'Smart Wells' Not Easy
So-called "smart wells" delivering digital data to
the surface as well as petroleum, like many good ideas, are easier
said than done.
The high temperatures and extreme pressures deep
in the borehole, to put it mildly, make for a harsh environment
for microprocessors and other devices.
Building devices that will survive in such conditions
for 10-20 years is a major challenge, according to Vik Rao, Halliburton
vice president of technology ventures.
In some cases, Rao said, sending a robot downhole
to take measurements may be a viable alternative to permanent devices.
Halliburton has a robot in the final stages of field
testing, designed to travel down miles of borehole, performing certain
tasks at specified intervals and returning under its own power.
After research identified downhole robotics as a
worthy endeavor, Halliburton invested in Irobot, a small company
spun out of MIT that has emerged as a leader in its field.
In high-angle, high-reach wells, sensor-equipped
robots might be better than deploying tubing for wireline, he said.
One of the biggest challenges for the wireless device
is battery power, Rao added, so "any advances are welcome there."
Downhole robots "beg for sensors that are not power-hungry,"
Fortunately, measurement while drilling devices already
have driven the industry in that direction.
"Robotics can piggyback on that," he said.
-- KEN MILAM