Before long, the world of gas, oil and geothermal extraction will have an equally unique and valuable source of information. Deep Atlas has developed a method for accurately estimating whether or not a drilling operation will be successful. Founder Wijnand van Eijndthoven expects to bring the technology to market this year.
With a market introduction in sight, these are exciting times for Wijnand van Eijndthoven. With his company Deep Atlas, the Groningen geologist has been working since 2017 on a method for using mineralogy to automatically predict the flowability of rocks in the deep subsurface. A pioneering method, to be sure. Never before has this method been used in the gas and oil industry. Nor in CO2 storage and the extraction of geothermal heat. While that is precisely where the data collected and analyzed by Deep Atlas can be of great value. 'It is an important link in understanding the deep subsurface,' explains Wijnand. 'Compared to existing techniques, a much better insight is obtained into the permeability and composition of the rock in question. These so-called hyperspectral measurements give a very detailed picture of the (clay) minerals that are between the grains of sand. And yes, if you have that information you can better plan a new well or optimize an existing well.'
After high school, Wijnand initially chose to study Mining Engineering at TU Delft. Soon after the first fieldwork, however, he decided to switch to Geology in Utrecht. He obtained his bachelor's degree and won a summer internship at a mining company. He liked that so much that Wijnand preferred to stay. But, the company found, for that, just a bachelor's degree is not enough. 'They then recommended a number of universities around the world to me,' he says. 'Eventually I graduated in Tasmania. That immediately led to a job with the same international mining company, for which I worked as an exploration geologist throughout Australia. During that time, he was first introduced to hyperspectral measurements. The technique was just being developed at the time and was being promoted primarily for mining. Wijnand was immediately captivated.
Even after Wijnand returned to the Netherlands and started working at NAM, it did not let him go. He was surprised that measurements in the oil and gas industry had not yet been applied to better understand reservoir rock. Of course, he also knew that you couldn't adopt the method for this one-to-one. But he was convinced that with thoughtful modifications and the right software, it should work. With all its advantages for the gas and oil industry, CO2 storage and especially geothermal extraction. After a major reorganization at NAM, Wijnand seized his opportunity and founded Deep Atlas.
The company now has a functioning prototype, developed in close cooperation with the University of Twente (UT) and the University of Groningen (RUG). 'The UT supported me in conducting a successful feasibility study,' he says. 'Then we built a prototype of a fully automated workflow that measures and analyzes the rock and thus determines the mineralogy. Then, with the help of the RUG, we succeeded in using machine learning to make an accurate prediction of flow behavior. Deep Atlas is only a few small steps away from actually being market-ready later this year. Everything points to a rapid and, above all, successful introduction.'
Compared to existing techniques, a much better understanding of the permeability and composition of the rock in question is obtained.
Wijnand van Eijndthoven, Deep Atlas
To investigate whether or not a drilling operation will be successful, Deep Atlas performs so-called short-wave infrared (SWIR) measurements, scans of rock samples from the deep subsurface that are analyzed for their permeability prior to (potential) drilling. In other words, the extent to which the measured rock allows liquids and gases to pass through is examined. The scans are made with a SWIR hyperspectral camera recently purchased by the company. Thanks to this expensive device, differences come to light that cannot be observed with the human eye or an ordinary camera. Deep Atlas is the first Dutch company that can use such an advanced camera to estimate whether a drilling location is suitable or how a drilling operation can be made even more promising.
Especially when drilling for geothermal heat, it is important to map the permeability of rock in detail. Simply because large volumes of hot water must be extracted from the subsurface. Geothermal heat, also known as geothermal energy, is a renewable energy source and is seen as the alternative to fossil natural gas. Because deep drilling is required for extraction, substantial investments are usually required. 'However, our method is relatively inexpensive compared to other techniques,' Wijnand emphasizes. 'With a substantial cost reduction in the planning of geothermal drilling, among other things, as a logical consequence.'
Early stage funding
In short, Deep Atlas' technology can play a welcome role in accelerating the energy transition. And that very fact was a key reason for NOM, as well as G-Force Capital and RUG Ventures, to provide the young company with funding. 'We consider it important to contribute to social issues such as climate change and the growing scarcity of raw materials,' explains Danielle van Dalfsen, investment manager of NOM. 'The activities of Deep Atlas naturally fit in very well with that. Moreover, many parties are reluctant to finance companies in this risky early phase. While NOM, G-Force Capital and RUG Ventures can make the difference for young companies at this stage. With early-stage funding we want to promote innovations in the region, so that promising initiatives like Deep Atlas get the space to develop further.'
In this e-book you will learn:
- What is a convertible loan
- What to watch out for with a convertible loan
- The pros and cons of a convertible loan
Please note that this whitepaper is only available in Dutch at the moment. We are in the process of translating this whitepaper.