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Drilling geothermal wells is challenging and often not cost effective. A team of researchers at the University of Oklahoma in the US is currently developing smart lost circulation materials to help make geothermal drilling less expensive. reported on their research, explaining that they’re focusing on the development of shape memory polymers, which are activated by geothermal temperature. The aim of using them is to prevent fluid escaping from the fractured rock around the wellbore.

Speaking to the news provider, Saeed Salehi, project principal investigator and professor of petroleum and geological engineering at the university, commented: “The shape polymers under development for this project are novel expandable and programmable polymers that activate when drilling a high-temperature geothermal drilling operations.”

He added that the current cost of geothermal drilling is “prohibitive” without new technologies such as these polymers being developed.

This is also just the first phase of the project. After investigating lost circulation prevention methods and smart wellbore strengthening materials, the team will move onto phase two. This will focus on flow loop tests of the materials they develop.

The final phase will involve running computational models to find the best combination of techniques, material sizes and concentration to be used in real wells.

A recent post for Think Geoenergy explained that drilling fluids are a “critical component” of drilling operations because they help maintain the stability of the wellbore, they provide pressure, and they allow drilling tools and the downhole environment to cool.

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