Kola super-deep well

The boring of the well on the Kola peninsula started on the 24 of May, 1970, in order to explore the internal structure of the Earth. Such a project is interesting for the scientists from all over the world, since it may help to solve a lot of the mysteries and challenges.

The XX century became a turning point for science development. A lot of scientific discoveries were made. In the 60-s of the XX century it was decided to discover the inner heart of the Earth, aiming to verify some scientific hypothesis.  The great rivalry was in this field between the USA and the USSR.  
The decision on the boring was made to mark the 100th  anniversary of Lenin’s Birthday, a significant for the USSR state date.  The chosen location was in Murmansk’ area, 10 km away from Zapolyarny city. Unlike foreign projects of the super-deep wells, this one was developed for scientific and research purposes only. Any oil-related investigations were not a priority for the specialists.
Based on these reasons the decision was made to start the well in the North-Eastern part of the Baltic Shield where ore-bearing pre-Cambrian structures, typical for the foundations of paleoplatforms were.

The sedimentary rocks were well explored thanks to oil production.   The place was chosen where the volcanic rocks about 3 billion years old are closer to the surface. The scientists  suggested that the granite would change to basalt at the depth of 5 km already. The expedition was organized in order to find the optimum location.

The history of the well has started from this moment. The first years were carried out relatively uneventful, before the depth of 7 km was reached. The boring went through homogeneous granite. Later the boring head started to pass through less resilient laminated rock. Wellbore started to crumble down, pore spaces of irregular shape started to appear. There were bindings of the drill-pipe with the rocks, leading to point breaks while attempting rising the bore. 

It led to the necessity of concreting the part of the drill-pipe. The boring was continued, but with the borehole deflection.  According to the statistics, failures of such type are quite often, that’s why the process got dragged out for years.   

In June, 1979, the Kole well reached the depth of 9.583 m. and surpassed  its rivalry of that time, the oil well of Bert Rogers (Oklahoma, the USA).   At that period of time 16 research laboratories operated on Kola peninsula, analyzing gained data.  The project was supervised by the minister of Geology E. Kozlovsky.

For the first years of the boring the work had been performed with the machine ‘Уралмаш-4Э’. It had a great success while carrying gas and oil exploration.  Another  drilling machine ‘Уралмаш-15000’  had been used starting from the depth of 7000 m. Geologists managed to reach 12,066 m mark by the beginning of the 1983. And a year later International Geological Congress took place in Moscow, based on the gathered data. This event attracted attention of leading specialists from abroad, the Minister of Geology of the USSR E. Kozlovsky personally hosted the Congress.

In 1984 the work was continued, but some unexpected obstacles appeared - drill string broke. The decision was made to start anew from the depth of 7000 m. 

By 1990 the well reached the depth of 12,262 m when the drill string broke once again. It was decided to finish the drilling, since the wellbore started to deviate from the vertical. The drift angle was about 25 degrees.  

With the temperature increasing with the depth, low-melting parts of machinery started to wreck at the mark of 250 °С, when it was reached 12,000 m. The desired mark of 15,000 m became inaccessible, although one of the authors of the project D. Ghuberman, Doctor of Engineering Science, the member of the Academy of Science, insisted that the designed depth was 18,000 m. With the break-up of the Soviet Union ambitious implorations were stopped.

A number of significant discovers were made during drilling, allowing to consider geological structure of our planet from the different point. Also nickel was found at 1,700 m depth, similar to moon’s grounds were found at 3,000 m, that was proved by comparison their physical and mechanical properties.

It was 9,500 m to 10,500 m mark, where the explorers discovered the lay with most of the elements being presented.  There were gold ore and other metals of value. It was suggested on the base of the analyses if these geological data that the Earth was 3 billion years older than it had been believed before.  Also the temperature at certain depths appeared to be higher than expected.

More crevices were found at the deeper layers contrary to expectations. The water fills these joints.
The explorers described 12 levels of the well, different in their physical characteristics. Deeper there were layers with more homogeneity. Tectonic activity was suggested in the middle layers in regard to high inhomogeneity.
A lot of important data were obtained during the drilling, mostly quite surprising, leading to no clear opinion on the structure on the bottom of the crust. 

It was expected to use the well by installing scientific equipment to proceed with measures and forecast the earthquakes.  By the end of 80-es some weir stories appeared about the Cola well, some absolutely fantastic, some hard to believe. Like the tale published in American press about the strange sounds recorded at the depth of 12,000 m. The anecdote told the Soviet scientists dug deep enough to hear the voices of the sinners. Later if it expertly proved that the records were falsification.

In the same time D. Ghuberman while supervising the works on multiple occasion stated that strange sounds were registered at the depth on one day and never repeated the next day.

The well was closed to the financial issues but there were doubts on the matter, since it was said that the drilling was not so expensive in comparison to the scientific interest for local and foreign specialists.

But due to the absence of official support and proper funding, the decision was made on the closure of the well.
The project was fully abandoned in 2008, the machinery being dismantled. Official status of the well for the year 2010 was ‘suspended’. 

There are talks about advantages of the proceeding of the works and establishing of the institute.
The data obtained during the drilling has a great value for the science and the re-establishing of the project could be useful for solving the challenges in regard of the maintaining the data on the origin of the Earth.

This article was published in Russian in the magazine "Техника и технологии мира", №6 (64)  2014.