Downhole Sensors in Drilling Operations

Katherine Young, Nathan Pastorek, Alfred Eustes

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


Before downhole and surface equipment became mainstream, drillers had little way of knowing where they were or the conditions of the well. Eventually, breakthroughs in technology such as Measurement While Drilling (MWD) devices and the Electronic Drilling Recorder system allowed for more accurate and increased data collection. More modern initiatives that approach drilling as manufacturing such as Lean Drilling, Drilling the Limit, and revitalized Drilling the Limit programs have allowed petroleum drilling operations to become more efficient in the design and creation of a well, increasing rates of penetration by more than 50%. Unfortunately, temperature and cost limitations of these tools have prevented geothermal operations from using this state-of-the-art equipment in most wells. Today, petroleum drilling operations can collect surface measurements on key drilling data such as rotary torque, hook load (for surface weight on bit), rotary speed, block height (for rate of penetration), mud pressure, pit volume, and pump strokes (for flowrates). They also can collect downhole measurements of azimuth, inclination, temperature, pressure, revolutions per minute, downhole torque on bit, downhole weight on bit, downhole vibration, and bending moment using an MWD device (although not necessarily in real time). These data can be used to calculate and minimize mechanical specific energy, which is the energy input required to remove a unit volume of rock. In geothermal operations, these data are not always used due to poor accuracy or lack of equipment. This is one of the major hurdles for geothermal well construction and a reason why geothermal drilling operations take much longer than their petroleum counterparts. This paper reviews the surface and downhole data collection equipment used in the petroleum industry and its associated costs, capabilities, limitations, and impacts. The impact these downhole tools and measurements have had on increasing drilling efficiency for the petroleum industry suggests that developing these tools for high-temperature, high-pressure environments could be similarly impactful for the geothermal industry.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages9
StatePublished - 2019
Event44th Workshop on Geothermal Reservoir Engineering - Stanford, California
Duration: 11 Feb 201913 Feb 2019


Conference44th Workshop on Geothermal Reservoir Engineering
CityStanford, California

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/CP-4A00-73157


  • drilling data
  • geothermal
  • LWD
  • MWD
  • rate of penetration
  • telemetry


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