OLALEYE B M et al A review of light amplification by stimulated emission … 753
and inefficient. Their conclusions four decades agocontinue to influence industry misperceptions of LASER applications, despite massive developmentsin LASER system and application particularly thoseassociated with LASER development programs
.In 1994, there was a breakthrough in adaptinghigh-powered LASERs for use in drilling oil and gaswells. The results of the investigation showed thatLASER could cut rock of all lithologies; sheer power shares importance in cutting rock with such parame-ters as wavelength, purge gas pressure and hole sizeand theoretical calculations of the LASER power needed to spall (break), melt and vaporize rock aresignificantly higher than experimental values, ob-served rock removal energy requirements, effects of pulsed versus continuous wave LASERs, and theeffect of fluids on LASER/rock removal efficienciesand concluded that using pulsed LASERs could ac-complish removing material from rock more effi-ciently than continuous wave LASERs
. It was alsoobserved that the efficiency of the cutting mechanismimproved by saturating porous rock samples withwater, and that a LASER beam injected directlythrough a water layer at a sandstone sample was ableto spall and melt the sample
2 Potentials of LASER drilling and con-ventional drilling
The potential use of LASER is broad and with adiverse range of control mechanisms. Using both the parameters of the LASER and the properties of therock, the rock can be chipped, melted or even vapor-ized. Making a more direct comparison of the poten-tial of LASERs and the conventional drilling tech-niques, the apparent difference is in the equipmentused which is smaller and requires fewer moving parts, but the mechanical differences between a drilland a LASER are easily seen. The implications of these are the persuasive aspect of the use of LASERsand may be the most valuable area of comparison.Laser drilling not only allows continuous informationto be gathered over a subsurface profile but also al-lows for a continuous understanding of the subsur-face distribution of contamination
.In conventional drilling, the process is slow andmuch of the time used is with support services tohelp and facilitate the drilling rather than the actualdrilling. Reference  found out that only 50% of thetime spent on drilling actually saw the drill used tomake the hole, 25% of the time was spent on trippingand the remaining 25% of the time was spent on cas-ing and cementing. The use of lasers offers the po-tential to reduce much of this non productive timeand processes and as well reduces costs, for example,with a laser, there is no need for bit replacement, drillstring removal and setting casings. It is also esti-mated that the use of LASERs will increase drillingspeed at anywhere between 10 and 100 times thecurrent rates of using the boring technology. Part of the increased speed is due to the lack of additional processes required, however, the use of LASERs isalso potentially much faster than the drilling processitself. Considering that a typical oil or gas well onland will cost in excess of $400000 to build and a gasor oil well that is offshore can cost $4.5 million, asystem that operates between 10 and 100 times faster will offer significant savings
. This means that manymore limited wells where extraction had not beeneconomically viable due to the costs of reaching thereserves may become viable. Comparing the costusing the example of a typical gas well of 3048 me-ters, in wind river, the cost using traditional tech-niques would be $350000, while the same welldrilled with a LASER would be $35000 or less. Thespeed also lowers the time, the time taken to drill awell may be 10 days or even less, whereas the tradi-tional method could take 100 days or more. Also, thefootprints of LASERs are also much smaller thantraditional technology, potentially being as small as 9square meters or less
. In addition, the high tem- peratures used to melt the walls of the well eliminatethe need for steel and concrete casings.
3 LASER effect on rock properties
There are different high power LASERs, includingthe Mid-Infrared Advanced Chemical Laser (MIRACL), Chemical Oxygen-Iodine Laser (COIL),and a CO
and CO laser. Reference  carried outlaboratory investigations on different rock types withLASER beam interaction to determine how the beam’s size, power, repetition rate, pulse width andexposure time can affect the amount of energy trans-ferred to the rock for the purposes of spallation,melting and vaporization. The purpose of the LASER rock interaction investigation was to determine thethreshold parameters required to remove a maximumrock volume from the samples while minimizing en-ergy input. Absorption of radiant energy from thelaser beam gives rise to the thermal energy transfer required for the destruction and removal of the rock matrix. Results from the tests indicated that each rock type has a set of optimal LASER parameters tominimize Specific Energy (SE) values as observed ina set of linear track and spot tests. Also, observationshows the rates of heat diffusion in rocks are easilyand quickly overrun by observed energy transfer rates from the LASER beam to the rock. As absorbedenergy outpasses heat diffusion by the rock matrix,local temperature can rise to the melting points of theminerals and quickly increase observed SE values.Just prior to the onset of mineral melt, the lowest SEvalues are obtained in the spalling zone. Table 1shows the SE of the different types of drilling meth-ods.