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Friday, January 23, 2015

Draper Laboratory Makes Oil and Gas Exploration Safer, Contributes to Rapidly Growing U.S. Energy Economy

Draper technology supports Obama vision outlined in State of the Union address

CAMBRIDGE, MA – U.S. President Barack Obama called on his administration to open up more than 75 percent of potential offshore oil and gas resources during his State of the Unionspeech on Jan. 20. Obama also noted the role that government investment has played over the past three decades in helping industry launch new energy concepts including unconventional oil and gas technologies.

“Many technological challenges exist for the energy industry to safely and efficiently access the new resources President Obama highlighted,” said Eric Balles, energy systems director, Draper Laboratory.

Draper technologies are solving some of the hardest challenges. “Monitoring pipeline integrity to spot pipe degradation before it causes serious problems, like the recent break that sent oil into Montana’s Yellowstone River, is one challenge we’re addressing,” Balles said.

Traditional sensor approaches can cost $1000 per foot to lay wires underground to monitor a pipeline, which can run for hundreds of miles, making monitoring cost prohibitive. Draper’s approach, which uses wireless sensors to detect defects and data analytics to determine which are most likely to be problematic and need to be fixed, could reduce this cost to as low as $10 per foot.

Additionally, Draper-engineered seismic sensors can be adapted to identify microtremors that can be caused unintentionally during the exploration and production of unconventional oil and gas. These sensors can be used to spot disturbances and make adjustments in real time, as well as provide insight to avoid causing similar issues in the future.

Other projects where Draper’s energy systems work can play a role advancing the energy industry include increasing the recovery rate of oil. Traditional production approaches typically recover up to approximately 30 percent of the oil in a reservoir during primary operations; Draper’s technology could enable safer, longer oil production in a particular area, allowing companies to recover up to 70 percent of the crude oil in a given reservoir.

Draper's wireless sensing technology can bring down the cost of spotting pipe degradation before serious problems occur.
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