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Alcoa to supply aluminum drill pipes for shale gas wells
Alcoa Inc said on Thursday it won a contract to supply drill pipe made of an aluminum alloy to Pennsylvania General Energy, which operates natural gas wells in the Marcellus Shale formation of Pennsylvania.
The use of aluminum instead of steel, which is more common for drill pipe, will allow PGE to drill deeper and will also require less energy, the drilling company said.
The announcement highlights the growing use of aluminum and aluminum alloys as a substitute for steel. Aircraft and motor vehicle manufacturers are using more aluminum, as it is as strong as steel but lighter.
Alcoa said it will produce 3,500 feet of 4.5 inch drill pipe for PGE, which will allow it to extend the reach of drilling rigs on natural gas wells to about 7,500 feet. That is 1,000 feet deeper than conventional steel drill pipe can penetrate without using larger, more costly rigs, the aluminum company said.
Alcoa did not divulge financial details of the deal.
"The high strength-to-weight ratio of Alcoa pipe will allow PGE to drill deeper with less energy-intensive rigs and to maintain a smaller drilling footprint, which is a win for PGE, our land owners, and the environment," said Justin Hansen, PGE's drilling engineer.
The drill pipe is a tapered, high-strength, aluminum alloy tube coupled with proprietary thermal connection technology that allows steel tool joints to attach to the aluminum pipe. This improves the strength-to-weight ratio and gives it the capability to be used with steel pipe.
Alcoa said its pipe design and construction make it up to 50 percent lighter than steel pipe, yet with the durability and strength of steel.
"For deep drilling, it is possible to move twice the amount of Alcoa pipe than steel pipe, with reduced torque and drag, making Alcoa pipe the preferred drill pipe for efficient deep-drilling exploration," said Dr. Jamal Righi, general manager of Alcoa's Oil & Gas division.
Alcoa spokeswoman Libby Archell said aluminum drill pipe was not new, but was getting more exposure with the recent surge in U.S. natural gas production. It is particularly suited to the horizontal drilling typical of gas wells, in which gas is extracted from seams between rock formations.
Alcoa stock closed down 2.9 percent at $8.18 on the New York Stock exchange on Thursday.
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