By Jack MoneyBusiness writerjmoney@oklahoman.comNORMAN — Thermally activated smart shape memory polymers could help plug drilling-related problems with geothermal wells. Saeed Salehi, a professor of petroleum and geological engineering at the University of Oklahoma’s Mewbourne College of Earth and Energy, is leading a team of researchers at OU and two other universities investigating the polymers’ potential. Specifically, the team members are working with shape memory polymers that make up something they have named smart lost circulation materials. The polymers, Salehi said, react to geothermal temperatures to expand into rock fractures near the bore of a well that is being drilled to tap that energy. Salehi stated they are “smart,” meaning they can be programmed to undergo chemical reactions to boost their effectiveness by expanding when they are exposed to high temperatures. “They are programmed to only react when temperatures reach a certain level,” he said. The polymers’ expansions both seal off and strengthen the bore, which results in fewer instances of lost circulation while drilling. Tamping down that issue speeds drilling of the well.Read more on


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