Lasers are on track to provide safe, non-explosive, damage-free perforations.
For decades, experts have considered the potential of laser energy to penetrate rock as an alternative well construction and completion method; however the technical application of lasers was dismissed as energy intensive and inefficient. Conclusions from 40 years ago have influenced industry misperceptions despite massive developments in laser systems and applications.
Current laser technology has addressed efficiency, portability and reliability issues required for successful commercial field applications. The latest multi-mode configuration of fiber lasers are now capable of delivering multiple kilowatts of power from an efficient, compact laser source with excellent beam quality, reliability and long life. They represent an enabling technology that opens the door for near-term subsurface laser applications at remote sites. Examples of remote surface field applications have been made.
The application of high power lasers to create the path between wellbore and target reservoir could significantly reduce the primary drawbacks of using explosives – safety and damage. It is desired that the process of cutting through steel, cement and rock by the laser would leave a relatively damage free area at the interface of the reservoir and allow a connection free to flow with minimal skin damage. Research results have proven the laser perforation concept under multiple downhole conditions, including pressure. Other completion applications are envisioned, as well.
Brian C. Gahan is founder and president of Laser Rock Technologies, LLC, a private energy consulting firm in Cary, Illinois, USA. He was a Senior Scientist and Manager, E&P Technology Development for 16 years in the Exploration & Production Research Group for Gas Technology Institute (GTI) in Des Plaines, Illinois. He holds a BS in Petroleum Engineering, Master of Chemical Engineering and an MBA in finance, and is a registered professional engineer. He is a longtime member of the SPE. He is a member of several professional organizations including the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG), the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE), and Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Society. Gahan has authored and co-authored more than 40 papers and technical publications, and is a co-inventor on a U.S. Patent.
Mr. Gahan was an SPE Distinguished Lecturer for the 2008-09 lecture season.