Kola Superdeep Borehole

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Coordinates: 69°23′46.39″N 30°36′31.20″E / 69.3962194°N 30.6086667°E / 69.3962194; 30.6086667

Kola Superdeep Borehole, commemorated on the 1987 USSR stamp
Kola Superdeep Borehole, 2007

The Kola Superdeep Borehole (Russian: Кольская сверхглубокая скважина) is the result of a scientific drilling project of the former USSR. The project attempted to drill as deep as possible into the Earth's crust. Drilling began on 24 May 1970 on the Kola Peninsula, using the Uralmash-4E, and later the Uralmash-15000 series drilling rig. A number of boreholes were drilled by branching from a central hole. The deepest, SG-3, reached 12,261 metres (40,230 ft) in 1989, and remains the deepest hole ever drilled.[1] The longest hole ever drilled is the 12,290 m (40,300 ft) Maersk Oil BD-04A well at Al-Shaheen field in Qatar.[2]


[edit] Digging

The initial target depth was set at 15,000 m (49,000 ft). On 6 June 1979, the world depth record held by the Bertha Rogers hole in Washita County, Oklahoma at 9,583 m (31,440 ft)[3] was broken. In 1983, the drill passed 12,000 m (39,000 ft), and drilling was stopped for about a year to celebrate the event.[4] This idle period may have contributed to a break-down on 27 September 1984: after drilling to 12,066 m (39,590 ft), a 5,000 m (16,000 ft) section of drillpipe twisted off and was left in the hole. Drilling was later restarted from 7,000 m (23,000 ft).[4] The hole reached 12,262 m (40,230 ft) in 1989. In that year the hole depth was expected to reach 13,500 m (44,000 ft) by the end of 1990 and 15,000 m (49,000 ft) by 1993.[5] However, due to higher than expected temperatures at this depth and location, 180 °C (356 °F) instead of expected 100 °C (212 °F), drilling deeper was deemed unfeasible and the drilling was stopped in 1992.[4] With the expected further increase in temperature with increasing depth, drilling to 15,000 m (49,000 ft) would have meant working at a projected 300 °C (570 °F), at which the drill bit would no longer work.

[edit] Research

The Kola borehole penetrated about a third through the Baltic continental crust, presumed to be around 35 kilometres (22 mi), exposing rocks 2.7 billion years old at the bottom[citation needed]. The project has been a site of extensive geophysical studies. The stated areas of study were the deep structure of the Baltic Shield; seismic discontinuities and the thermal regime in the Earth's crust; the physical and chemical composition of the deep crust and the transition from upper to lower crust; lithospheric geophysics; and to create and develop technologies for deep geophysical study.

To scientists, one of the more fascinating findings to emerge from this well is that the change in seismic velocities was not found at a boundary marking Jeffreys' hypothetical transition from granite to basalt; it was at the bottom of a layer of metamorphic rock that extended from about 5 to 10 kilometers beneath the surface. The rock there had been thoroughly fractured and was saturated with water, which was surprising. This water, unlike surface water, must have come from deep-crust minerals and had been unable to reach the surface because of a layer of impermeable rock.[6]

Another unexpected discovery was the large quantity of hydrogen gas, with the mud flowing out of the hole described as "boiling" with hydrogen.[7]

[edit] Current Status

The site is currently controlled by the State Scientific Enterprise on Superdeep Drilling and Complex Investigations in the Earth's Interior (GNPP Nedra) as the Deep Geolaboratory. As of 2003, the deepest active bore, SG-5, is 8,578 m (28,140 ft) and with a 214 mm (8.4 in) diameter.[citation needed]

[edit] Other projects

The United States embarked on a similar project in 1957, dubbed Project Mohole, which was intended to penetrate the shallow crust under the Pacific Ocean off Mexico. However, after some initial drilling, the project was abandoned in 1966 due to lack of funding. This "failure" inspired great successes of the Deep Sea Drilling Project, Ocean Drilling Program, and the present Integrated Ocean Drilling Program.

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ "Kola Superdeep Borehole (KSDB)". ICDP. http://www.icdp-online.org/contenido/icdp/front_content.php?idcat=695. Retrieved on 2009-04-08. 
  2. ^ "Maersk Oil finished Drilling (BD-04A) well at Al-Shaheen field, Qatar". Gulf Oil & Gas Marketplace. 23 May 2008. http://www.gulfoilandgas.com/webpro1/main/mainnews.asp?id=6050. Retrieved on 2009-04-08. 
  3. ^ "The KTB Borehole—Germany’s Superdeep Telescope into the Earth’s Crust" (PDF). Oilfield Review. http://www.slb.com/media/services/resources/oilfieldreview/ors95/jan95/01950422.pdf. Retrieved on 2009-04-08. 
  4. ^ a b c A. Osadchy (no. 5, 2002). "Legendary Kola Superdeep" (in Russian). Наука и жизнь (Journal of Science and Life). http://www.nkj.ru/archive/articles/4172/. Retrieved on 2009-04-08. 
  5. ^ Kola Superdeep is in the Guinness Book of World Records, Zemlya i Vselennaya, 1989, no. 3, p.9 (Russian)
  6. ^ Alan Bellows (5 March 2007). "The Deepest Hole". Damn Interesting. http://www.damninteresting.com/?p=567. Retrieved on 2009-04-08. 
  7. ^ G.J. MacDonald (1988). "Major Questions About Deep Continental Structures". A. Bodén and K.G. Eriksson Deep drilling in crystalline bedrock, v. 1: 28-48, Berlin: Springer-Verlag. 

[edit] Further reading

  • Fuchs, K., Kozlovsky, E.A., Krivtsov, A.I., and Zoback, M.D. (Eds.) (1990) Super-Deep Continental Drilling and Deep Geophysical Sounding. Springer Verlag, Berlin, 436 pp.
  • Kozlovsky, Ye.A. (Ed.) (1987) The Superdeep Well of the Kola Peninsula. Springer Verlag, Berlin, 558 pp.

[edit] External links

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