Drilling for oil and gas is critical for our nation’s energy supply, Increasingly, wells are being drilled in harsher subsurface environments, with higher pressures and temperatures as well as corrosive near-bore fluids. DOwnhole conditions of up to 450 degrees F and pressures as high as 30,000 psi are not out of bounds anymore. Drilling in such adverse conditions takes a toll on the drill string. The increase of operations in extreme environments has required service companies and operators to change their methods of operation. Importantly, drill string design services are incorporating forensic studies to improve overall drilling results, keep costs down, and protect against liability.
What is Forensic Metallurgy
Forensic Metallurgy is a branch of the applied analytical sciences that investigates the causes of failure in manufactured metal tools and equipment. In-depth knowledge of engineering principles, metal characteristics, and manufacturing protocols are all important in forensic metallurgy. Rigorous standards are generally required in metal design and manufacturing. Forensic metallurgy is often used when failures or accidents in metal products occur and the cause of failure is sought. Needless to say, it is commonly used in the drilling industry, especially when root-cause analyses are needed.
In the drilling industry, the following analyses are commonly performed using forensic metallurgy techniques:
- Pipeline Failures
- Tubular Failures (Drill Pipe, Drill Collars, Subs, Tubing, Casings)
- Power Generation Equipment and Piping Failure Analysis
- Mooring System Failures
- Anchor Chail Breaks
Most drilling contractors that utilize forensic techniques have state-of-the-art facilities that are specifically set up to address the types of problems that may be encountered when drilling. These labs typically have various specialty microscopes, hardness testing equipment, and scanning electron microscope equipment.
Types of Metals Used in the Drilling Industry
Drilling equipment is manufactured from a variety of metals. These include:
- Steel, by far the most important metal used
- Nickel, often added to steel for corrosion control
- Copper, a major component of valves, stems, and seals
- Titanium, commonly utilized in the manufacture of downhole tubing
- Chromium, used to increase the strength of steel
- Molybdenum, also used to increase the strength of steel
Specialized steel alloys, using on or more of the above-mentioned alloys, are especially critical for corrosion control in the subsurface.
Choose Your Contractor Carefully
As you can imagine, a whole host of problems can crop up when drilling into harsh subsurface environments. Be sure that you work with contractors who have been in business for several years and know the ins and outs of the oil patch well. Demand that they are licenses and certified as required and operate in an environmentally friendly way.