Fayetteville manufacturer receives $1 million federal grant

by Jeff Della Rosa ([email protected]) 555 views 

Fayetteville-based electronics manufacturer Ozark Integrated Circuits Inc. (Ozark IC) announced Thursday (July 16) it has received a $1.14 million federal grant to develop high-temperature communication electronics for directional drilling.

The money comes from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. It’s one of 50 new Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer research and development projects across 23 states, totaling almost $54.5 million in funding. The Phase II Release 2 grants are for principal research and development efforts based on the feasibility demonstrated in the first phase of the project. Grants range in size up to $1.5 million and are for two years.

The Ozark IC grant is for two years and comes from the Small Business Innovation Research program. The objective of the project is to develop a communication drill pipe system that supports directional drilling in high-temperature geothermal wells by providing computational power at the drill head and linking it to a control base at the surface.

Geothermal resources comprise up to 200,000 exojoules in untapped, carbon-free energy, and this is 2,000 times the annual consumption of primary energy consumed in the United States, according to a news release. Drilling operations must reach temperatures up to 840 degrees Fahrenheit in order to access these geothermal resources.

A directional drilling system capable of operating at this temperature is required to complete this drilling, but most existing commercial drilling systems are limited to about 320 degrees Fahrenheit.

High-temperature electronics are needed to provide computational power to the drill head to continuously sense conditions and implement instructions. Also, needed is a communication system that can transmit environmental information such as pressure, temperature and drilling direction from all points in the well to the surface and instructions from the surface to the drill head, including drilling direction, speed and stop.

Ozark IC is developing high-temperature ‘smart’ modules that can operate between 200 and 1,470 degrees Fahrenheit, the release shows. The modules are capable of operating in these environments and have integrated processing and sensing and are being developed for a variety of applications, from hypersonic and jet engines to space exploration, including the surface of Venus, which is about 932 degrees Fahrenheit.

Ozark IC is working with Cole Engineering Inc. to develop the mechanical portion of the communication system and AltaRock Energy Inc. to provide specifications and testing of the final system. Ozark IC will develop in the next two years a prototype of the communication system for directional drilling in geothermal wells.

“This Phase II project is crucially important to us,” said Matt Francis, founder and president of Ozark IC. “It enables us to enhance and expand our existing family of high-temperature platforms while targeting the highly important field of directional drilling for geothermal wells.”

“Drilling can account for up to 50% of the development cost of a geothermal project,” said Geoffrey Garrison, vice president of research and development at AltaRock Energy. “The development of directional drilling that will work in geothermal wells is a game-changer that will significantly reduce costs and development times for geothermal exploration and drilling. We are looking forward to working closely with Ozark IC and Cole Engineering on this new communications system, and we are very pleased that DOE will fund this project.”

Ozark IC previously received a $750,000 grant from NASA to develop electronic systems that can withstand extreme temperatures. It also recently received a $206,494 DOE grant for a nuclear energy project in Arkansas.

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