Polycrystalline diamond compact (PDC) drill bits have been historically used as key drilling tools and have dramatically changed the oil and gas industry since their introduction in the 1970s. Currently, PDC bits account for about 90% of the total drill bit market due to significant advancements in PDC cutter technology, including deep leaching process applications. However, drilling hard, highly abrasive and interbedded forma­tions is a challenge for PDC bits that are currently being used in the industry, which do not provide sufficient wear or impact resistance nor adequate thermal stability to drill entire intervals in a single run. This is due to the use of unavoidable cobalt catalyst needed to bind the diamonds that compose the PDC cutting structure.

Eliminating the use of catalysts, Saudi Aramco has released the Ultra-HP/HT technology to manufacture catalyst-free ultra-strong PDC cutting elements, explained David Zhan, the R&D team leader of the Drilling Technology Division at the EXPEC Advanced Research Center at Saudi Aramco’s headquarters in Dhahran.

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