Aberdeen is to lead a drilling revolution which could save oil companies billions of pounds and turn marginal North Sea fields into money-spinners.
New technology which can penetrate rock 10-times quicker that a conventional drill is being developed at Aberdeen University.
Experts believe Resonance Enhanced Drilling (Red) – which sees the drill vibrate and spin simultaneously – could be the biggest breakthrough in the industry since directional drilling.
The Press and Journal can reveal today that after years of research and development, the technology is ready to be tested at sea – with a view to rolling it out commercially in 2018.
“This technology should be of huge interest to the industry,” explains Professor Marian Wiercigroch, who created the drill.
“There is plenty of oil and gas in marginal or difficult fields and as such there is a need for technology that can reach, in an economically viable way, previously inaccessible assets.”
The researcher and his team believe it could save operators billions of dollars whilst considerably reducing drill time.
Red is a fundamentally different way of drilling. Instead of creating a borehole by shearing the rock, it creates micro-fractures by introducing high frequency vibration to the drill-bit.
Essentially, the drill-bit moves up and down as it spins, making it easier to drill through hard rocks.
Prof Wiercigroch added: “It explores nonlinear resonances in the borehole to transfer the energy in a most efficient and elegant way, resulting in a large improvement in penetration rates and a much lower rate of ware on the drill-bit.”
The full-scale Red experimental rig, designed by the Aberdeen team, has been in operation since 2009, providing drilling data for various rocks.
Through the studies, where commercial drill-bits have been used, penetration rates are shown to improve up to 10-times.
“From the beginning we wanted to ensure our test rig would work with the commercial drill-bit as that is the best way to ensure industry could adopt the technology,” the professor said.
“We realised that the more changes the industry needed to make to accommodate Red, the more expensive it would be and therefore less attractive to bring into practice. With that in mind we have developed the unit so that it can be easily incorporated.
“It is very exciting and rewarding to see one of the abstract ideas I had many years ago of employing nonlinear resonances to solve engineering problems, being so close to being validated and deployed in commercial service.
The research and development programme for the RED technology started in 1998 with a small project funded by the Centre for Petroleum and Marine Technology led by Dick Winchester.
It is hoped Red will be field tested and validated within two years and could be used commercially before 2018.