Saudi Aramco Breaks New Ground with In-Situ Laser Perforation

In gas and oil well completion, perforation of a well is an essential step for hydrocarbon fluids to flow from the reservoir rock into the wellbore and onward to the surface.

Perforations are holes made through the steel casing wall and cement into the rock formation. However, the current industry technique, which uses explosive-type charges, causes compaction in the rock, reducing the ability of the hydrocarbons to easily flow into the well.

To avoid such damage to the rock formation, the EXPEC Advanced Research Center (EXPEC ARC) has achieved successful stages in developing a new perforation method using laser technology, making Saudi Aramco the first to introduce in-situ laser perforation to the petroleum industry. The research and development of “in-situ lasing” is being undertaken in collaboration with Halliburton.

"The implementation of this innovative technology will open the door for significant applications in our oil and gas industry, furthering our major goals of reducing costs and increasing production," said Mohammed Y. Al-Qahtani, executive director of Petroleum Engineering and Development.

Laboratory results have demonstrated that laser perforation generates thermal stresses that fracture a well’s surrounding rock, thus increasing permeability around the perforations, facilitating easier intake of hydrocarbons. An immediate application of laser perforation includes facilitating hydraulic fracturing in open-hole horizontal wells (oriented fracturing), which can greatly enhance the wells’ production capability.

Laser technology has significant advantages over the conventional perforation technology, in that there is no compaction. A high-energy laser beam can vaporize rock formation and create a perforation with a permeable wall surface.

"This successful lab laser perforation of casing and rock samples has brought us closer to deploying laser energy in-situ for well perforation and fracture initiation," said Nabeel S. Habib, Production Technology Team chief technologist. "This in-situ laser perforation will also set the groundwork for further research and applications in petroleum engineering, including laser drilling."