Centura Oil Ventures off the Oilfield to Help Uranium Mine Maximize Ore Recovery with Jet Edge-Powered Ultra-High Pressure Waterjet
Challenging Project Leads to Development of New Downhole Waterjet Cutting Tool That Fits Inside a 2” Diameter Pipe and Cuts Multiple Layers of Grouted Casing In One Pass
At $30+ a pound, uranium is worth going the extra mile, even if it means going to extraordinary efforts to cut and remove hundreds of pipes and casings blocking a rich ore zone. But when conventional pipe cutting methods failed at one of the world’s largest uranium mines, mine officials looked outside of their industry and tapped the creative minds at Centura Oil Inc. They challenged the Minnesota-based oilfield waterjet contractor to descend nearly a half mile underground to get the job done with its unique Jet Edge-powered 55,000 psi downhole waterjet cutting system.
The folks at Centura Oil are glowing…with pride. They just completed one of their most challenging and unusual projects ever, a project that took them off familiar oilfields and deep underground into a uranium mine for two and a half years. Now they are excited to bring their technology improvements and newly acquired capabilities back to the world’s oilfields. When Centura Oil developed the CenJet 90® downhole waterjet cutting system, its primary objective was to help oil and gas companies maximize production by using a 55,000 psi ultra-high pressure waterjet to stimulate wells.
The CenJet 90’s original purpose was to be deployed up to 4000+ feet into a well, then pierce through the well casing and cut multiple 8′ to 10′ long lateral perforations up to 10″ in diameter into the surrounding area, expanding a well’s area of influence by 16′ to 20′ in diameter at multiple depths. It was this unique downhole pipe cutting capability that attracted the attention of officials at the uranium mine, who needed to extract hundreds of pipes and casings that were blocking millions of dollars’ worth of uranium ore. “They called us up and said, ‘you’re the only company capable of doing this,’” said Michael Uthe, Centura Oil president. “That is how we entered the mining business.”
Plato Put it Best: “Necessity is the Mother of Invention.”
During the uranium mine project, Centura Oil was tasked with cutting hundreds of pipes and casings of various diameters, many as small as 2” ID, and with cutting off casings just below the surface casing to allow for the overcoring bit to be reduced so the entire string of pipe could be retrieved. To add to the challenge, the pipes had been installed at a 70° angle and Centura had to make the cuts sight unseen at distances as far as 300 feet.
This forced Centura to make some modifications to the CenJet® 90. These included shrinking the system’s Jet Edge Permalign abrasivejet cutting head and assembly so it could fit inside the tightest pipes and adding a fire suppression unit to their 55,000 psi, 200hp Jet Edge iP55-200 waterjet intensifier pump, which they brought with them deep down into the mine. They also used a polymer enhanced circulation system to aid in carrying returns to the surface.
“We knew immediately that we had a new product and service to take back to the oilfields,” Uthe noted. “We can now cut at any angle, horizontal, vertical and even overhead, and fit inside extremely narrow pipes. And it’s waterjet, so we can work in hazardous environments and our cutting process does not exceed 140°F (60°C), minimizing the chance of ignition. This is going to be huge in the oilfields, especially for plug and abandonment.”
Centura Oil has two Jet Edge waterjet intensifier pumps. In addition to its electric-powered iP55-200 pump, they also have a diesel-powered 55,000 psi Jet Edge pump for use in remote areas. Also based in Minnesota, Jet Edge manufactures the widest range of waterjet pumps in the industry, from 30-280hp, in 36,000 psi, 60,000 psi and 90,000 psi models, electric and diesel. Jet Edge is the only waterjet system manufacturer in the world that offers a 55,000 psi Cummins diesel-powered hydraulic intensifier pump. The company also manufactures mobile and precision waterjet cutting and surface preparation systems.
“We really put our Jet Edge pump and cutting heads to the test,” Uthe noted. “They performed flawlessly despite very harsh and humid conditions, and that was imperative considering the remoteness of the project. As we progressed with the cuts, they had to move the pump around with a bucket loader and it’s pretty dinged up, but it worked like a champ.”
Centura Oil’s worldwide services include waterjet well recompletion and production enhancement, well plug and abandonment, and mobile waterjet cutting. The company also sells its CenJet 90 systems under a licensing agreement.