DOE kicks off 'deep trek' to develop deeper, smarter drilling technology
Target is new technology to tap potentially vast gas supplies 15,000 or more feet deep
Morgantown, WV - "Deeper" and "smarter" will likely be the
watchwords of America's natural gas industry in the coming years.
Already, more than 70 percent of gas produced in the continental
United States comes from wells deeper than 5,000 feet. But in the
not-too-distant future, as America's demand for clean-burning natural
gas increases, drillers will likely be required to probe much deeper –
perhaps 15,000 feet or more beneath the earth's surface where an
estimated 125 trillion cubic feet of unclaimed natural gas is thought to
To help develop the high-tech drilling tools the
industry will need to tackle these deeper deposits,
the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Fossil
Energy is kicking off "Project Deep Trek."
The goal is to develop a "smart" drilling system
tough enough to withstand the extreme conditions
of deep reservoirs, yet economical enough to make
the gas affordable to produce. The target date for
developing the advanced drilling system is 2010.
The Energy Department's National Energy
Technology Laboratory, the research arm of the
department's fossil energy program, has begun
asking industry to propose "Deep Trek"
development efforts. The agency is initially funding
the initiative at $10.4 million.
Proposers will have two opportunities this year to respond. The first will
be by April 11, when the department is asking prospective proposers
to submit a "pre-application" – a mini-proposal no longer than seven
pages. After the pre-applications are reviewed, applicants will be
advised as to whether they should submit a more detailed,
comprehensive application due May 30.
The second opportunity will come by November 30, when another set
of "pre-applications" will be due, and comprehensive applications will
be requested by January 13, 2003.
The department will fund three phases of Deep Trek research and
development: feasibility and concept definition (Phase I), prototype
development or research, development and testing (Phase II), and
field/system demonstration and commercialization (Phase III).
Technologies need not go through all three levels of development if
they already have completed several years of research. For instance,
technologies that are proved to be feasible may be eligible for phases
II and III. Others that are more mature may bypass phases I and II and
qualify for a field demonstration. No phase is planned to last longer
than four years.
Private partners must contribute a minimum of 20 percent for Phase I
projects, 35 percent for Phase II, and 50 percent for Phase III.
The National Energy Technology Laboratory will coordinate work with
private industry, other national laboratories and universities.
The importance of deeper drilling technologies was underscored in the
1999 report of the National Petroleum Council, entitled "Natural Gas:
Meeting the Challenges of the Nation's Growing Natural Gas Demand."
In the report, the Council stated, "Deep drilling is
increasing....Production from depths deeper than 10,000 feet is
expected to increase from 35 percent in 2000 to 41 percent by 2010. It
is important to note, however, that industry's ability to achieve
production from deeper horizons will be dependent on adequate deep
drilling infrastructure and the continued evolution of technology."
The Council predicted that by 2010, 12 percent of all U.S. gas
produced will have to come from deep formations – those 15,000 feet
and deeper. During this same time frame, production from gas wells
less than 10,000 feet deep is expected to decline, as these reservoirs
begin to deplete.
According to a study performed by the Energy Department and the
U.S. Geological Survey last year, significant gas resources in the
United States lie 15,000 feet and deeper below the earth=s surface.
DOE estimates these gas resources at about 125 trillion cubic feet –
equivalent to about five years of total U.S. gas consumption.
Tapping into this resource, however, will be daunting and expensive. In
fact, in the few deep wells being drilled today, as much as 50 percent
of the drilling costs is spent on drilling the last 10 to 25 percent of the
wells where rock formations are harder and temperatures are higher.
Today's sensors, drill bits and materials are ineffective when exposed
to harsh, extreme conditions found in deep formations. To help remedy
this situation, technologies pursued in the Deep Trek project include
low-friction, wear-resistant materials and coatings, advanced sensors
and monitoring systems, advanced drilling and completion systems,
and new bit technology that could be integrated into a
high-performance, "smart" system.. The new system is to operate in
extreme temperatures (more than 347o F) and pressures (greater than
10,000 pounds per square inch).
The real advantage of a "smart" system is its ability to report key
measurements – temperature, pressure, moisture, geology, etc. – as a
well is drilled, pinpointing potential trouble spots on a "real-time" basis.
This allows operators to make adjustments as drilling continues,
avoiding costly work stoppages.
For specific information about the solicitation and the IIPS, contact:
The Department of Energy's Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time.