RFID and Mud Motors

Posted by Ken Lynch on Tue, Oct 26, 2010 @ 03:22 PM

A Natural Fit for Natural Resource Exploration

Downhole DrillingWith the recent Deepwater Horizon drilling rig disaster that killed 11 workers and spilled millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, many of us know more about oil exploration than we did before.  Those of us who followed news reports of the rig explosion, spill and clean up quickly became familiar with blowout preventers, shear rams, cement plugs, and the combination of mechanical failures and human errors that resulted in the tragedy.

Over the years, many different technologies, techniques and innovations have been used when drilling for gas or oil reserves.  One such innovation, known as downhold drilling, was introduced in the 1970’s.  With downhole drilling motors (aka mud motors), the drill bit can be rotated on the bottom of the hole while most of the drill pipe is held stationary as opposed to having the entire drill string rotating at all times.  Among other advantages, various measurement tools can be added to the stationary drill string to help determine if any corrections or adjustments may need to be made – in real time.  The data generated from these measurements is also used to maintain engineering and legal records describing the path of the well bore.

By utilizing RFID technology, Marathon Oil Company of Houston, TX has taken downhole drilling to the next level - allowing for completely new processes to occur.  Instead of activating the downhole equipment with traditional uses of mechanical systems, hydraulic pressure and fluid pulses, a downhole tool is configured with an RFID reader and the tool is activated when RFID tags are read along the length of drill pipe.

According to an article in Drilling Contractor, Marathon Oil has recognized notable benefits from the use of RFID.  With initial goals of reducing costs and rig time, Marathon Oil has also estimated that by implementing such an RFID-powered system, a major oil and gas operator could save at least $17 million in annual costs.  While cost savings are a great achievement, Marathon Oil also pointed out that this solution could result in improvements to operational safety.

With operational safety on everyone’s mind after the Deepwater Horizon disaster, the use of RFID for downhole drilling and many other aspects of natural resource exploration seem like a natural fit to us. 

What do you think?  Let us know your thoughts on how RFID could be used for large-scale operational improvements and worksite safety.

[Image credit: Sandia National Laboratories]

Tags: RFID, Process Control, Disaster Management

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