New innovative drill rig goes into operation in Bavaria.

This past Feb. 19, the GeoForschungsZentrum Potsdam (GFZ) officially commenced the operation of the new drill rig, InnovaRig, at a geothermal drill site in Germany. One of the most modern drill rigs worldwide, it has the capacity to drill to depths of 16,500 feet. Cost to build the rig: $26.5 million.

“Drilling is an essential tool in geosciences,” says Reinhard Hüttl, scientific executive director of GFZ. Up to now, modified drill rigs from the exploration industry had to be employed, fulfilling only to a limited extent the scientific requirements. “The GFZ has, therefore, has developed a completely new drill rig concept for scientific deep drilling.”

The idea for InnovaRig was born in 2004. The aim was the development of a novel drill rig, allowing for scientific and industrial drilling under considerably reduced personnel and financial complexity compared to conventional equipment. In May 2007, the newly developed InnovaRig was festively launched. This was followed by the vital endurance test during operations at the drill site in Bavaria, where two 14,500-foot deep holes will be drilled. The first hole already has passed the 12,500-foot mark; the end depth will be 14,655 feet. Afterwards – and this too is a technical detail of InnovaRig – the drilling derrick will be relocated by 20 feet so as to begin with the second drilling. This double drilling adheres to the concept of extraction of hot deep waters from one hole and the revertive pumping of the cooled water into the second hole.

The need for a modern drill rig such as the InnovaRig became apparent in the many research drilling projects worldwide. Drilling implies physical strain for the personnel, and, very often, dangerous and hazardous work. Environmental restrictions and – in the case of industrial rigs – often insufficient tools for the scientific investigation of the drilled rocks pose further problems. With the InnovaRig, hazardous work has been minimized or even completely abolished, due to optimized noise protection-measures, compliance with the exhaust-emission norms, and the avoidance of contamination. The rig leaves behind only very minor ecological footprints, and it functions cheaper than conventional drill rigs.

The special requirements of scientific research are optimally realized in the InnovaRig concept. It is possible to carry out different drilling procedures without employing any noteworthy additional technical appliances, and especially fast and cost-effective coring can be performed. The respective equipment and instruments already have been integrated into the rig. Likewise, facilities for the fast realization of borehole measurements, continuous data acquisition and storage, as well as for the analysis of the drill mud, have been incorporated.

In addition to scientific projects, InnovaRig also is available for industrial-commercial use. In this way, the utilization capacity can be maximized.

In the second half of this year, InnovaRig will be used for a very special demonstrative project, in which just one borehole will be employed for geothermal energy production. Yet a further use for the drill rig will be within the framework of the International Continental Scientific Drilling Program.  ND