Pulsed and Continuous Wave (CW) Lasers in the Oil, Gas, Coal and Ignition Industries
N. Khan, N. Abas and A. Kalair
Natural oil, gas and coal reserves are limited in nature to which human access has become a major hurdle due to concrete reservoir rocks. Lasers have long been viewed as the ultimate holy-grail to drill through the solid rocks where conventional oil and gas bits fail to spall or grind the hard stones. Oil and gas industry has developed two and three cone diamond and turbo bits to spall and shear rocks to drill boreholes for oil, gas, geothermal and underground coal gasification projects but conventional methods often prove uneconomic and failure inflicting monetary and resource losses. This paper reviews the applications of laser technology in welding, drilling and spallation. Laser technology has also potential for igniting combustible fuel mixtures, wherein 60 to 70% developed fuels are wasted due to incomplete combustion. Global reserves can increase by increasing engine efficiency through complete combustion. Lasers have potential to help break solid rocks in borehole, improve fuels ignition and cause nuclear fusion to produce electricity. This paper also reviews several studies undertaken to measure Minimum Ignition Energy (MIE) of combustible fuels to develop suitable laser ignition system to replace conventional electric spark plugs. Laser spark plugs are expected to appear in market within next few years and laser fusion power plants after a few decades. This work reviews some earlier experimental results and reports some new initiatives to describe role of lasers in energy industry.
Keywords: Laser, oil, gas, coal, ignition, drilling, spallation, rock, specific energy