Sandia’s drilling program has traditionally focused on geothermal drilling, which is challenging because the formations are hot, hard, abrasive, corrosive and often fractured. Most of Sandia’s geothermal technology also has application to oil and gas drilling. As a national laboratory, Sandia’s drilling research plays a vital role in support of various defense programs vital to our national security. The major goals for this program are to reduce the cost of drilling and well construction by improving conventional drilling technology, and developing new and advanced drilling methods.

Technical Challenges

PDC Bit with Cavitating Nozzles

  • Develop drilling equipment designs and materials that can withstand temperatures greater than 600 degrees F, as well as drill through hard, abrasive rock.
  • Build and commercialize high temperature / high pressure electronic instruments that can withstand extreme downhole environments. These instruments are directly applicable to drilling, logging and monitoring of geothermal and deep oil and gas wells with cross-cutting applications to other industries (e.g., aerospace and automotive).
  • Develop drill bits that cut faster and last longer, thus reducing drilling time and saving money.
  • Develop new drilling systems that reduce costs, improve safety, and avoid mishaps by showing the driller a real-time picture of what’s happening downhole.
  • Develop advanced, innovative, laboratory simulation capabilities that allow the drilling environment to be reproduced in the laboratory to support development, demonstration, and qualification of new downhole tools and drilling systems.
  • Develop methods that sense, describe, and correct the problem of lost circulation, a situation in which the fluid necessary for the drilling process escapes into the surrounding rock.
  • Develop technology that allows diagnosis of sub-surface environmental conditions.
  • Develop drilling technology that allows rapid subterranean access in support of national security objectives.

Recent Technology Developments

  • Advanced bit and cutter development
  • High temperature component development
  • Advanced telemetry systems
  • Bit vibration mitigation technologies
  • Drilling advisory software
  • Computational modeling of reservoirs and geologic processes