The Power of Lasers

The Power of Lasers: A revolution in the oil and gas industry

Aramco celebrates first down-hole laser perforation field trial using high power laser technology.

The Power of Lasers: A revolution in the oil and gas industry

Lasers are making a transformative impact across various industrial sectors. The EXPEC Advanced Research Center (EXPEC ARC) launched a Laser Research Program over a decade ago to explore the diverse applications of lasers in Upstream field operations.


In 2021, the first application of lasers for surface flow line descaling was done in Ain Dar, which helped in removing scale deposits from production pipelines in a safe and sustainable manner. Traditionally, descaling operations involve mechanical tools, chemical means, or a combination of both. Using lasers for descaling eliminates the need for chemical descaling, and enables reuse of descaled pipes while reducing operational time and manpower requirements.


Recently, a second application marked a significant milestone, as EXPEC ARC, in collaboration with the Southern Area Production Engineering Department (SAPED) and the Southern Area Well Completion Operations Department (SAWCOD), successfully carried out the industry’s first downhole laser perforation field trial using high power laser technology. 


“This historic event exemplifies Aramco’s leadership by introducing laser technology to the oil and gas industry for the first time,” said Saad M. Al-Mutairi, chief technologist of the Production Technology Division at EXPEC ARC.


Team member secure the high power laster tool connections to lower the tool into the test well in May. At right, onsite pre-job meeting of the participating team members.

Bringing laser success downhole

The journey to introduce laser technology to the oil and gas industry began in 2011, when EXPEC ARC enlisted the expertise of Sameeh I. Batarseh, a renowned researcher in laser-rock interaction, to lead the project. Since then, EXPEC ARC has been devoted to design a laser system with robust safety measures. Their state-of-the-art high power laser lab has facilitated numerous experiments investigating the interactions between lasers, rocks, and fluids, as well as harnessing the potential of fiber optic capabilities. 


This collaborative effort resulted in the successful deployment of a high power laser perforation tool in an active well, achieving confirmed effective perforation that enhances well productivity by at least 10%. By utilizing this tool, we overcome conventional challenges and risks, while enhancing both efficiency and safety protocols.


Throughout this journey, Aramco has diligently protected its intellectual property, securing over 55 granted patents and filing 75 disclosures under the laser program. The research conducted has gained international recognition, with 60 conference papers, nine journal publications, and four prestigious awards to its credit.


Looking ahead, our researchers and engineers are working on developing the technology for subsurface descaling operations, offering a sustainable alternative to traditional practices. Additionally, efforts are underway to develop a slimmer tool that will enable deeper perforation and initiate fractures, with the future potential of laser drilling. By combining the power of lasers with oil and gas operations, this project represents a remarkable step forward in revolutionizing the industry, achieving enhanced efficiency and sustainability.


Teamwork behind the success of the laser perforation field trial

The successful execution of the laser perforation field trial was made possible through exemplary teamwork among the participating organizations. Leaders from these teams have shared their thoughts on the collaborative effort:


“The unwavering belief in our long-term R&D strategy resulted in the reality we cherish today,” said Ghaithan A. Al-Muntasheri, director of EXPEC ARC. “Thanks to the pioneering efforts and innovative mindset of EXPEC ARC researchers with support and commitment from our partners, we were able to translate this impossible concept into reality.” 


“This success demonstrates the limitless potential of human innovation when we push the boundaries of what is possible,” said Mohammed A. Al-Atwi, director of SAPED. From an idea to reality, it’s an amazing feeling to be part of a monumental achievement in well completion technological advancements. The great team spirit led to astonishing results!” 


“This accomplishment is proof of the transformational mind and eagerness that our collaborative teams have,” said Nayef S. Al-Shammari, director of SAWCOD. “I am so proud with such an extraordinary success that would not be possible without the great collaboration, team spirit, and commitment to overcome challenges and generate values, both in the lab and in the field.” 


Recognition from PE&D management

In a recognition gathering for the Laser Research Team at EXPEC ARC, senior vice president of Petroleum Engineering and Development (PE&D), Waleed A. Al-Mulhim, commended the perseverance of the current and previous laser research teams that led to this remarkable achievement. 


While the challenges of developing and deploying laser technology initially seemed daunting, our team’s unwavering resolve has transformed these challenges into a groundbreaking reality. This achievement not only broadens advancement in the Upstream sector, but also reinforces Aramco’s leadership in innovation.
— Waleed A. Al-Mulhim

Captions for top photo: The Laser Research Team conducts lab experiments in 2016.


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