Saudi Aramco’s EXPEC Advanced Research Center (EXPEC ARC) solved a drilling challenge using date tree waste. EXPEC ARC examined the waste components of local date trees, such as seeds, leaves and trunks, and determined that they effectively seal rock formations in oil and gas wells while drilling, and prevent seepage. How it works When a well is being drilled, drilling fluid is used to lift drilled rock debris to the surface. Permeable rock formations will frequently experience high mud losses while drilling, which cause instability and the loss of expensive drilling mud. To prevent this, loss circulation materials (LCMs) are typically added to drilling fluids to seal and plug these ‘thief’ zones and restore the full circulation of drilling mud. Researchers at EXPEC ARC discovered that date tree waste could be used for this purpose instead. The product is coined “ARC Plug.” “This program demonstrates the ingenuity of our researchers and scientists to develop long-term solutions that contribute to our communities and enable new opportunities in our economy,” said Amin Nasser, acting president and CEO. “The program also helps serve to protect the Kingdom’s environment, ecosystems, and water resources for generations to come.” Vast Fiber Resources Researchers visited the al-Hasa Date Research Center and a date tree fiber producing factory. According to the al-Hasa R&D Center, between 120,000 and 135,000 tons of date seeds are available annually from various sources (e.g., cookie factories, date processing plants, etc.) An initiative to research the viability of using raw date waste in order to locally development of LCM was underway. They estimate that more than a half a million tons of LCMS can be developed by pruning waste and old, damaged and non-productive date trees. Experimental results indicate the date tree waste-based fibrous LCMs have similar or better performance than other conventional LCM products in sealing and blocking permeable and small fractured loss zones. This makes locally developed, organic, biodegradable and non-toxic LCMs similar to imported granular and fibrous LCM materials. The date tree waste-based LCMs demonstrated their potential in the laboratory in controlling seepage, moderate and severe loss of circulation. EXPEC ARC has developed intellectual property as a result of this research and is now conducting the final stage of testing the new LCM product in field trials scheduled for the first quarter of 2016.