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Robust and Self-Contained Fiber-Optic Gyroscope for Measurement-While-Drilling in Harsh Downhole Environments
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The goal of this project is to develop a novel fiber-optic gyroscope (FOG) for the oil and gas industry. The FOG will be used as a navigation/inspection sensor for measurement-while-drilling (MWD), providing real-time, high speed monitoring of drill head orientation without the durability and reliability issues associated with existing mechanical gyros.


Intelligent Fiber Optic Systems Corporation (IFOS) Santa Clara, CA 95054-1008


Much of the known reserves of oil and natural gas in the U.S. cannot be recovered by conventional means, and advanced technologies will be required for extraction. New technologies are needed to reduce exploration, processing, and field development costs—and/or improve recovery efficiency —associated with oil sands, tar sands, oil shale, and unconventional gas.

Unconventional wells are often drilled from pads to reduce their environmental footprint. Wells are typically drilled out from the pad and, using MWD technology, precisely steered to their reservoir target in order to achieve the desired well spacing in the reservoir. Accurate and thorough MWD data have been extremely valuable in performing challenging oil and gas well drilling operations. MWD data chronicling the control and progress of the drilling process can help producers make decisions in real-time when drilling exploratory wells. However, this often necessitates frequent removal of the near-surface drill string to make gyro surveys to accurately steer the drill head to avoid collisions with surface sections of previous drilled wells from the pad. The IFOS research team’s proposed innovation is a novel, self-contained fiber-optic gyroscope for directional drilling applications, which will allow the entire well (near-surface and deep section) to be securely steered with one directional package. This will reduce flat time and eliminate (1) capital investment in two directional technologies (near-surface and deep) and (2) the specialist services needed for near-surface well surveys.

The proposed fiber-optic gyroscope sensor provides real-time, high-speed monitoring of bottom hole drill head orientation without the durability and reliability issues associated with existing mechanical gyros. The IFOS innovative solution addresses the primary challenges with this application, including the harsh environment (high temperature and vibration) and size constraints.


Increased efficiency and cost-effectiveness of oil and gas well drilling will reduce the overall cost of fossil and unconventional fuel production in the U.S. This project will develop a highly efficient sensing system to provide feedback for optimizing directional drilling processes, thus lowering the carbon footprint and enhancing U.S. energy security.

A low-cost sensor meeting the desired goals would also have great impact on guidance, navigation, and control systems for launch vehicles, missiles, and other applications requiring precision stabilization. Other commercial applications include active suspension systems, large 6 degree-of-freedom (dof) vibration test systems, manufacturing robotic control sensors, and commercial aircraft inertial navigation systems (INS).

Accomplishments (most recent listed first)
  • The IFOS Project Team presented Phase I closeout information to NETL project management.
  • Developed, constructed, and tested the high temperature (125oC) light source.
  • Completed harsh environment FOG bench-top proof-of-concept model development and harsh environment FOG model testing and characterization.
  • Researched different types of high temperature Acrylate fibers and selected one with lower bend loss for the construction of the FOG coil for MWD application.
  • Developed, constructed and tested the high temperature (125oC) FOG coil.
  • Developed, constructed and tested the small form factor high temperature phase modulator module.
  • The high temperature splitter has been configured.
  • Developed and constructed the FOG head mechanical components
  • Started assembly, testing and characterization of the Phase I FOG prototype.
  • Worked with the APS technology mechanical design team to integrate the Phase II FOG with APS Tech’s MWD tool.
  • Worked with Foresight Inc. to produce a market analysis report entitled "Drilling Navigation Device".
  • Developed a Business plan for commercialization of FOG for MWD.
  • The first coil winding experiment was completed.
Current Status

(May 2011)
The Phase I activity has been completed.

Project Start
Project End
DOE Contribution


Performer Contribution


Contact Information

NETL – William Fincham ( or 304-285-4268)
IFOS – Dr. Vahid Sotoudeh ( or 408-565-9000)