Halliburton, IIC tell OTC of plans for downhole robot tractor

Halliburton Co. has signed an agreement with Intelligent Inspection Corp. (IIC) to develop a wireless downhole robot that can be inserted into a flowing horizontal well, perform various operations, and return to the surface without assistance or even supervision.


HOUSTON, Apr. 30 -- Halliburton Co., Dallas, Tex., has signed an agreement with Intelligent Inspection Corp. (IIC) to develop a wireless downhole robot tractor that can intervene in a flowing horizontal well, perform various operations, and return to the surface without assistance or even supervision.

"You can send it downhole, go get a cup of coffee, and come back when it comes home," said Joe Donovan, vice-president of IIC of Somerville, Mass., at the Offshore Technology Conference, which opened Monday.

With its artificial intelligence software, the MicroRig unit "is smart enough to understand if it's getting in to trouble and will seek solutions. If that fails, then it will turn around and come home" to avoid getting stuck, he said.

Because no rig is needed to lower or retrieve it, the robot can intervene in a horizontal or highly deviated well for about half the cost of current tubing-conveyed methods, said Richard Haut, manager of deepwater integrated services with the Halliburton Energy Services Group in Houston.

"We truly believe robotic technology will play a significant role in the future as more and more autonomous technologies are developed within our industry. It will not only enhance current operations but open up new opportunities," he said.

The MicroRig, fashioned of steel, copper, and titanium, is capable of withstanding temperatures as high as 125° C and pressures up to 10,000 psi, and can be inserted into a well that's flowing at a rate of 5,000 b/d, said Haut.

He claims the system should prove especially useful in deepwater operations around the world. Haut envisions a future in which a MicroRig could be transported to and inserted in a deepwater subsea well by a wireless remote submarine unit.

The MicroRig has already undergone laboratory testing as part of consortium project funded by BP PLC, Marathon Oil Co., and Statoil AS. It is scheduled for field-testing probably in Texas or Oklahoma before moving offshore in the Gulf of Mexico this year. Halliburton and IIC officials say they hope to make the tool available commercially by the first part of 2002.

IIC owns and controls the technology necessary to provide intelligent well management services. It has an exclusive agreement with iRobot Inc. of Somerville, Mass., for development and commercialization of robotic and artificial intelligence technologies in the energy industry.

One item currently under development as part of the deal with Halliburton is the "Co-Worker" robot, which promotes cooperative efforts between workers at widely separated locations.

Engineers are still considering the best format for that robot, based on a camera-equipped unit already in use by authorities to combat terrorists in a hostage situation. Aided by a communications satellite hookup, the robot system would allow a worker at one site to "see, hear, and speak as though he were there" at another remote location, Donovan said.

Through such robotics, he said, "A person can be on five continents in 1 day without leaving his office."

Engineers are already looking at how to marry the Co-worker and MicroRig technology to provide real-time remote intervention with multiple downhole operations from a single site, Donovan said.

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