In a milestone for the global oil and gas industry, GE (NYSE: GE) is showcasing its new MaxLift 1800 pump system at the 2012 Offshore Technology Conference (OTC). This product will pave the way for the use of dual gradient drilling (DGD) technology in challenging deepwater applications. DGD significantly lessens the impact of the water column on deepwater drilling. In addition, drillers can reach reservoirs that are impractical to access using conventional single gradient drilling. The net effect of DGD will help optimize the productivity, safety and efficiency of deepwater wells. Sam Aquillano, vice president—drilling and surface for GE Oil & Gas said, “For years, deepwater operators and equipment providers worldwide have investigated ways to explore reservoirs previously thought unreachable. Following rigorous prototype testing and successful field trials since 2001, GE’s MaxLift 1800 will make dual gradient drilling a reality for the industry, helping optimize the safe and efficient future drilling of deepwater wells.” To achieve a dual gradient, flow from a well being drilled is diverted to the MaxLift 1800 pump, which is located above the blow out preventer and pumps the cuttings-laden mud back to the drilling vessel in an auxiliary line. The riser is then filled with seawater density fluid, so the reservoir ‘feels’ as if the rig is located on the seabed since the MaxLift pumps prevent the hydrostatic pressure of the mud from being transmitted back to the wellbore. The new GE pump can deliver up to 1,800 gpm at discharge pressures up to 6,600 psi and can handle solids up to 1.5 inches in diameter. Deepwater wells in the Gulf of Mexico and other parts of the world including West Africa and the Caspian Sea are challenging due to the narrow pore pressure/fracture gradient environment. The DGD system gives operators a tool to manage the downhole environment while drilling, resulting in longer casing strings and/or larger diameter completions. The DGD system increases drilling efficiency while lowering mechanical risk and well costs.
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