The commercialization of an innovative telemetry communications system developed through a US Department of Energy (DOE) research program will help US producers tap previously hard-to-reach natural gas resources deep underground, resulting in access to additional supplies.
The patented, proprietary Sharewell L.P. EM-MWD electromagnetic (EM) telemetry system was initially developed by the Office of Fossil Energy’s (FE) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) and E-Spectrum Technologies of San Antonio, Texas, under a four-year, cost-shared agreement. It was part of FE’s Deep Trek initiative to foster new technologies to facilitate deep exploration of natural gas resources.
Using novel new technologies normally associated with interplanetary deep space navigation and missile guidance systems, the technology is designed to transmit data to and from downhole equipment in real time, enable surface processing of downhole sensor data, and control downhole tools directly from the surface. The technology allows the system to successfully operate at greater depths than other EM systems and to propagate signals through formations that typically weaken electromagnetic waves.
A key element of the Sharewell EM system is a data-fusion receiver, developed by adapting advanced technologies not typically associated with low-frequency communications to work in harsh drilling environments. The adoption of data fusion technology to a subterranean telemetry receiver enhances the receiver’s ability to extract very weak signals from large amounts of ambient environmental noise by allowing the receiver to more effectively discriminate signal from noise. Unlike conventional EM receivers, the Sharewell EM data fusion receiver utilizes multiple input channels to fuse various input-receive sources into a single, decodable message packet.
Every element of the Sharewell EM design, from power efficiency to reliability, has been optimized to extend operational depth and improve noise immunity. The system includes a rugged downhole tool assembly consisting of a gap-sub antenna-package (designed to mate to a 6.5” drill collar), an electronics assembly, and a battery package. The Sharewell EM surface package includes a power amplifier to provide two-way communication with the downhole tool assembly.
Rights to the EM technology were purchased in September by Sharewell of Houston, Texas, which plans to utilize the technology as part of its measurement-while-drilling (MWD) systems.
DOE’s Deep Trek Program was established in 2002 to develop smart systems to address the needs of US producers drilling to depths of 15,000 feet and deeper, where more than 125 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of untapped natural gas is estimated to be in place. For comparative purposes, DOE’s Energy Information Administration estimates technically recoverable US natural gas resources at 2,119 Tcf, with proved reserves of 238 Tcf.