News Release

Release Date: May 24, 2017

NETL Scores “Innovative R&D” Prize at Shale Gas Innovation Contest


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Left, Dr. Kelly Rose, technology geology & geospatial researcher from the National Energy Technology Laboratory, is congratulated by Bill Hall, director of the Shale Gas Innovation & Commercialization Center, on being named the winner of an Innovative R&D Award. Right, a subsea oil well.

A technology developed by the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) providing a cost-effective early warning of oil or gas well destabilization that could result in blowout gusher has been recognized as an “Innovative R&D” winner at the Sixth Annual Shale Gas Innovation Contest.

The technology was submitted for consideration by Dr. Kelly Rose, a technology, geology, and geospatial researcher at NETL. The contest was sponsored by the Shale Gas Innovation & Commercialization Center, which is supported by Ben Franklin Technology Partners in State College, PA. Contest winners were announced at an event held near Pittsburgh May 9.

In the early days of oil and gas production, gushers or “kicks” were positive indicators for drilling efforts and were romanticized in movies and TV shows as symbols of striking it rich. However, before long, kicks’ negative aspects—destruction of materials, human and environmental impacts, and a loss of marketable resources—drove research to find ways to predict and control the events.

According to industry reports, drilling issues from abnormal formation pore pressure and kick events cost the industry more than $8 billion annually and compromise the safety of workers. Early detection is important to offsetting the results of kicks.

Many of the existing six million wells worldwide rely on surface-based observations or adding expensive additional equipment to help detect kick potential events. NETL’s pre-kick detection technology was developed to help operators start well control and recovery steps early enough to avoid the negative outcomes of kicks. It was designed as a low-cost, rapid, real-time detection tool targeting where the kick starts in the well.

The NETL system uses sensitive instrumentation to collect data related to fluids in the well that are transmitted to the surface where they are compiled into a statistical algorithm. Data trends are identified by the algorithm, which informs operators about possible kick events. Surface crews are alerted almost immediately when signs of a kick are detected, providing enough advanced warning to take precautions.

NETL is actively seeking partners to continue to demonstrate and validate the technology, and a potential licensing partner to commercialize the technology.


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