Optimizing Geothermal Drilling: Oil and Gas Technology Transfer: Paper No. SGP-TR-204

Mitch Tilley, Alfred Eustes, Walt Baker, Dan Bolton, Jason Bell, Uneshddarann Nagandran, Ralph Quick

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


    There is a significant amount of financial risk associated with geothermal drilling; however, there are opportunities to improve upon current practices and technologies used. The scope of this drilling operational study included 21 geothermal wells and 21 oil and gas wells. The goal was to determine a 'perfect well' using historical data to compare the best oil and gas well to the best geothermal well. Unfortunately, limitations encountered in the study included missing data (bit records, mud information, etc.), poor data collection, and difficult to ascertain handwriting. An online software database was used to format drilling data to IADC coded daily drilling reports and generate analysis figures. Six major issues have been found in geothermal drilling operations. These problems include lost circulation, rig/equipment selection, cementing, penetration rate, drilling program, and time management. As a result of these issues, geothermal drilling averages 56.4 days longer than drilling comparable oil and gas wells in the wells in this study. Roughly $13.9 million would be lost due to non-productive time in the 21 geothermal wells and only $1.3 million in the oil and gas wells, assuming a cost of $50,000 per day. Comparable events such as drilling the same sized hole, tripping in/out, cementing, and running the same size casing took substantially less time in the oil and gas wells. Geothermal wells were drilled using older and/or less advanced technology to depths less than 10,000 feet, while oil and gas wells reached 12,500 feet faster with purpose built rigs. A new approach is now underway that will optimize drilling programs throughout the drilling industry. It is the use of Mechanical Specific Energy (MSE) as a tool to realize efficient drilling processes. However, a work-flow must also be established in order for there to be an efficient drilling program. Potential improvements for current geothermal operations are: the use of electronic records, real time services, and official glossary terms to describe rig operations, and advanced drilling rigs/technology.
    Original languageAmerican English
    Number of pages11
    StatePublished - 2015
    EventFourtieth Workshop on Geothermal Reservoir Engineering - Stanford, California
    Duration: 26 Jan 201528 Jan 2015


    ConferenceFourtieth Workshop on Geothermal Reservoir Engineering
    CityStanford, California

    NREL Publication Number

    • NREL/CP-6A10-66399


    • drilling
    • oil and gas


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