Chinese researchers and engineers have developed a new method that accurately detects oil and gas reservoirs underground.
The novel technique reportedly resulted in daily extraction figures five times higher than methods traditionally employed by mining firms.
The experiment, conducted in the remote Tarim Basin, Southern Xinjiang, was done by China Academy of Sciences researchers, Di Qinyun and Zhu Rixiang, in collaboration with Sinopec Zhongyuan Petroleum Engineering and the Northwestern Oilfield Exploration and Development Research Institute.
The oil and gas fields in the basin were formed during the Cretaceous era more than 66 million years ago. The ancient pockets of fossil fuel are buried deep below the Earth’s surface, reaching depths of four kilometres in certain areas.
The reservoirs are unevenly distributed and separated by layers of strata, which can vary in thickness and depth. All of this, according to the research team’s report, resulted in limited and inefficient extraction when using standard drilling practices.
The team created a 3D model of the TP259-2H well in the basin’s western quadrant, according to the Chinese Academy of Science’s report. Using sophisticated algorithms, the researchers formed a comprehensive image of the well’s properties, such as its size, structure and composition.
This novel technique meant the team could pre-set drilling locations, plan out horizontal drill pathing, and predict geological structures or impediments in the way of potential gas or oil reservoirs with little wasted effort.
To form a comprehensive view of the well’s makeup, the researchers attached an imaging device to the drill. The imager, functioning as the “eyes” of the operation, emits electromagnetic waves through the strata, which reflect back to a ground-based receiver.
If drill-mounted sensory equipment acts as the eyes of the project, guidance systems and flexible navigation structures act as the “limbs” for researchers, providing access to hard-to-reach areas underground.
During July, the team drilled non-stop for nine-and-a-half days at depths of 4,500 metres, accurately mapping the site and identifying formations best suited to exploit, such as bodies of sand and loose rock that offer less resistance to machinery.
The project’s success can be attributed to the dedication of hundreds of researchers who have spent more than six years perfecting the system. Many of the instruments employed by the team were self-developed and have graduated from the prototype phase to engineering models.