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Oilfield Services Company Embeds RFID in Drilling Reamers

Weatherford's RipTide system gives operators more control, improving processes while saving time and money.
By Samuel Greengard
Aug 19, 2013

Drilling reamers are specialized tools used by oil and gas companies to bore holes through the earth at extremely high speeds. Conventional reamers offer reliable service, but the mechanical method of activating and deactivating the tool—dropping a steel ball down a drill string, or pipe, until it shears a pin preset at the surface—offers limited control. To reset the tool, a user must pull the reamer out of the hole, which is a time-consuming and costly exercise. What's more, the ball can interfere with other tools operating inside the drill string.

In 2010, Weatherford, a Switzerland-based multinational oilfield services firm, introduced its RipTide drilling reamer, which provides a simple and reliable method of activating and deactivating drilling reamers at any given time during a downhole (in the well) operation. Weatherford accomplished this functionality by building radio frequency identification technology directly into the tool design. Greater control of tool actuation allows operators to enhance drilling and complex maintenance processes and improve borehole quality, says Eddie Valverde, the product line manager of the company's Borehole Enlargement and RFID Drilling Systems group.

Greater control of tool actuation allows operators to enhance drilling and complex maintenance processes and improve borehole quality.
Weatherford has used the RipTide on more than 60 projects to date, Valverde says, and has achieved 100 percent reliability. The firm, which manages drilling and maintenance operations for several major oil and gas companies, says its customers report that the RipTide saves between two and six days of drilling or tripping (moving the reamer into and out of the hole). This translates into a typical cost savings of between $900,000 and $2.7 million.

Weatherford has been using RFID to track inventory and supply chain assets, Valverde notes, but this project introduces RFID technology to downhole tools in the drilling industry.

Developing the Solution
In 2006, Marathon Oil began exploring the use of RFID and downhole electronics to enhance drilling operations. By early 2008, the company approached Weatherford and demonstrated the technology. "They asked if we would partner with them to develop the technology and build a viable commercial system," Valverde recalls.

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