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News Release

Release Date: February 20, 2004

New Projects to Investigate “Smart Drilling” Options
Promise Lower Cost, More Reliable Gas Drilling

Two additional projects have been selected under a Department of Energy solicitation designed to advance performance when drilling for natural gas. The projects are a key component of the Department’s gas exploration and production research program, and support the President’s National Energy Policy, which calls for boosting domestic production of natural gas to ensure an adequate future supply at reasonable prices.

With shallow and conventional natural gas resources in the United States being depleted, drillers must reach for gas miles below the earth’s surface, where temperatures run up to 450 EF and pressures are hundreds of times greater than atmospheric pressure. “Smart drilling” options can increase productivity, improve drilling safety, and lower costs when drilling for these hard-to-reach deep gas supplies.

The new projects join two projects selected last fall under the same solicitation. For more information about the earlier projects, please see this TechLine.

Descriptions of the two new projects follow:

  • General Electric Global Research, Niskayuna, N.Y., will conduct a two-phase project to develop a revolutionary solid-state gamma ray detector for extended downhole gas and oil exploration in harsh environments. Gamma rays detectors read the electromagnetic force given by a rock formation and provide measurements of the formation to drillers. The new technology offers significant benefits to the drilling industry: it will be able to operate in temperatures as high as 200 EC, and at a 40 percent increase in operating depth over current technology; and it will have a higher immunity to shock and vibration, leading to a longer life downhole.

    This three-year project has a total budget of $1,587,807. DOE’s share is $1,437,807.
  • Pinnacle Technologies, Inc., San Francisco, Calif., will develop and test an advanced “hydraulic fracture mapping system.” To allow gas to flow more freely to a well, drillers force sand-water mixtures into target gas-bearing formations at high pressures to crack the rock. This process is called hydraulic fracturing. As the fracture is created, its dimensions are measured and mapped. The new system will incorporate seismic sensors and tiltmeters, which detect and measure small changes in the earth’s surface. In addition to the new tool, Pinnacle will develop and test improved instrumentation to increase viewing distance and accuracy. These advancements will improve the quality of hydraulic fracture mapping results, reduce limits on the use of fracture mapping, and make the process more cost effective.

    This two-year project has a total budget of $1,509,722. DOE’s share is $912,222.

Contact: David Anna, DOE/NETL, 412-386-4646