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DOE-Sponsored Project Pushes the Limits of Seismic-While-Drilling Technology

Posted Aug 12 2009 5:27am

Washington, D.C. — In a project sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, Technology International Inc. has developed a breakthrough borehole imaging system that stands on the cusp of commercialization. By pushing the limits of seismic-while-drilling technology, the patent-pending SeismicPULSER system provides more accurate geo-steering for the discovery of new oil and natural gas reserves, facilitating new field development and improving well economics.

Drill-bit seismic-while-drilling techniques use a downhole acoustic source and receivers at the surface to create real-time images that allow operators to "see" ahead of the drill bit. The harsh high-pressure, high-temperature environments found in deep onshore and offshore deepwater wells require special imaging technologies and were the reason for the development of the SeismicPULSER system. No drill bit seismic-while-drilling system available today has the full capabilities of the new system.

All possible borehole pulsed sources by their very nature produce high frequencies. This is counter to the need for low frequencies that transmit long distances through rock. SeismicPULSER has a unique sparker control system that can be adjusted by the operator, from the surface, to meet the varying demands of depth, rock properties, and other geological variances.

Built into or attached on the drill string, the system emits broadband low-frequency sounds which, based on seismic calculations, can be transmitted to surface receivers from depths beyond 30,000 feet. According to project managers, SeismicPULSER is the only system that meets the requirements of those oil companies that plan to drill high-pressure, high-temperature wells to as deep as 35,000 feet in ultra-deep water.

SeismicPULSER provides accurate drill bit location relative to pre-drill reservoir models and gives the operator real-time images roughly 1,000 feet ahead of the drill bit—all without interfering with normal drilling operations. The system costs less than conventional vertical seismic profiling systems and increases safety and cost savings by detecting unexpected increased pore pressure ahead of the bit. It also provides new operational capabilities by allowing operators to visualize and steer towards more optimal targets when drilling deep formations.

Funding for the project came from the Office of Fossil Energy’s Oil & Natural Gas Program, which supports research and policy options to ensure clean, reliable, and affordable supplies of oil and natural gas for American consumers.

Field testing was performed at the University of Texas’ Devine seismic test site and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Rocky Mountain Oilfield Testing Center near Casper, Wyoming. The project was managed by FE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory.

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