Badger Explorer Set to Transform Oil & Gas Exploration

Going underground

Badger Explorer is a new concept entering the oil and gas market, though still in the development stages it is set to revolutionise the field of exploratory drilling and mapping of additional resources in and around producing fields.

The idea was first investigated in the late 90’s by the International Research Institute of Stavanger, and after looking at the practicalities of a remote drilling device and gauging the support of oil companies, Badger Exploration applied to the Norwegian Research Council to obtain money to start the project in 2003. By 2004 the company had received $1 million from the Research Council, combined with the investment from active participants in the project such as Exxon Mobil, Shell and StatoilHydro, the project reached total funding of $4 million in spring 2005. Research was started immediately after the funds were obtained, with the studying, engineering and building of prototypes to try and entice more companies to support the project.

The prototypes and research brought promising results that lead to a number of investors hearing about the concept and putting money on the table to aid its development. By the end of 2005 the company was in a strong financial position to continue with the progress of the Badger Explorer with nearly $15 million in the bank. The Norwegian patent was awarded in 2002 while the US application was granted in May 2006 with the number 7093673, thus opening up even more potential for the project.

Based in the Norwegian oil and gas hotspot of Stavanger, with new headquarters in the Hinna Park business area, the company consists of a small but focused team of 20 people taking on this challenging development program with their complex knowledge and experience. In addition Badger Explorer ASA has acquired a 50 per cent stake in the UK based engineering company Calidus Engineering Ltd.

The Badger Explorer idea is to function as a new formation and reservoir evaluation tool that drills into the ground without the risks, cost and complexity of drilling wells with a rig. It operates without a great deal of logistics surrounding it and functions as an autonomous drilling machine.

Kjell Erik Drevdal, president and CEO of the organisation, outlines the strengths and principles behind the Badger Explorer: “This concept is a drilling robot that drills itself down into the ground without the use of a drilling rig. It is powered through a cable that is linked to a power station on the surface – and that is all it takes. After drilling into the seabed we can do most of the physical measurements that a drilling rig has to do today, verifying whether there is oil or gas underneath. At the moment we are working on a full-scale prototype that has been built for testing, modifying and re-engineering so that we can eventually reach a model that is robust and reliable enough to drill in the variable locations of the oil and gas industry.”

The future Badger Explorer has a penetration depth specification of 3000 metres, progress to this depth would take two months, operating at an average rate of two metres an hour depending on rock hardness. With a borehole diameter size of six inch and a power requirement of ten kilowatts, the application is a much more cost-effective option for oil and gas exploration than the existing methods.

It also has advantages in that the formations will be drilled in gauge holes with no drilling fluid or overbalance, meaning there will be no formation invasion or measurement errors due to washed out hole sections. The toolstring requirements are much simpler than conventional drilling, reducing the cost of measurement sensor packaging and increasing the quality of data received. The crushed and loosened debris is transported through the device and deposited in the void behind the tool, again making the drilling process easier and cheaper. In total it is predicted that the tool will bring cost reductions of 60 to 80 per cent and therefore will increase the number of discoveries within a set exploration budget, allowing for better long term planning with recoverable reserves.

Kjell Erik believes the market couldn’t be better for the launch of the Badger Explorer: “There is a great market for this concept, which will save oil companies huge amounts of money in the exploration phase. This will be the case whether the oil price is high or low as it will always be beneficial to companies. When we succeed in developing this idea, it will be very interesting to enter the oil and gas sector because the costs are so low compared to our competitors – our potential market is enormous.”

Ecologically the Badger Explorer has massive implications for the environment. The ambition of the concept is to contribute to a number of environmental improvements. Without the use of large drilling rigs and all the related logistics, the impact on and disturbances to the wildlife, fisheries and surrounding environment will be greatly reduced. As the Badger Explorer buries itself in the ground there are no emissions into the air or sea from polluted drill cuttings or CO2 from power generation. It functions as a self-contained operation and as such has no need for vessel assistance, reducing the safety hazards for personnel and avoiding a great deal of fuel consumption, there are also minimum risks of uncontrolled blowout. The Badger Explorer is a solution for environmentally friendly, responsible drilling.

Kjell Erik highlights his vision for the future: “In five years time we will have the Badger Explorer up and running, and taking on jobs. We have the support of the oil companies StatoilHydro, Exxon Mobil and Shell, and we have just signed an agreement that will take the corporation into the commercial stage, these companies have the first right to use or buy the Explorer when it is complete. With this kind of large customer behind us, how we use the market depends on us. One of many selling points and benefits is the environmental factor as a rig is not needed, nature remains undisturbed and it will make exploration so much easier. This concept is the foundation of the company and it will help us move forward in developments for the industry.”

Badger Explorer ASA

Products Exploration drilling robot