A Tulsa-based company is working on a drilling process that combines conventional techniques with cutting-edge technology to reduce costs and extend the life of oil and natural gas reservoirs while transforming “poor” fields into ones that are economically viable.
Impact Slurry Technologies LLC, 5350 E. 46th St., Ste. 131, is working on a patent of its Abrasive Slurry Jetting, or ASJ, technology for the oil and gas industry, said Kenneth Oglesby, managing member.
The ASJ pumps a mixture of abrasive solids suspended in a liquid at high velocity. The procedure combines mechanical drilling — with a bit — and slurry cutting that speeds drilling rates and cuts costs, Oglesby said.
“The drilling rate can improve from just a few feet per minute up to 100 feet a minute,” he said.
Oglesby and partner Dwight Rankle are developing a mud system compatible with a coil tubing drilling system to drill small diameter holes for vertical, horizontal and multi-lateral drilling.
The “mud” mixes drilling fluids, circulates that mixture downhole, then cleans and stores the returned fluids. The process is designed to have zero levels of environmental impact. “Coiled tubing drilling” uses a small-diameter pipe flexible enough to be deployed from a large, truck-mounted roll. It replaces jointed pipe in some types of drilling, completion and workover operations.
Over the past several years, the process has gained viability as a lower-cost, lower-environmental impact technology that can benefit domestic oil and gas exploration and production, Oglesby said during a 15-minute luncheon presentation at the Innovator and Entrepreneur Luncheon Sept. 20 sponsored by i2E at the One Technology Center.
Impact Technologies is also working on a silicate gel for casing repairs, Oglesby said.
The project, partly funded by the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology, is designed to create a gel that repairs casing leaks and solves flow problems within a well.
The luncheon series, sponsored by the Oklahoma Technology Commercialization Center and the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology, promotes commercialization and economic development. The series introduces Tulsa’s research and technology talent to the business community.
Many industries use high-pressure pumps for slurry transport or cutting. The energy industry has known for more than 50 years that the higher the pressure, the more effective the cutting efficiency. For abrasive cutting, a slurry system is 400 percent more efficient than an air drilling system. However, pumps cannot handle slurries at high pressures due to extreme wear and shortened lives, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
Impact Technologies has created a pump and slurry technology — mixing solids and liquid — that has a variety of applications in the drilling sector.
Impact’s proprietary pumps will extend the life of comparable pumps five to 10 times, Oglesby said.
The process is part of what’s referred to a microhole technology which holds promise for economically recovering sizable portions of oil in the lower 48 states, said David Anna, DOE spokesman. The department has invested several million dollars in the research over the past four years.
The attraction of microhole drilling is the prospect of greatly reducing the cost of drilling shallow- and moderate-depth holes for exploration, field development, long-term subsurface monitoring and, to a limited degree, actual oil and gas production.
The DOE estimates this targeted resource, less than 5,000 feet deep, to be more than 200 billion barrels. Recovering just 10 percent would be equal to 10 years of OPEC oil imports at current rates, Anna said.
Oglesby said Impact Technologies was launched during the last energy downturn in 2001.
“It came from hard times. Even five years ago, we had very low oil prices,” Oglesby said. “The industry had to make changes. We had to make changes in the way to drill, mine and produce (oil and gas).”
Drilling companies are being pressured to reduce the footprint on the land, cut back on the amount of water handled and overall make an ever-smaller environmental impact.
“The industry had to do something to survive low prices while cutting costs in the lifting, treating and re-injecting of water,” Oglesby said.
Today Impact Technologies is one of the industry leaders in the technology.
But another privately held, Tulsa-based company, Bandera Petroleum, 401 S. Boston Ave., Ste. 3000, was a player in the microhole process until a little over a year ago.
Bandera sold its interest in the technology to Impact, said M. G. “Whit” Whitmire, Bandera chairman and CEO.
“We saw the commercialization running away from us faster than we could catch it,” said Bruce Galbierz, Bandera engineering and operations manager. “We concluded we could not put enough money into it quickly enough to see a return.”
Galbierz did not disclose the financial details of the transaction.
“It was strictly a business decision with Bandera,” he said. “The technology is still sound.”
The industry still needs it, he said.
“It needs to happen. It just did not fit Bandera’s timetable or investment criteria.”
With patents either granted or pending, Impact has the option of combining abrasive slurry cutting with mechanical pre-cutting to create a drilling system that offers the best of both procedures efficiently, Oglesby said.
“We are only limited with our ability to get the cuttings out of the well,” Oglesby said. “It is a very powerful thing.”
When holes this small are used for exploration — for example, to locate the best prospects for producing natural gas from coal beds — it may be possible to reduce drilling costs by a third or more, Anna said.
When used for field development, microholes may be less than half as expensive as conventional wells. Smaller diameter boreholes and drilling rigs mean less surface disturbance — or a smaller footprint.
Savings in drilling costs come from smaller drill sites, smaller equipment for pipe and tube handling, reduced materials for drilling and well completion, less waste to handle and dispose and fewer support personnel.