, a specialist technician participating in the project, explained that "drilling a well more than 10,000 meters deep is a bold attempt to study the unknown territory of the planet and push the limits of human understanding."

The expected depth and the complexity of the subsoil are the two main challenges of the project.

The expected depth and the complexity of the subsoil are the two main challenges of the project.


"The construction difficulty of the drilling project can be compared to that of a large truck driving on two fine steel cables," said Sun Jinsheng, an academic with the Chinese Academy of Engineering.

The Tarim Basin is one of the most difficult areas to investigate due to the harsh terrain and difficult underground conditions.

Currently, the deepest onshore well in Asia is the one carried out by the Chinese state oil company Sinopec, also in the Tarim Basin area, reaching a depth of 8,937.77 meters.

Kola's precedent

Drilling of the Kola Super Deep Well (KSDB) or SG-3 began in 1970 when this region near Norway and Finland belonged to the Soviet Union, now Russia. Although in principle it was a mystery to Western countries, its promoters have always reiterated that this excavation, which reached 12,262 in 1989, when it was considered completed, has only been for scientific purposes. It should be remembered that most of these deep wells are used to search for oil and gas. The initial objective was to reach 15,000 meters but technical and economic problems reduced expectations. In any case, the Kola superwell surpassed the previous world record, the Bertha Rogers well in Washita County, Oklahoma, USA, at 9,583 m.

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