Drilling Fluid Advances: Tagging Technology Improves Mud Logging Process

Saudi Aramco's NanoTags—winners of a 2021 Meritorious Award of Engineering Innovation—have been designed for drill cuttings depth accuracy. 

(Source: Saudi Aramco)

Advances in technology are leading to a transition in the oil and gas industry, increasing efficiency in operations and maximizing the utilization of subsurface data. Advanced materials and artificial intelligence have become paramount for the development of new wells and for acquiring an accurate understanding of the reservoir formation. "NanoTagging" is a technology that significantly improves the accuracy of cuttings depth determination to +/- 2 ft in wells that are thousands of feet long.

The NanoTagging method injects specially designed nanoparticle “tags” into drilling fluids, which generate a barcode signature upon cuttings analysis that precisely determines the original depth of the drill cuttings. This depth correlation system consists of barcoded NanoTags, an extraction process and a detection method for precisely and distinctively detecting the tags residing on the drill cuttings.

Saudi Aramco has successfully synthesized a small library of polymeric NanoTags using a simple, scalable emulsion polymerization method. Notably, the sizes of the as-made NanoTags are narrowly distributed in the range of 20 nm to 60 nm. These barcoded NanoTags are also compatible with drilling fluids and safe for handling and disposal due to their low toxicity and long shelf life.

Saudi Aramco also designed a solvent-extraction and thermal-separation workflow. The workflow extracts and separates the NanoTags from other small molecule additives and hydrocarbons on the cuttings and then subjects the NanoTags to pyrolysis—a process that thermally depolymerizes the NanoTags at elevated temperatures for identification by GCMS. 

Already have an account? Log In

Sign up for FREE access to view this article now!

Unlock Free Access