Oil & Natural Gas Projects
Exploration and Production Technologies
Technology Development and Demonstration of Microhole Oil Production at
the Rocky Mountain Oilfield Test Center
This project was funded through the Department of Energy's Natural Gas and Oil
Technology Partnership Program. The Partnership Program establishes alliances
that combine the resources and experience of the nation's petroleum industry
with the capabilities of the national laboratories to expedite research, development,
and demonstration of advanced technologies for improved natural gas and oil
The primary goal is to show that microholes provide downhole access at significantly
lower cost than conventional wells and provide superior acoustic performance
when compared with the use of temporarily converted production or injection
wells. A secondary goal of the project is to evaluate new prototypes of commercial
drilling equipment. The Los Alamos National Laboratory microdrilling rig serves
as a platform to evaluate commercial technology that is suitable for microdrilling
and completion service.
Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL),
Los Alamos, NM
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL),
Rocky Mountain Oilfield Testing Center (RMOTC),
Microdrilling to 820 feet in an oil field has been demonstrated successfully,
and microholes have been completed to provide access for retrievable acoustic
Micro-instrumentation holes potentially could cost as little as a quarter to
a tenth that of conventional boreholes. Successful demonstration of a nonmetallic
casing such as PVC line pipe may reduce acoustic noise and improve the performance
of micro-instrumentation holes dedicated to reservoir-monitoring service. Successful
demonstration of prototype drilling and completion equipment on a microdrilling
system may accelerate commercialization of new products.
Providers of geophysical data to the oil and gas industries seek low-cost access
to the subsurface for the emplacement of seismic instrumentation for a variety
of purposes. LANL's experience with seismic data acquisition in oil fields indicates
that low-cost, dedicated microholes for deployment of seismic sensors are needed
to enhance acoustic data monitoring of the subsurface. Dedicated data aqusition
holes provide reduced natural surface and cultural noise, reduced or eliminated
seismic-signal travel paths through highly attenuating surface layers, and a
greatly improved signal-to-noise ratio.
Accordingly, microholes promise a low-cost alternative to conventional wells;
they can be placed in the desired location and designed for optimal acquisition
of seismic data.
The LANL project is demonstrating the technical and economic feasibility of
developing a highly mobile, self-contained, microhole drilling system for seismic
data acquisition and other applications. Researchers also are evaluating commercial
equipment that has the potential to enhance the performance of microdrilling.
The project has completed the design of a high-pressure mud system that will
support drilling mud circulation pressures up to 5,000 psi compared with the
present 2,000 psi capability. High-pressure drilling will be used to evaluate
a high-performance drilling assembly and increase the depth capability of the
LANL coiled tubing unit from 820 feet to 1,500 feet.
Four deep micro-instrumentation wells have been drilled in Rocky Mountain Oilfield
Testing Center (RMOTC) Teapot Dome field at NPR No. 3 in central Wyoming.
Quality Tubing Inc.'s QT16Cr80 stainless steel coiled tubing was used successfully
as a drill stem for microdrilling.
Micro-instrumentation wells with both PVC and steel casing cemented to the surface
are being evaluated by LBNL as acoustic observation wells.
Current Status (August 2005)
The LANL drilling team has completed the 4 micro-instrumentation access wells.
The fourth well has been drilled to a depth of 1,310 feet LANL's coiled tubing
unit will be upgraded with a new coiled tubing reel, a 1,600-foot long string
of stainless steel coiled tubing, and high-pressure piping needed for evaluating
drilling assembly and deeper drilling operations. A drilling permit for a 5th
well is being obtained.
Thomson, J.C., and Dreesen, D.S., "Microdrilling Field Tests at RMOTC in
2004," (LA-UR-04-8578), 2004.
Thomson, J. C., "Demonstration of Microholes for Oil Production and Emplacement
of Subsurface Seismic Instrumentation," (LA-UR-04-8578), 2004.
Project Start: May 2004
Project End: April 2006
Anticipated DOE Contribution: $1,300,000
Performer Contribution: $0
NETL-Rhonda Jacobs (firstname.lastname@example.org or 918-699-2037)
LANL-Donald Dressen (email@example.com or 505-667-1913)
LANL microdrilling at the RMOTC-operated Teapot Dome Field at NPR. No. 3.
The microdrilling rig includes the coiled tubing drilling unit on the right,
system on the left, and the RMOTC drilling water truck in the center.