Tailored drilling rig for geo-research

InnovaRig should solve basic scientific questions

Pilot plant InnovaRig. © GFZ Potsdam
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A new drilling rig, with which boreholes can be drilled down to a depth of 5, 000 meters, was handed over yesterday by Herrenknecht Vertical GmbH to scientists at the GeoForschungsZentrum in Potsdam. InnovaRig was developed in close collaboration between researchers and the industry and features technical innovations that allow scientific and industrial drilling with significantly less human and financial resources.

"So far, geoscientists have relied on rigs designed for industrial tasks. Now, for the first time, they have a bespoke large-scale facility to study fundamental questions of geo-research. At the same time, they can tackle current challenges in earth and environmental research, such as energy from geothermal energy, "said Professor Jürgen Mlynek, President of the Helmholtz Association, yesterday at the handover of the plant.

"The plant will be financed from the investment funds of the research field Soil and Environment of the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centers, plus own shares of the GeoForschungsZentrum Potsdam and industrial holdings", explained Professor Rolf Emmermann, CEO of the GFZ Potsdam. "The innovative drilling rig concept was developed by the GFZ Potsdam together with the company Herrenknecht."

The special feature of the drilling rig: It can be transported and is flexibly applicable, both for scientific investigations and for industrial tasks. These include, in particular, research projects on the underground storage of carbon dioxide and the production of geothermal energy, but at the same time the plant also serves to further develop drilling technologies for science.

The technical innovations in detail

Working on the stage of a drilling rig is hard work, which can sometimes be accident-prone. This applies in particular to the handling of the drill pipe. Due to the interaction of the newly developed plant components, InnovaRig can dispense with screwing the boring bars together by hand and thus with the "stage man". This means not only less physical work, but also increased safety. display

Environmental requirements such as compliance with emission standards and the avoidance of contamination have gone into the design with the goal of a "completely waste-free drilling operation" and have been taken into account in the plant design as well as the selection of operating materials - for example biodegradable oils,

InnovaRig is also equipped with comprehensive soundproofing measures. Even before the construction of the facility, potential sound sources were identified by means of a preliminary simulation. Due to the integrated sound insulation measures, the operation of the system is also permitted in built-up areas and in the immediate vicinity of residential areas.

Equipment for scientific drilling

The drilling rig is mainly used in scientific drilling projects. A completely new concept has been implemented for the special requirements of research. This makes it possible to use InnovaRig with different drilling methods without significant additional technical effort and, in particular, to carry out drilling core work quickly and cost-effectively.

The corresponding devices and instruments were integrated into the system. Facilities were also installed for the rapid execution of well logging, continuous data collection and storage, and for the analysis of the drilling fluid.

Research drilling to understand the Earth system

Research drilling is an indispensable tool in modern geosciences. They represent a "window" in the immediate subsurface of our habitat and are the only way to obtain direct information about the properties and conditions of the upper crust as well as the processes taking place there. They enable a calibration of the indirect methods of geophysical deep sounding, allow the verification of hypotheses and model concepts and can be used as a "deep laboratory" for the performance of geological experiments and tests as well as as Use Depth Observatory for long-term observation of events in the subsurface.

The information gained through drilling is essential for understanding the processes taking place in the "Earth System" and has high application relevance in solving a number of pressing socio-economic issues such as ensuring future water and energy supplies, exploration of raw materials and use of the underground space.

(GFZ Potsdam / Helmholtz Association, 15.05.2007 - DLO)