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ENEX 2013 Keynote Speaker

April 16, 2012
2013 ENEX petroleum event

Jules Verne would have…?
Our knowledge of the planet will take a huge jump with an estimated US$1 billion mission to drill six kilometres beneath the ocean floor and core into the Earth's thick mantle.

Deemed one of the most important scientific missions of this decade, and with most of the Earth’s sea floor and continents originating from the mantle, in situ core samples will answer questions about the planet’s origins and evolution.

The project will be one of the keynote presentations at the 2013 ENEX petroleum event in New Plymouth, June 6-7.

Although the mantle makes up almost 70 percent of the Earth´s mass, at best we only have a reasonable idea of what it is made of and how it works.

The spin-off for the deep-sea petroleum industry on the cusp of a new exploration era around the world’s oceans will be significant.

To get these samples a team of international geological scientists has conducted a feasibility study in which they made an attempt to design the world's deepest offshore well to punch through the thin ocean crust with a 30cm drill and core into the ultra-hard rock of the mantle.

Because the ocean crust is much thinner at about five to six kilometres than it is onshore, where it averages 30 kilometres, drilling has to be achieved way out in ultra-deep waters at depths ranging between 3650 and 4300 metres.

This extremely challenging, ultra-deep well is part of the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) that involves hundreds of scientists from countries all over the world and is expected to be achieved by 2020, depending on financing and drilling technology improvement in the near future.

Currently known as the BEAM (Borehole into Earth’s Mantle) project, drilling will rely on a purpose-built Japanese deep-sea drilling vessel called Chikyu that can carrying up to 10 kilometres of drilling pipes. This vessel, launched in 2002 has already set a world drilling record when it reached 2.2 kilometres into the ocean floor on a previous mission. Total drilling depths could range up to 10,750 metres with the BEAM project, depending on the location.

Three well-site locations have been identified in the Pacific Ocean; the Cocos Plate off the west coast of Central America with water depths of 3650 metres; the Eastern Pacific Plate off Baja/Southern California with a water depth of 4300 metres; and offshore northeastern Hawaii with a water depth of 4050 metres (and a total drilling depth of 10,750).

Delegates to the 2013 ENEX petroleum event in New Plymouth this June will learn project details from Nicolas Pilisi, Technology Development Engineer/Deepwater and Offshore Structural Engineering Group at Blade Energy Partners, a US-based consulting company that focuses on engineering and delivery of complex projects in the upstream energy industry.

The company was involved in a feasibility study that was finished in 2011, and in 2012 was awarded a grant by the Sloan Foundation to look at drilling and coring systems and other components that would make a significant impact on the project’s operational costs. Blade Energy is also involved in a project implementation study this year.

“The results of the feasibility study show that drilling/coring a scientific hole into the upper mantle is certainly feasible, and that existing solutions are currently available to many of the technological challenges based on work being done in the oilfield and geothermal industries,” says Pilisi.

While offshore drilling and coring are considered mature technologies, to reach such extreme depths through very hard rock will demand the use of the most advanced tools and techniques, and the development or modification of new tools, and hence the 2012 study on drilling and coring systems, says Pilisi.

At ENEX Pilisi will discuss three technical challenges:
• First, drilling and coring operations will be conducted using a metallic marine drilling riser system that connects the floating drilling structure and the seabed in water depths averaging 4000 meters, which will constitute the deepest riser operations ever achieved.
• Second, scientific drilling and coring operations will be performed in very high temperature mafic rocks with bottom-hole temperatures that are estimated to be as high as 250°C (off-shore Hawaii).
• Third, drilling and coring a very deep and straight hole of about 6000 meters in the oceanic crust below the Pacific Ocean seafloor will take many years with conventional drill bits with a lifespan of between 50-60 hours.
So, drilling and coring technology improvement will make a significant impact on the operational costs of the mantle-drilling project, and also benefit future deep-sea petroleum exploration and extraction around the world.

Delegates to ENEX 2013 event will also have the opportunity to hear about analyses regarding the different marine drilling riser (*) options that have been investigated in the 2011 feasibility study.

This includes the capability of the current I-Class drilling riser configuration made of X-80 steel material that is onboard the ultra-deepwater scientific drill-ship Chikyu, along with evaluation and comparison of alternative drilling riser configurations using either titanium material, aluminum material or slim-riser and also lighter buoyancy modules.

Also discussed is the ultra-deepwater subsea equipment (such as connectors and wellhead), the drill-pipe, wellbore designs, down-hole tools, drilling fluids and associated circulating temperature, the cementing methods and various advanced technologies involved.

“The feasibility study has helped evaluate the critical issues in terms of current and trending technologies in drilling and geothermal industries that need to be resolved before embarking upon such a challenging project,” says Pilisi.

“The results … show that drilling and coring to the Earth’s upper mantle is certainly feasible, and that there are existing solutions to many of the technological challenges based on the work that is currently being done in the oilfield, offshore and geothermal industries.”

Supplied by Energy NZ magazine and Conferenz.


ENEX at a glance
ENEX, New Zealand’s Oil & Gas Event, is being held June 6-7 at the TSB Stadium in New Plymouth, the country’s oil and gas capital.
In its second year, ENEX is a partnered event by Energy NZ magazine and Conferenz and is organised for the petroleum industry as a combined, two-day trade expo and speaker programme. Its theme is ‘growing New Zealand’s oil and gas capability together’. Major sponsors include OSD Pipelines, Independent Technology Ltd, and Tenix. You can find more information at

IODP basics
The IODP was set up in October 2003 as the premier international scientific ocean-drilling programme joining together scientists and research efforts on three continents.
IODP's initial 10-year, US$1.5 billion programme is supported by two lead agencies, the US National Science Foundation (NSF) and Japan's Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology (MEXT). Currently, IODP is supported by 26 countries including New Zealand, which participates as an associate member.

Blade Energy Partners
Blade Energy Partners provides leading-edge expertise to solve drilling, completion, production and pipeline challenges.
Since its creation 12 years ago, Blade has worked on a variety of engineering, research, and development projects in several sectors of the upstream oil and gas industry. It has delivered innovative technical solutions to a variety of operators including Shell, BP, ExxonMobil, ChevronTexaco, Total and several others across the globe. The company pioneered the introduction of Advanced UBD, critical well design and reservoir engineering courses for this industry.

Nicolas Pilisi
With seven years of domestic and international experience in the oil and gas industry, Nicolas currently works for Blade Energy Partners in Texas where he is involved in various high-end engineering and research projects often related to deepwater and ultra-deepwater drilling technology, but also offshore structural engineering and critical well design to help the energy industry.

* Understanding risers
Riser-less offshore drilling technology uses seawater as the primary drilling fluid, which is pumped down through the drill pipe. The seawater cleans and cools the drill bit and lifts cuttings out of the hole, piling them in a cone around the hole.
On the other hand, the riser system includes an outer casing that surrounds the drill pipe to provide return-circulation of drilling fluid, or ‘mud,’ to maintain the pressure balance within the borehole. A blowout preventer (BOP) protects the drill works from uncontrolled pressure release. This technology is very important in drilling several thousand meters into the Earth.

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