Exploration and Production Technologies

Acoustic Telemetry (MWD)


Goal: Improve the data transmission rates possible for downhole to surface communication.

Objective: The objective is to develop a downhole acoustic telemetry system capable of transmitting downhole data to the surface at high rates of transmission speed (up to 100 baud).

Performer: Sandia National Laboratories (SNL) – Project management and all research products


  • Proof of concepts has been demonstrated.
  • Tests have been successful at depths less than 10,000 feet.

Measurement while drilling (MWD) and logging while drilling (LWD) have been heavily supported by Department of Energy research funding. Current technology to transmit the data from downhole to the surface uses pressure pulses in the mudflow. The physics of wave propagation in mud severely limits mudpulse technology for the improvement of the MWD/LWD service. An improved wireless data link that transmits a broad selection of measurements from sensors located directly behind the drill bit to the surface is the critical enabling technology for the improvement of the MWD and LWD service. Acoustic telemetry offers an alternative option for increased data rates in all drilling applications.

The goal of this project is to build and field test an acoustic telemetry tool to demonstrate this technology. The communication scheme will be to transmit the data via a stress wave in the steel drill pipe. Because the transmission medium is an elastic solid and the acoustic transmitters have excellent dynamical response, high data transmission rates are expected without data compression.

Current Status and Remaining Tasks: This project has been completed and should be further commercialized by industry.

Project Start: January1, 2001
Project End: March 31, 2003

DOE Contribution: $260,000
Performer Contribution: $0

Contact Information:
NETL – John D. Rogers (john.rogers@netl.doe.gov or 304-285-4880)
SNL – Doug Drumheller (dsdrumh@sandia.gov or 505-844-8920)