Wear-Resistant NanoComposite Stainless Steel Coatings and Bits for Geothermal Drilling Geothermal Lab Call Project

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Last modified on July 22, 2011.

Project Title Wear-Resistant NanoComposite Stainless Steel Coatings and Bits for Geothermal Drilling
Project Type / Topic 1 Laboratory Call for Submission of Applications for Research, Development and Analysis of Geothermal Technologies
Project Type / Topic 2 Drilling Systems
Project Description Drill head materials for geothermal drilling are based on materials used in gas and oil excavation. However, the rock formations in geothermal well construction are generally harder with higher temperatures. Materials designed with the rigors of geothermal drilling in mind (the goal of this project) can improve drilling rates, decrease down time, decrease costs, and allow for more latitude in site selection. Previous studies have shown that if the penetration rate and lifetime of the bits in drill heads were doubled, the overall well costs would decrease by 15%.

When compared to most oil and gas drilling, geothermal well drilling frequently encounters harder and denser rock formations (with granite and fractured quartz crystals) with higher temperatures. The increased wear in combination with the corrosive effects of drilling fluids, sulfur, chlorine, and other aggressive constituents found in the rock lead to reduced lifetimes of drill heads and bits. Low cost, wear/corrosion resistant tool materials are needed to resist the combined failure modes of wear, impact, and corrosion found in geothermal drilling operations. Conventional drill heads (roller or drag) use either WC or PDC for the drill bits. WC bits suffer from low penetration rates and short bit life; PDC bits are expensive and are subject to impact damage and thermal degradation. The probability of a drill head failure increases as the well depth increases, and reducing this probability will significantly decrease the frequency of these costly replacements. The objective of this project is to reduce the corrosion and wear of the steel tool heads and thereby protect the integrity of the attachment of the bits to the head. These methods can be applied to any industrial drilling operation.

State Tennessee
Objectives Develop ultra hard, wear resistant nanocomposite stainless seels coatings and bulk components to target increasing the lifetime of the drill tooling in harsh geothermal environments and decrease overall costs.
Awardees (Company / Institution) Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Funding Opportunity Announcement DE-PS36-09GO99017
DOE Funding Level (total award amount) $1,085,000.00
Total Project Cost $1,085,000.00

Principal Investigator(s) William H. Peter

Targets / Milestones - Stage I: Preliminary investigations and analysis has shown that a composition of iron based amorphous metal can be bulk processed and de-vitrified into a metal matrix composite of stainless steel with complex metal boron-carbides (CMBCs).

- Stage II: Concept development to show possibility to incorporate complex metal boron-carbides into stainless steel matrix of a coated form of the alloy.

Location of Project Oak Ridge, TN

Funding Source American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009
References EERE Geothermal Technologies Programs[1]


  1. EERE Geothermal Technologies Programs