THE INNOVATORS: Bringing a new level of accuracy to horizontal directional drilling; Scientific Drilling introduces its new PunchOut System – Presented by GridStone

The Innovators

Imagine you need to drill a perfectly aligned wellbore underneath the QEII highway between Calgary and Edmonton. When it comes to road construction, most of us would expect to have lane closures, or even worse detours, while the hole is bored out – making way for a culvert or underground passageway.

But this need not be the case with Scientific Drilling’s (SD) new PunchOut system that doesn’t use any wires (in the well or on surface).

“This new system has applications for pipelines, utilities, fibre optics, municipalities and upstream oil and gas,” says President Clinton Moss. “We use magnetic ranging equipment that locates a downhole drill bit to a location above ground and we can exit at a precise location within centimeters of our target.”

The technology came about due to a customer challenge said Moss.

“The customer looked at the traditional way of drill underneath rivers to install pipelines and found that was very inefficient. They worked with our technology and asked, ‘Can you augment your oil and gas technology to allow us to do directional drilling underneath rivers?’”

“Yes, challenge accepted,” said Moss.

So, the team in the Calgary SD Technology Center got to work and created the PunchOut System.

In the Scientific Drilling Technology Center, employee James Powell working on a system

“The big difference between our system and others is the way our system is set up – there is a total elimination of all wires. There is no wire in the drill pipe for communication. There are no wires on surface. All this time consuming, expensive, prone to failure, installation of wires is completely eliminated by our system,” said Moss.

So how does that look in practice?

The system’s first trial was to connect two oil and gas processing plants located in a provincial park with a river running between the two plants. SD needed to drill down below the river to meet the strict regulations concerning ground disturbances and water contamination.

The PunchOut system, that wirelessly sends and receives real-time drill bit data, was able to drill 1.9 km horizontally and 90 m below a parkland river to emerge exactly where intended.

PunchOut system diagram for under the river trial

The job done in April this year was the first real commercial success for SD.

The client was more than happy said Moss. The customer was originally quoted 30 days to complete the project. With SD, the project was completed in 9 days, used only 1/3 of the proposed rig time and resulted in a savings of $1.5 million.

As Moss looks beyond this first success, he sees significant applications for the technology. From pipelines, utilities, and more. He’s very optimistic about the future of this new technology.

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