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Firms to Research Laser Drilling Technology

Firms to Research Laser Drilling Technology

The Gas Technology Institute (GTI) and the U.S. Department of Energy's National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) announced that they have joined together to further investigate whether it is commercially viable to drill for oil and natural gas using high-powered, military-based lasers.

The project is a continuation of Gas Research Institute's (now GTI) initial 1997 two-year basic research study, which set out to determine whether applications of U.S. military "Star-Wars" laser technology could be adapted to revolutionize century-old natural gas drilling technology. The basic research project examined the feasibility, costs, benefits and environmental impact of applying military-developed laser technologies to drill and complete natural gas wells.

GTI said the new study will focus on three fundamental research areas: laser cutting energy assessment; variable pulse laser effects; and laser drilling under fluid conditions. Project partners include: the Colorado School of Mines; Argonne National Laboratory (Laser Applications Laboratory); and industry partners Petroleos de Venezuela, SA, and Halliburton Energy Services.

"This is the right time to investigate the drilling application of laser technology," said Richard Parker, project director, GTI E&P Services. "The oil and gas industry introduced a radical change at the turn of the last century, displacing cable tool drilling with rotary drilling. Since then, great strides have been made in refining the rotary technique, but no fundamental revolutionary changes have been introduced."

"There are two pressures acting on the drilling industry today; more wells drilled per year to meet an increased demand for product, and the recent rapid reduction in the available rig count," added Brian Gahan, project principal investigator, GTI E&P Services. "Now is the time to introduce a fundamental improvement in drilling systems. We're hopeful encouraging results from this study will generate industry interest in supporting the development of a prototype laser drilling tool."

"NETL is pleased to include the laser drilling study in our portfolio of advanced drilling technology development efforts," stated Bill Gwilliam, project manager with NETL's Gas Supply Projects Division. "We are currently investigating a wide range of new, and in a few instances, novel drilling completion and stimulation technologies in our program. We are convinced that breakthroughs in rate-of-penetration or extended drill bit life will contribute to our overall efforts to improve the economics of drilling for natural gas and oil in the United States." Alex Steis

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