The technology of deep drilling

 By Peter Ward

What technology do companies need when they are drilling a little deeper, where inches and centimeters matter? How does technology make this possible? What are the challenges…?

Deep drilling is an area of oil and gas exploration that needs the best technology to succeed. Deep-drilling rigs are used both onshore and offshore to get to resources that have previously been unreachable. But the deeper the rig goes, the more dangers are associated with the task. That means that rigs and operators have to be incredibly accurate, and inches and centimeters can count for a lot.

One company providing rigs to the oil and gas industry is Herrenknecht Vertical, a subsidiary of Herrenknecht. The company builds deep drilling rigs that are individually designed to customer specifications, and its Terra Invader type drilling rigs can reach depths of down to 26,246 feet (8,000 meters).

ExxonMobil is another company in the field, and the firm can build a floating production, storage and offloading vessel that can reach targets in the water as deep as 5,000 feet (1,524 meters). Because of the technical difficulties in reaching resources located deeper in the ground or water, the technology is usually more expensive.

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Lothar Schirmel, Head of Design and Development Electronics at Bauer Deep Drilling told Oil and Gas Technology recently: “The extracting companies also need to dig deeper into their pockets. A standard drilling tool costs between 2,000 and 3,000 euros, the deep drilling platform around 20 million euros.”

Deepwater drilling is particularly difficult technically, and also raises environmental concerns if done haphazardly. One of the technologies being used by the industry to address these challenges is radio frequency identification (RFID). This technology can help reduce risks and non-productive time and perform operations that traditional tools are unable to. RFID technology uses tiny electronic devices that consist of an antenna and a small chip to automatically identify and track tags that are attached to objects.

A paper published this year by the Society of Petroleum Engineers explains how the technology can benefit the industry. “RFID technology has been integrated into drilling and completions tools to improve performance and reduce risk for offshore operations, such as drilling underreamed holes, spotting lost circulation materials, setting packers, opening stimulation sleeves, and performing subsurface reverse cementing. These tools use RFID tags released from the rig floor to enable downhole hydraulic power units (HPUs) to operate the tools.”

about the author
Peter Ward
Business and technology reporter based in New York. MA in Business Journalism at Columbia University Journalism School 2013. Five years experience reporting in the U.S., the U.K., and the Middle East.