A Department of Energy-sponsored technology that allows natural gas and oil explorers to drill safer, more productive wells by using a high-speed, down-hole communications system has crossed a major milestone: A prototype is being successfully tested in a full-scale commercial well for the first time, putting it on the fast track to commercialization.
The technology, called Intellipipe(TM), is able to transmit large bits of data to the surface as a well is being drilled. About 1 million bits of information—including temperature, geology, pressure, and rate of penetration—can be transmitted in a single second, which is unprecedented. The tool relays data going in the other direction just as quickly, allowing operators to direct the drill bit more precisely toward oil- and gas-bearing sweet spots, and away from less productive areas almost instantaneously.
The system was developed by Novatek Engineering in Provo, Utah, with funding from the Energy Department. Since then, the system attracted the attention of global leader in drill pipe technology, Grant Prideco Inc. of Houston, Texas, which invested in Intellipipe. The two companies have formed a joint venture, IntelliServ(TM), to market the revolutionary drill pipe.
To place a new technology in any well is viewed as risky by industry. The willingness of the well operator and Grant Prideco to test it in a commercial well shows the utmost confidence in the technology’s ability to transmit accurate data to the surface and back faster than the internet sends e-mail.
Intellipipe(TM) is a drill pipe with built-in telemetry that can operate thousands of feet below the surface. It has an innovative coupler that is embedded in connections between 30-foot long sections of drill pipe. At the end of each section is a tool joint, leading to high-speed data cable. The coupler permits data to be sent across small gaps between each pipe section through the cable that is attached to an inner pipe wall.
In its first commercial test, about 6,400 feet of Intellipipe were deployed in an Oklahoma well during 500 drilling hours. It established a high-speed data link with above-ground receivers, paving the way for testing modules to operate with higher-temperature ratings in the lower-most portion of the string in a second well, which is now being drilled.
Researchers believe it may also be possible to place sensors at select points along the length of the drill pipe to monitor conditions throughout the wellbore, alerting operators to well-control situations.