New Carbon Drill Pipe Signals Technical Achievement

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced the development of a new "composite" drill pipe that is lighter, stronger and more flexible than steel, which could significantly alter the ability to drain substantially more oil and gas from rock than traditional vertical wells.

"This is another example of the technology breakthroughs in the arena of domestic energy production being carried out by our Office of Fossil Energy," said Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham. "To reach and recover untapped domestic oil and gas reserves, we must have the ability to inexpensively drill highly deviated or horizontal holes."

Developed under a four-year, $3.6 million cooperative agreement managed by DOE's National Energy Technology Laboratory, the new drill pipe - made from carbon fiber resins - could be the next major technical achievement emerging from the government-industry natural gas research program. Lighter, stronger, and more flexible than steel, the pipe could significantly benefit energy production in the United States.

The composite drill will be used by Integrated Directional Resources, Lafayette, La., and is the first commercial order for the device composed of carbon fiber resins. Since the composite pipe is more flexible than steel pipe, it can better withstand the stress and fatigue associated with drilling short-radius horizontal holes. It is more expensive than traditional steel pipe, but can cycle or rotate through a short radius bend for extended periods of time without suffering fatigue damage. Plus, it can be reused in multiple wells leading to a significant decrease in drilling costs.

The drill pipe has been successfully field-tested at two Oklahoma sites. Through the use of the new drill at one previously producing site, the well was drilled another 1,000 feet where it struck an oil-bearing zone. Another test allowed the composite drill to punch a 60-foot radius, 1,000-foot lateral through hard sandstone from a shallow well in a successful search for gas.

Using older wells as entry points reduces the environmental footprint of drilling and production operations. The 2-1/2 inch diameter drill pipe may lead to the design of larger pipes for deep-water applications. Researchers may also be able to embed an electrical wire in the resin to provide a high-speed data link for transmitting electronic information to and from the drill bit.
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