Plans unveiled to drill world’s deepest well
HOUSTON -- Discussion of a plan to drill in the seafloor more than 12,000 feet beneath the surface of the Pacific Ocean impressed even the technical professionals at the Offshore Technology Conference, who already know a lot about doing complicated work under water.
The project, scheduled for 2017 in the Pacific Ocean, would involve drilling a scientific well to retrieve a core of the Earth’s mantle. It would bring the sample to the surface using a riser similar to the pipe that connects underwater wellheads to surface rigs.
If successful, it would drill in water as deep as 12,000 or 14,000 feet, well beyond the deepest drilling now, around 10,000 feet.
Nicolas Pilisi, an engineer for Blade Energy Partners, said the greater water depths are accessible with changes in materials used and with additional power to move mud and other materials into and out of the hole.
While steel risers used now are too heavy and pose a risk of buckling at greater depths, innovative designs using thinner risers, or ones made from titanium or aluminum, would offer strength and also cut down weight, Pilisi said.
Those advancements — which Pilisi said aren’t far from reality — could advance offshore capability, especially if the project settled for a more shallow site off the coast of Hawaii.
“Drilling and coring a scientific hole in the upper mantle is definitely possible,” Pilisi said. “A hole could be drilled today with the existing technology.”
The Houston Chronicle