I-Corps: Self-guiding drilling tool for the oil, gas and geothermal industries Grant uri icon


  • The broader impact/commercial potential of this I-Corps project is the benefits for the energy industry, especially the US oil & gas and geothermal industries. The energy sector is ramping up its digital transformation process as other sectors (e.g. automotive or information technology) have already seen tremendous progress in digitalization. Over the next five years, the markets for traditional drilling tools and digital oilfields are expected to reach 30 billion, respectively. Furthermore, with the increasing clean energy demand and regulations regarding eco-friendliness, the global geothermal energy market is projected to reach $9 billion by 2025, with a significant share held by North America. The proposed, automated, self-guided drilling tool targets this market to reduce the public, environmental, and economic hazards associated with deep oil and geothermal well development. Improved drilling operations will keep the overall drilling rig's footprint low, significantly minimizing sidetracks and non-productive time. Consequently, the intended semi-autonomous process will ultimately reduce costs and energy consumption resulting in more environment-friendly drilling and improved safety. This I-Corps project will explore the commercial potential of technology stemming from previously funded drilling automation research. The proposed self-guided drilling tool is superior by at least two automation levels compared to the current market tools, resulting in significant cost savings and improved safety. Developing a tailored prototype and a functional tool requires a much better understanding of potential customer needs. This I-Corps project aims to discover critical customer needs through comprehensive customer interviews to guide prototype development. Proving technical and economic feasibility of the product will benefit automated drilling operations and open up avenues for implementing the technology in other aspects of process optimization. This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

date/time interval

  • 2021