Bridgend-based sustainable technology company Nemein has developed a new way of harvesting, storing and using energy in drilling operations.
Enterprise Europe Network in Wales, fulfilling its role within the Innovate UK family of services, helped Nemein to access Innovate UK funding for the project. This funding was designed to help a small group of SMEs whose projects were closely aligned to the UK’s new Industrial Strategy.
The company had made an initial bid for EU backing for the project through the SME Instrument (Phase 1). This was unsuccessful but only because the fund was oversubscribed. However, it was awarded the EU Seal of Excellence that demonstrated the high quality of Nemein’s proposal.
EEN continued to provide support throughout the project, helping the company to map objectives, identify funding sources and prepare applications. EEN’s advisory plan also resulted in a collaboration with the Welsh European Funding Office which provided support at the start of the project.
A novel way to harvest energy
Lawrence Till, technical sales director at Nemein, said: “We’re very optimistic about the future, thanks to the amazing support we’ve received from EEN in support of the early stage of one of our enabling technologies."
The project used an earlier Nemein innovation - a thermoelectric generator which acts as an energy harvester downhole – and combined it with an energy store and a turbine.
The result was the initial development of an electrical power source that is reliable and sustainable and provides far more energy than is typically needed for powering instruments during drilling applications.
There are huge challenges involved in downhole oil and gas engineering. Sensitive electro-mechanical equipment needs to work efficiently in a harsh environment, with temperatures of up to 200°C and pressures that can be 1,000 times greater than in a car tyre.
Sensors that activate machinery or send data up to the surface are traditionally powered by batteries or a turbine with battery backup.
Intelligent technology reaps wider benefits
Turbines can output power while drilling fluid is circulated so, when drilling stops to enable a new length of pipe to be added, battery power is needed or the sensors shut down.
Nemein also found a way of adding sensors to the energy recovery process to make it possible for the power source to become aware of its surroundings and even to detect the precursors of a blowout before it happens.
This could not only save the drilling company money but potentially prevent environmental disasters.
The sensors can also be used to detect if a drill is likely to get stuck, a common issue which can account for up to 10% of drilling costs. In a multibillion-dollar industry, preventing this kind of problem could offer huge cost savings for drilling companies.
Within the next 5 years, we’re aiming to create between 30 and 50 new jobs and, within the next 10 years, increase our annual turnover to around $60 million.
Lawrence Till, technical sales director, Nemein