R&D Award

Lucite International’s (LI) has won a prestigious R&D 100 award for its part in the development of a Trapped Annular Pressure Shrinkage Spacer (TAPSS), which uses MMA cleverly as part of a system that increases the safety and efficiency of oil extraction from both on land and offshore wells. The R&D 100 award was won in conjunction with Los Alamos National Laboratory, Chevron Energy and Baker Hughes.

How does TAPSS work?
During the drilling of an oil well, fluids can become trapped between the casing annuli (an annulus is the space between two concentric objects, such as between casing and tubing, which form the structure for the oil to travel through). When these fluids are heated by the flow of warm oil and gas from the well, they expand and create very high pressures that can cause the casing to burst. In land wells, the pressure can easily be relieved by bleeding off some of the fluid through a casing head valve. Offshore wells are not so easy to access and are not generally fitted with the necessary valves. The challenge of finding a reasonably priced, reliable mitigation technique for trapped annular pressure (TAP) was presented to a group of scientists at Los Alamos who quickly narrowed the focus down to liquid monomer (MMA) that shrinks 20% upon polymerisation (triggered by heat and a chemical initiator). Extensive laboratory and field trials showed that polymerisation could be delayed while the TAPSS fluid is pumped.

How do the properties of MMA help?
When MMA is emulsified into a water-based drilling fluid and placed into the appropriate annulus of an oil well, the microscopic monomer droplets polymerise into solid microscopic particles. This process reduces the volume of the MMA droplets by 20%. When a drilling engineer determines the pressure requirements of a particular annulus, it is possible to calculate the amount of MMA needed for the appropriate amount of shrinkage to compensate for any potential pressure problem. MMA-based TAPSS solution will make drilling safer, more efficient and is set to revolutionise the oil industry. The full story is featured at: Los Alamos National Laboratory »

About the R&D 100 Awards
Established by R&D Magazine in the USA in 1963, the annual R&D 100 Awards identify the 100 most significant, newly introduced research and development advances in multiple disciplines. Winning one of the R&D 100 Awards provides a mark of excellence to industry, government, and academia and is proof that the product is one of the most innovative ideas of the year.