The objective of this work is to demonstrate the success and the ability of high power lasers beam to drill in extremely hard formations. The result showed that the rate of penetration in these formations is much faster than conventional drilling methods. Formations with high compressive strength can prevent or slow drilling and rock penetration. A High power laser program was established to overcome the limitations of conventional drilling methods and provide an innovative non-damaging technology as alternatives to current practices. The technology is not only able to drill in extremely hard formations but also enhances rock properties without compromising wellbore integrity.
For the past two decades, researchers attempted to deploy high power laser technology for several downhole applications, with no success because the power needed to penetrate the rock was insufficient. Laser technology has evolved and advanced recently, creating compact efficient, higher power, and economically feasible systems.
An experimental setup was designed to evaluate the performance of a high power laser in different rock types and with different compressive strengths, ranging from 12,000 to 43,000 psi. These samples were exposed to a high power laser for several applications. The results demonstrated that a high power laser could penetrate extreme rock formation in seconds, for example, at the lab scale, it took 3 seconds to drill 3 inches of basalt (43,000 psi compressive strength). The flow properties were also enhanced regardless of the compressive strength and hardness of the rock.
Laser technology attracted the oil and gas industry due to its unique features, such as the precision in controlling and orienting the energy in any direction. Laser drilling is independent of the reservoir stress orientation and magnitude. The laser generation unit is mounted on the surface and the laser beam delivered downhole via fiber optics cable. The system has a minimal footprint, is an environmentally friendly technology, and can drill and case simultaneously.
High power lasers have the potential to be the next intelligent drilling and completion generation that will change current practice. State-of-the-art high power laser technology provides an innovative and safe non-explosive based technology. Precision, speed, small footprint, and reliability are some of the properties of the technology that make it attractive for downhole applications.