|WASHINGTON, DC — The Department of Energy today announced the selection of seven cost-shared research and development projects targeting America's vast, but technologically daunting, deep natural gas resources.
These projects focus on developing the advanced technologies needed to tackle drilling and production challenges posed by natural gas deposits lying more than 20,000 feet below the earth's surface. There, drillers and producers encounter extraordinarily high temperatures (greater than 400 °F) and pressures (greater than 15,000 psi), as well as extremely hard rock and corrosive environments.
The projects come under the oversight of the Office of Fossil Energy's National Energy Technology Laboratory, which has managed the Deep Trek research program since its inception in 2002. To date, DOE has awarded 12 Deep Trek projects totaling over $31 million, (with $10 million contributed by research partners) and is currently managing another seven projects focused on resource assessment and improved imaging technology for deep reservoirs.
Deep Trek was created to address driller and producer needs in coping with the extremes of temperature, pressure, and other harsh conditions they encounter when drilling, completing, and producing below 15,000-20,000 feet. The combination of such conditions stretches the limits of technical capabilities, often leading to increased risks and excessive equipment wear and failures. These circumstances also add up to sharp increases in well costs. With an ultra-deep well, the last 10 percent of the bore hole can account for 50 percent of the well's cost. Accordingly, with such high risks and costs, only the biggest and most promising of the deep gas prospects have been drilled.
As America's shallower-depth conventional natural gas production continues a steady decline, the nation must turn increasingly to other gas sources to meet domestic demand. DOE estimates that onshore and offshore U.S. deep reservoirs hold 169-187 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of gas resources. That compares with the nation's total proven conventional natural gas reserves estimated at 192 Tcf.
To date, less than one percent of all wells drilled in the United States have penetrated below 15,000 feet, yet their production accounts for nearly seven percent of domestic production. The National Petroleum Council in 2003 estimated that this share must rise to 12 percent by 2010 if the nation's growing gas demand is to be met.
Deep Trek focuses on developing an integrated deep drilling and deep imaging system that will enable the economic recovery of an additional 100 Tcf of natural gas through 2020.
The objective of this latest DOE solicitation is to develop the new high-temperature, high-pressure (HT/HP) drilling technologies needed to successfully recover the nation's ultra-deep gas resource.
The high-tech drilling tools and downhole measuring devices needed for HT/HP drilling must be durable and incorporate rugged electronics that can withstand the extreme conditions encountered in deep gas formations. Another critical challenge is to develop new models for estimating critical downhole parameters in these high-risk wells.
The projects selected are:
- Giner Inc., Newton, MA — This project entails developing an all-solid, high-voltage electrochemical-electrolytic capacitor for operation at temperatures exceeding 204 °C
(400 °F). This tiny device, which helps level and transfer power loads, would be installed on circuit boards in some of the sophisticated electronics needed for downhole tool operation and measurement. (DOE award: $516,814; cost share: $237,180)
- Hamilton Sundstrand, Rockford, IL — The objective is to extend work from the aerospace industry to develop high-temperature, metallized fluorene polyester (FPE) capacitors for the deep-drilling industry that, while proven durable and reliable, pose manufacturing challenges. This proposal outlines experiments involving four production-sized batches of FPE capacitors to determine an optimized production process. The goal: commercially available, reliable, and affordable capacitors rated to 250°C by year-end 2009. (DOE award: $543,116; cost share: $356,302)
- Electrochemical Systems Inc., Knoxville, TN — This project involves developing a high-temperature rechargeable battery cell to power electronics in drilling and logging systems used in wells where temperatures could reach 482 °F. This result will have a big impact on the entire deep drilling industry because it will make possible deep oil/gas drilling up to 482 °F (which is currently limited to 392 °F) due to the temperature limitation of the highest temperature rated oilfield/gas compatible battery. (DOE award: $400,000; cost share: $138,784)
- Honeywell International, Plymouth, MN — Logging ultra-deep gas wells is a challenge because conventional integrated circuits cannot function at such high temperatures. Honeywell proposes to extend its silicon-on-insulator (SOI) process, demonstrated on other electronic components it developed under DOE's Deep Trek program, to development of a reconfigurable processor for data acquisition (RPDA). The RPDA would combine, in a rugged ceramic package, SOI circuitry together with a field-programmable gate array and non-volatile memory chip that Honeywell is developing under Deep Trek. The whole module would be tailored to the physical constraints of downhole measurement-while-drilling (MWD) and production monitoring applications (DOE award: $773,522; cost share $280,251)
- Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK — An extremely temperature-efficient, regulated power supply is a crucial component of any well logging, MWD, or drill bit control system electronics. Here, the goal is to produce a regulated, switched-mode power supply that can operate at 275 °C. This entails a buck converter based on silicon carbide power transistors, a voltage regulator integrated circuit, and special high-temperature packaging.(DOE award: $478,008; cost share $120,140)
- GE Global Research, Niskayuna, NY — While silicon-on-insulator technology has been demonstrated at temperatures up to 440 °F, advances in electronics packaging and associated materials are needed to enable these electrical components to survive such great temperatures while still being able to withstand the vibrations encountered downhole. GE proposes to develop a flexible, polyimide-based packaging approach that tests three different strategies to interconnect the electronics: gold stud bumping, high-temperature solder materials, and plated-copper microvias in the polyimide. (DOE award: $383,994; cost share $95,998)
- Drill Cool Systems Inc., Bakersfield, CA — The overall objective of this project is to extend the insulated drill pipe (IDP) technology already demonstrated in geothermal drilling to high temperature, high pressure deep gas drilling. IDP delivers drilling fluid to the bottom of a wellbore at a much lower temperature than conventional drill pipe can, protecting downhole equipment vulnerable to high temperatures. (DOE award: $204,924; cost share: $322,720)