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In 2004, engineers drilling in the Arctic Ocean at the crest of the Lomonosov ridge provided preliminary evidence that the Arctic was ice-free and warm about 5 6 million years ago.2


Scientists


analyzed cores recovered from the drilling project to help determine when, why and how the Arctic temperature changed. They also gained insight into current global-warming trends.3 Understanding the fundamental processes


that occur deep within the Earth’s crust has contributed to our knowledge of many inner- earth events, including volcanic activity, plate tectonics, weather fluctuations, and chemical and thermodynamic processes that lead to mineral deposition.


Tools and instruments must also survive extreme thermal cycles, from the cold surface of the Arctic to temperatures higher than 204° C


Hydrocarbons are most often found in forbidding environments. Tools and sensors are stressed to their limits as boreholes are drilled deeper into the Earth’s crust where high temper- ature and pressure and excessive vibrations are common, and stress and shock forces reach thousands of times the acceleration of gravity (gn).4


[ 400° F] in the downhole environment. Drilling, logging and measurement instruments have evolved to meet these challenges. Today, oil and gas E& P tools and instruments are designed and thoroughly tested for extended exposure to these harsh environments. Similarly,


the forces encountered while


launching and accelerating a vehicle into space can be traumatic to equipment components. For example, the shock of pyrotechnic-stage separa- tion can reach over 4,000 gn, stressing both the vehicle and its payload. Once in space, depend- ing on orientation relative to the Sun, tempera- ture extremes range from more than 100° C


[ 212° F] to below -200° C [ -328° F] . Because of the need to operate in harsh environments, the tools and instrument packages designed for deep-well drilling are inherently applicable to other challenging environments, such as outer space. Whether exploring inner space for scientific purposes, searching for oil and gas or probing the vastness of outer space, the desire to explore has driven the history of modern civilizations. This drive led, at least in part, to the conquest of the moon in the 1960s, marking the beginning of a new generation in space exploration and travel. More recently, spacecraft, such as the Hubble Space Telescope (HST), aided by technologies developed for oil and gas exploration, have peered from Earth orbit ever more sharply and deeply into the universe beyond our solar system (previous page).


Spring 2006


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