Gerard LeBlond for www.redorbit.com – Your Universe Online
Oil and gas drilling companies are using the Earth’s magnetic field along with modern technology to reduce the cost and decrease the environmental impact while increasing production.
The technology being used was discussed in the 2013 fall issue of Oilfield Review. It also emphasizes on the public-private partnership between the US Geological Survey (USGS) and partners to employ this technology and its uses around the world.
Oil and gas companies can now access multiple reservoirs from one drilling platform. They first drill vertically, then horizontally, but the operators must know where their bits are at all times to avoid collisions with other wells. One way this can be prevented is by installing a magnetometer in the drill-string instrument package that follows the drill bit. This device is like a compass, using the Earth’s magnetic field to guide the drill bit in the proper direction.
The USGS has magnetic observatories throughout the country, which monitor the geomagnetic field every second. Drilling companies use geomagnetic referencing, which is a process that simultaneously measures the magnetic field in the drill hole and corresponds it with the information from the magnetic observatories. This process produces a highly accurate estimate for the drill bit’s position and direction.
Factors like geomagnetic storms, daily tides, and higher latitudes cause the magnetic field to constantly change. So it is critical on knowing the exact position of the drill bit at all times.
Carol A. Finn, USGS Geomagnetism Group Leader said, “Drill-bit positioning requires directional accuracy of a fraction of a degree, and this can be accomplished with advanced technology and expert understanding of the Earth’s dynamic magnetic field. USGS operational systems measure the magnetic field on a continuous basis. These data are provided as a service to research scientists, civilian and defense government agencies, and to customers in the private sector, including the oil and gas drilling industry.”
There are 14 ground-based magnetic observatories around the United States that monitor the magnetic field through the USGS Geomagnetism Program. They gather geomagnetism data and distribute the data to their many customers. Changing conditions of space weather can interfere with radio communications, GPS systems, electric power grids, and satellite operations. High altitude pilots and astronauts may be subjected to enhanced levels of radiation, so monitoring the magnetic field is imperative.
The USGS magnetic observatory network works globally as well as domestically. The program partners with the US National Space Weather program, NOAA, and the Air Force Weather Agency, along with private companies that are affected by geomagnetic activity and space weather.