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Environmentally efficient full profile drilling solution

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - ECO-DRILLING (Environmentally efficient full profile drilling solution)

Reporting period: 2018-09-01 to 2020-02-29

Traditional waterways for Small Hydropower Plants (SHPP) consist of an intake structure, a tunnel or horizontal pipe, and a penstock or pressure shaft to the power station. Frequently, penstocks have been built aboveground or buried in a ditch, as it requires lower development costs. However, topographical conditions (i.e. steeply inclined slopes with exposed rocks or risk of landslides) and new environmental regulations against the construction of aboveground penstocks, call for the development of alternative solutions to develop underground waterways. Current options include the construction of a horizontal Drill and Blast (D&B) tunnel (max. average length: 1km) and a pressure shaft using Raise Borer (RB) technology (maximum length: 600m). D&B technique consists on drilling a number of holes into the rock and fill them with explosive charges. After the detonation, the rock collapses and, once the debris have been removed, the process is repeated until the desired length of the horizontal tunnel is reached. D&B is a costly technique with huge impacts on:
1) human toxicity, 2) photochemical oxidant formation, 3) particulate matter formation, 4) acidification of soil, and 5) large CO2 emissions (ranging from 0.4 to 1.4t per drilled meter) depending on the tunnel cross section2.
Rise borer has limited directional capabilities, so most of the times the D&B horizontal tunnel has to be extended more than necessary to connect with the vertical shaft. In addition, the RB can only drill downwards from the water intake, and requires transportation of heavy drilling equipment to the mountain top and thus temporary access roads need to be built for that purpose. This brings notable imprints on the landscape & extra costs ranging from 55,000-110,000 €/km of road built in an easy to moderate terrain, to 110,000-220,000 €/km in a moderate to difficult terrain.

ECO-DRILLING is a disruptive full profile directional drilling solution that significantly reduces the environmental impact of drilling hydropower’s pressure shafts and development costs, facilitating the expansion of hydropower generation. Our technology doesn’t use explosives, which cuts CO2 emissions with 140t per average hydropower project when compared with alternative D&B technique. Furthermore, ECO-DRILLING improves Health Safety and Environment (HSE) impacts on workers, reduces hazardous activities, eliminates human toxicity problems, photochemical oxidant formation, particulate matter formation, and acidification of soil.
The overall work plan of the ECO-DRILLING project is designed to achieve a set of specifically defined and a sequential series of technology and market maturation activities to elevate ECO-DRILLING TRL from TRL7 to TRL9. The work plan spans 24 months and consists of six work packages (WPs) divided between two specific technology maturation WPs (WP 1-2) running parallel with three market maturation WPs (WP 3-5) with data and analyses from these five feeding into the simultaneous development of our final BIP and CP in WP6 - Innovation Management – that will support all activities, and ensure a successful commercialisation and market launch of our disruptive technology in the EU hydropower sector and beyond.

Technology maturation activities will be implemented in WP1 and WP2 throughout the project duration. WP1 (Months 1-10) addresses the final optimisation and prototyping of the enhanced ECO-DRILLING design. In WP2 (Months 11-24) we will implement a large-scale piloting to validate our technology in real-life settings with our test partner. The activities planned in WP1-2 will elevate the TRL of ECO-DRILLING, finally reaching TRL9.

Market maturation activities: The specific market maturation activities will take place in WP3-5, and will run in parallel with WP1 and WP2. Throughout WP3, will ensure a resilient up- and downstream supply chain, WP4 will be dedicated to all preparatory activities for the commercial launch of our enhanced ECO-DRILLING technology, including market monitoring, cost and price analytics, developing licencing agreements, investigation of import and export laws in the target markets and securing post-project funding needed to ensure fast market uptake. WP5 will take care of the activities for exploiting and communicating the project results to stakeholders and the general public. Simultaneously, the results of WP1-WP5 will merge into the development of our final BIP and CP in WP6. Under this structure, we ensure that by the end of the 24-month project period, ECO-DRILLING will be ready for commercial introduction.
There are 3 key novelties that make ECO-DRILLING the unbeatable solution responding to the industry needs:

1. High trajectory precision and automation level: ECO-DRILLING has a built-in state of the art optical laser gyro incorporated in the guidance system, which allows to follow any programed drilling trajectory with the highest accuracy in the market (deviation below 1m per 1,000m drilled distance, accuracy: 0.04-degree true north, 0.01-degree pitch). ECO-DRILLING’s guidance system is not disturbed by magnetic fields, and provides online real-time position monitoring while drilling (i.e. no costly after-job surveying required). This high positional accuracy allows our system to autonomously perform trajectory corrections in real-time to follow the most efficient drilling path, while reducing system’s wear and tear (i.e. optimising operational and maintenance costs) and avoiding trajectory deviations due to changes in rock quality along the drilling path. As a result, the breakthrough point is always reached with close to zero deviations.

2. Reduced infrastructure development costs: ECO-DRILLING is the only available solution capable of drilling upwards with the trajectory precision, borehole diameter, and drilling length required to drill SHPP’s pressure shafts with no need for building horizontal drill-and-blast tunnels nor access roads to the mountain top, saving up to €220,000 per km of road. Competitor’s solutions involve rise boring drilling (with a construction cost similar to ECO-DRILLING’s cost) and a horizontal drill-and-blast tunnel. ECO-DRILLING eliminates the need for this horizontal tunnel, which further reduces the total cost of drilling the pressure shaft in €266,000 on an average full project (i.e. saving 760€/m with an average D&B length of 350m).

3. Reduced environmental impact: ECO-DRILLING’s has a very low environmental impact when compared to alternative solutions. By not using explosives, ECO-DRILLING avoids the emission of 0.4 tons of CO2 per drilled meter and eliminates hazardous activates related to blasting works. ECO-DRILLING eliminates the need to build access roads and thus the associated environmental impact. We have also incorporated an efficient and fully electrically powered drilling motor to avoid ground vibrations (it is almost noiseless).
The new Navigation HMI
The new 300ton surface rig
The simplified equipment setup