WASHINGTON, DC - A U.S. Department of Energy-funded
technology that establishes a "downhole Internet" for drilling oil and
natural gas wells is now available for commercial use.
The technology turns ordinary drill pipe into a highway for transmitting
drilling and geological formation data at blazing speed from the bottom
of a well to the surface and vice-versa. The potential benefits of the
new technology include decreased drilling costs, improved safety, and
reduced environmental impacts of drilling.
Grant Prideco's announcement of the commercial launch of its IntelliServ
Network and related Intellipipe™ capped 5 years of research sponsored
by DOE and managed by DOE's National Energy Technology Laboratory.
Oil & Gas Journal, the petroleum industry's leading trade publication,
recently reported on BP America Inc.'s successful deployment of the technology
to collect real-time measurement-while-drilling data from its wells in
Oklahoma 's Arkoma Basin .
For decades, drillers have dreamed of a technology that would allow
them to gather a wide range of downhole data-pressure, temperature, well
position, formation characteristics, etc.-in as close to real time as
possible in order to navigate wells efficiently, thoroughly assess downhole
conditions, and accurately characterize the geologic and hydrologic environment
being drilled. The ideal technology would acquire and process data quickly
for drillers to "look ahead" of the drillbit.
Until now, no method of hard-wiring pipe with electrical wire connections
to transmit these data has proven reliable. The couplings that connect
the jointed drill pipe were a barrier; manipulating the drill pipe downhole
usually broke the electrical connection.
DOE-funded technology provided a partial answer 30 years ago, with the
invention of mud-pulse telemetry, which sends data as pressure pulses
through the drilling mud that is circulated to clean drilling cuttings
out of the wellbore. But the pace of this data transmission method-3-10
bits per second-makes it impossible to transmit large volumes of data
up the wellbore in real time.
Intellipipe™ accelerates that transmission rate exponentially (57,000
bits per second), and Intelliserv network upgrade would boost that to
a staggering one million bits per second. Not only can a driller receive
crucial downhole information quickly with Intellipipe™, he can immediately "tell" a
drilling tool what to do thousands of feet below the surface.
This real-time capability reduces economic and safety risk in drilling
wells while it minimizes the number of wells needed to produce oil or
gas from a reservoir. The technology also cuts down on the number of
unplanned "trips" downhole to resolve drilling problems, reducing non-productive
time and well costs.
Here's how the technology works: Intellipipe™ features high-speed, high-strength
data cable embedded in the inside wall of the drill pipe. These cables
carry data to small induction coils that are installed in protective
grooves machined into the drillpipe connections, or couplers. When two
sections of Intellipipe™ are joined, the induction coils are placed close
together, and a low-energy data signal can transmit passively between
them without a dedicated power source-from one pipe section to another,
along a string of tens of thousands of feet of drill pipe. There is no
physical connection to break.
The system has proven remarkably reliable in extensive U.S. and Canadian
field trials. Since 2004, Intelliserv drill strings of 14,000 feet in
Oklahoma and 10,000 feet in Alberta have drilled 18 wells, accumulating
more than 6,000 hours of operation while drilling 180,000 feet.
Sophisticated downhole tools for measuring well parameters and reservoir
characteristics were also deployed in these field trials, demonstrating
the Intelliserv network's ability to transmit high-volume data continuously
from a wide variety of tools. The high-speed network also serves as an
enabling technology for even more sophisticated diagnostic tools not
yet on the market.
By deploying a real-time downhole data transmission network, drillers
can process more well and formation data at the surface rather than downhole,
which in the long term potentially will permit them to use more rugged
and much less expensive downhole sensors. The upshot is a dramatic cost
reduction for oil and gas companies tackling today's increasingly difficult
and harsh drilling environments.
Novatek Engineering, Provo , UT , developed the Intellipipe™ technology
under a DOE-funded project. Grant Prideco, Houston , TX , subsequently
formed a joint venture with Novatek to market the revolutionary drill
pipe; Grant Prideco is sole owner of the Intelliserv Network.
Mike McShane, Grant Prideco chairman, CEO, and president, said, "We
feel this technology, when coupled with compatible tools and software
applications, can materially reduce drilling risks, improve well placement,
and ultimately reduce the cost-per-barrel [of finding and producing oil
and equivalent gas] for our customers."
McShane added that the IntelliServ operation is now open for commercial
business and that contract talks are already underway with several major
oil and gas operators.
The first commercial deployment of the Intellipipe™/Intelliserv technology
is expected to occur in the North Sea , with an application that could
reach about 5 miles-a new record for extended-reach drilling from a floating
In its final report to DOE after wrapping up its research project, Novatek
commended the agency's participation as being essential to the development
of Intellipipe™ technology. "Particularly in the early stages of the development
effort, the risk was very high, and industry motivation to invest in such
a giant leap forward was low," the report states. "DOE vision and willingness
to be involved in this technology has provided Novatek with the needed
resources to get past the early stages and to develop the necessary technology."