February 20, 2008

New Rig Drills For Science And Exploration

On 19th February 2008 the GeoForschungsZentrum Potsdam (GFZ) officially commenced the operation of the new drill rig InnovaRig at the geothermal drill site at Drrnhaar (Bavaria). With this event, one of the most modern drill rigs worldwide, with a drilling capacity to a depth of 5000 meters becomes available.

Drilling is an essential tool in Geosciences", says Professor Reinhard Httl, Scientific Executive Director of the GFZ Potsdam. Up to now modified drill rigs from the exploration industry, fulfilling only to a limited extent the scientific requirements had to be employed. "žThe GFZ Potsdam has, therefore, "“ financed through the Helmholtz-Association of German Research Centers "“ together with the Company Herrenknecht, developed a completely new drill rig concept for scientific deep drilling", explains Professor Httl.

The idea for InnovaRig was born in 2004. The aim was the development of a novel drill rig, allowing for scientific and industrial drilling under considerably reduced personnel and financial complexity compared to conventional equipment. In May 2007 the newly developed InnovaRig was festively launched on the grounds of the Company Herrenknecht in Schwanau. This was followed by the vital endurance test during operations at the drill site Drrnhaar/Bavaria, where two, over 4400 meters deep holes will be drilled. The first hole has already passed the 3700 meter mark; the end depth will be 4441 meters. Afterwards "“ and this too is a technical detail of InnovaRig "“ the drilling derrick will be relocated by 6 meters so as to begin with the second drilling.

The drill rig is financed with investment funds from the Research Field "žEarth and Environment" of the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centers, in addition to individual contributions from the GFZ and industry. The overall investment volume for InnovaRig is 18 Mio. Euro.

Innovation in drilling operations

The need for a modern drill rig such as the InnovaRig became apparent in the many research drillings worldwide in which the GFZ participates and is, also, in many cases Principal Investigator. Drilling implies physical strain for the personnel and very often dangerous, hazardous work. Environmental restrictions and - in the case of industrial rigs "“ often insufficient tools for the scientific investigation of the drilled rocks, pose further problems. InnovaRig thinks conceptionally: hazardous work has been minimized or even completely abolished, due to optimized noise protection-measures, compliance with the exhaust-emission norms and the avoidance of contamination, the rig leaves behind only very minor ecological footprints and it functions cheaper than conventional drill rigs.

Scientific Drilling

The special requirements of scientific research are optimally realized in the InnovaRig concept. It is, thus, possible to carry out different drilling procedures without employing any noteworthy additional technical appliances and especially fast and cost-effective coring can be performed. The respective equipment and instruments have already been integrated into the rig. Likewise, facilities for the fast realization of borehole measurements, continuous data acquisition and storage as well as for the analysis of the drill mud have been incorporated.

Further Projects

In addition to scientific projects, InnovaRig is also available for industrial-commercial use. In this way the utilization capacity can be maximized.

After completion of the first drilling, a second hole with a comparable depth of approx. 4400 meters will be drilled in Drnnhaar. This double-drilling adheres to the concept of extraction of hot deep waters from one hole and the revertive pumping of the cooled water into the second hole.

In the second half of this year InnovaRig will be used for a very special demonstrative project in Hannover, in which just one borehole will be employed for geothermal energy production. Yet a further use for the drill rig will be within the framework of the International Continental Scientific Drilling Program, ICDP which is coordinated at the GFZ Potsdam.


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