Shell testing new laser-based sensor to find shale gas

HOUSTON – Royal Dutch Shell is testing a new device that uses lasers to help identify shale gas reservoirs, Wyoming-based oilfield service company WellDog announced Tuesday.

The device, which weights more than 100 pounds, is dropped into a wellbore where it shoots lasers and measures the frequency at which that light is reflected. That information helps production companies identify what type of hydrocarbons are located underground and where they are.

“The advantage of this is the sensor is down hole,” said WellDog CEO John Pope. “It’s a direct analyst of the exact oil or gas you’re trying to produce.”

The device is still in the testing phases. WellDog has been collaborating with Shell on the technology for about two years, Pope said. The hope is develop a system that gives producers a more accurate sense of where to drill, ultimately making drilling and fracking more efficient.

The effort comes at a time when operators are in a constant battle to reduce the costs of shale operations as they try to increase their profit margins.

The technology relies on something called the “Raman Effect,” which occurs when light scatters away from a molecule with slightly different characteristics after a molecule’s chemical bonds become excited. Every chemical gives off unique frequencies, similar to a fingerprint, which software can analyze. By measuring the change in that light frequency, WellDog can learn more about what substance the laser light initially struck.

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