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By Martin Kelly
A revolutionary drilling technique developed by academics at Aberdeen University looks set to save oil companies billions of pounds and transform marginal North Sea oil fields into very profitable prospects.
According to the Press and Journal, the new technique which is about to be tested at sea, allows rock to be penetrated up to ten times quicker than by conventional means.
Called Resonance Enhanced Drilling (Red), it uses a motion similar to that of a conventional hammer drill which sees the bit vibrate up and down as it rotates. Experts have forecast it could be the biggest breakthrough the industry has seen since directional drilling, which allowed 'sideways' drilling from a rig.
Speaking to Energy Voice magazine, the drill's inventor Professor Marian Wiercigroch said: "There is plenty of oil and gas in marginal or difficult fields and as such there is a need for technology that can reach, in an economically viable way, previously inaccessible assets."
The academic and his team believe the new technique will see companies saving billions which will allow previously uneconomic reserves to be extracted profitably.
Prof Wiercigroch added: "It explores nonlinear resonances in the borehole to transfer the energy in a most efficient and elegant way, resulting in a large improvement in penetration rates and a much lower rate of wear on the drill-bit."
Testing of the drill is expected to take two years with a commercially viable unit is available.
The news follows other developments in technology with advancements in extended reach drilling predicted to make similar non-viable fields profitable.
Extended reach drilling allows a horizontal bore to be drilled that enables previously unreachable oil and gas deposits, located several miles from the rig, to be accessed. It also allows offshore reserves to be reached from an onshore rig.
Iain Hutchison, who is the founder of Merlin Extended Reach Drilling said: "Extended-reach drilling could add decades to the life of the North Sea,"
Mr Hutchison added: "There are a lot of prospects out there which operators say are uneconomic, and it is obviously due to the risk. If we start dependably exploiting these prospects, the clients will soon have an appetite to go further.
"Where are we going to be in 50 years? We will probably be a little bit further on than where we ever dreamed of."