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Directional drilling. Deflecting boreholes, equipment therefor, correction of deflection. Patent Analysis

In continuation of the previous article dated 18.11.2022, dedicated to patent analysis of inventions related to the repair and replacement of directional drilling equipment, here we will consider patent documents that offer technical solutions related to the technological operation of the controlled deflection of drilling direction.

In the technology of directional drilling, a crucial role is played by equipment that allows the deflection of the borehole during the drilling process, such as whipstocks, specialized drill bits and knuckle joints, and to methods of deflecting a borehole and correcting the deflection. Below we offer a brief analysis of inventions related to these fields of technology for your consideration. More than 4000 patent documents published in the past twenty years were selected for the analysis by using Advanced Energy Technologies methodology. The revised documents were published in 34 patent offices of the world by 679 applicants from 33 countries.

In the entire collection of patent documents related to directional drilling, inventions describing the technologies of borehole deflection had the largest share among patents published in the 20-year period and were also widely represented in applications published during the past 5 years. The inventions describing specialized equipment for borehole deflection were also very common among patents, but appeared in a lesser amount in recent applications. Borehole deflection correction technologies in both cases occupied a small share in the entire collection of documents. The chart below shows a distribution of patents and patent applications by years of publication collectively for the technologies of borehole deflection and correction of deflection, as well as for specialized equipment for borehole deflection.

Directional drilling. Deflecting boreholes, equipment therefor, correction of deflection. Relationship of number of applications to total number of documents by year

Based on the chart above, it can be concluded that during the recent years a substantial number of patent applications were filed in this field. Thus, in 2020 about a third part of the technical solutions were represented by start patent applications, that didn’t form a part of previously existing patent families. Also, this field of technology can be characterized by the emergence of a large number of new applicants and IPC subgroups. This can indicate that this topic is actively evolving and new companies and inventors are willing to participate in this process, while technical coverage of the technology is becoming more extensive.

During the twenty-year period, the largest number of patents were granted in USPTO (US) – almost 30% of the entire collection of patents. By the number of patent applications registered in the past 5 years, USPTO (US) also was the leading patent office with a share exceeding 25%. CIPO (CA), EPO, IPO (GB), CNIPA (CN), NIPO (NO), and IP Australia (AU) patent offices also should be mentioned, more than 100 patents on the subject of interest were granted by each of them during 2002-2021.

Directional drilling. Deflecting boreholes, equipment therefor, correction of deflection. Breakdown of inventions by patent offices. Patents, 2002-2021 (left); Applications, 2017-2021 (right)

Both in the case of patents published in the 20-year period, and in the case of recent applications published in the past 5 years, the leader by the number of registered documents was the USA. In both cases residents of the USA comprised 65%-70% of all applicants participating in the patenting process. High activity was also shown by residents of China, Canada, the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, and the United Kingdom.

Below is a list of top 10 leading applicants for patents published in the 20-year period:

Directional drilling. Deflecting boreholes, equipment therefor, correction of deflection. Top applicants. Patents, 2002-2021


StatusCountryNameAverage ratingTotal 2002-2021
CompanyUSHalliburton Energy Services, Inc.17.2515
CompanyUSBaker Hughes Incorporated16.8136
CompanyUSWeatherford/Lamb Inc17.591
CompanyUSSchlumberger Technology Corporation16.985
CompanyUSSmith International, Inc.15.677
CompanyNLSchlumberger Technology B.V.16.357
CompanyVGSchlumberger Holdings Limited16.845
CompanyCASchlumberger Canada Limited16.439
CompanyNLShell Internationale Research Maatschappij B.V.16.730
CompanyFRServices Petroliers Schlumberger15.722

In the collection of patents published between 2002-2021, in terms of Market involvement ratio (Market involvement ratio = volume ratio multiplied by ownership ratio, where Volume ratio - share of applicant documents in total number of documents, Ownership ratio - applicant's participation share in total number of documents) applicant Halliburton Energy Services, Inc. was leading with a value of almost 30%. It was followed by Baker Hughes Incorporated and Weatherford/Lamb Inc with nearly 8% and 5%, respectively. As for the recent patent applications, Halliburton Energy Services, Inc. also retained leadership in this field.

Directional drilling. Deflecting boreholes, equipment therefor, correction of deflection. Top applicants. Applications, 2017-2021


StatusCountryNameAverage ratingTotal 2017-2021
CompanyUSHalliburton Energy Services, Inc.12.1302
CompanyUSSchlumberger Technology Corporation13.144
CompanyUSBaker Hughes a Ge Company, LLC9.838
CompanyUSBaker Hughes Incorporated12.431
CompanyUSWeatherford Technology Holdings  LLC12.125
CompanyUSGeneral Electric11.322
CompanySASaudi Arabian Oil Company1221
CompanyUSCoiled Tubing Specialties LLC10.519
PersonCNWan Xiaoyue8.718
CompanyNLSchlumberger Technology B.V.11.616

Among the patents and patent applications describing technologies and equipment for deflecting and correcting a borehole, the most commonly mentioned problems were High OPEX / Operation and consumables, High OPEX / Repair and replacement, and Low efficiency / Main processes. In the majority of cases, inventions in both patents and applications were presented in the form of devices and methods, while the number of documents describing compositions was negligible. In addition to the IPC subgroups that define the current selection of documents (E21B7/06, E21B7/08, and E21B7/10), the most popular IPC subgroups here were E21B7/04 (Directional drilling), E21B41/00 (Equipment or details not covered by groups E21B 15/00-E21B 40/00), E21B44/00 (Automatic control systems specially adapted for drilling operations, i.e. self-operating systems which function to carry out or modify a drilling operation without intervention of a human operator, e.g. computer-controlled drilling systems; Systems specially adapted for monitoring a plurality of drilling variables or conditions), E21B29/06 (Cutting windows, e.g. directional window cutters for whipstock operations), and E21B17/10 (Wear protectors; Centralising devices).

The largest patent family of the entire collection made for the present analysis includes 100 patent documents and is represented by core document US8511372B2 (Core document is a base document for which a complete description of the invention is available in generally-accessible patent databases):

Method and system for accessing subterranean deposits from the surface / P: US8511372B2 / IPC: E21B43/00 / Zupanick Joseph A / Vitruvian Exploration LLC (US) / Appl. date: 31/10/2007; Publ. date: 20/08/2013. Technologies: DD / Technology elements: DR, PS / Problems: LEMP, HCEI / Invention types: M / Rating: 12 / Claims: 16

It is followed by patent families having 53 and 45 patent documents and represented by core documents US20130270005A1 and EA20877B1, respectively:

METHODS AND SYSTEMS FOR DRILLING / A: US20130270005A1 / IPC: E21B7/06 / EDBURY David Alston, GUERRERO Jose Victor, MACDONALD Duncan Charles, ROGERS James Bryon, SITTON Donald Ray / Shell Oil Company (US) / Appl. date: 11/10/2012; Publ. date: 17/10/2013. Technologies: DD / Technology elements: DR / Problems: LEG, HOOC, UP / Invention types: M / Rating: 13 / Claims: 12

ВНУТРИСКВАЖИННОЕ БУРОВОЕ УСТРОЙСТВО (en: DOWNHOLE DRILLING ASSEMBLY) / P: EA20877B1 / IPC: E21B17/10, E21B10/26 / Downie Andrew Mcpherson, Vitale Pascal Michel, Boussi Bachar / Halliburton Energy Services, Inc. (US) / Appl. date: 19/03/2010; Publ. date: 27/02/2015. Technologies: DD / Technology elements: DR / Problems: HCEP, HORR, HOOC / Invention types: D / Rating: 16 / Claims: 36

The following are several examples of patent documents with the highest rating calculated using Advanced Energy Technologies methodology, among the documents related to the technologies of borehole direction deflection, specialized equipment for deflection of boreholes, and correction of borehole deflection:

Directional drilling, Deflecting boreholes, equipment therefor, correction of deflection. Prominent patent documents by rating, 2002-2021:

Improved steerable drilling system and method / P: AU2000022005B2 / IPC: E21B7/06, E21B7/04, E21B7/08 / Boulton Roger, Chen Chen-Kang D, Gaynor Thomas C, Walker Colin, Gleitman Daniel D, Hardin John R Jr, Rao M Vikram / Halliburton Energy Services, Inc. (US) / Appl. date: 20/12/1999; Publ. date: 02/01/2003, Technology categories: DD / Technology elements: DR / Problems: LEG, HOOC / Technical solution types: D, M / Claims: 172 / Rate: 23

Sealed branch wellbore transition joint / P: CA2491807C / IPC: E21B17/08, E21B7/08, E21B33/10 / Hepburn Neil, Berge Frode, Demong Karl / Halliburton Energy Services, Inc. (US) / Appl. date: 19/04/2007; Publ. date: 25/01/2011. Technology categories: DD / Technology elements: DR / Problems: HORR, HOOC / Technical solution types: D, M / Claims: 40 / Rate: 22

Steerable drilling system and method / P: US6581699B1 / IPC: E21B7/04, E21B7/06, E21B7/04 / Chen Chen-Kang D, Gaynor Thomas M, Gleitman Daniel D, Hardin Jr John R, Walker Colin, Rao M Vikram, Boulton Roger / Halliburton Energy Services, Inc. (US) / Appl. date: 21/08/1999; Publ. date: 24/06/2003. Technology categories: DD / Technology elements: DR / Problems: LEG, HOOC / Technical solution types: D, M / Claims: 96 / Rate: 22

Apparatus and methods for drilling a wellbore using casing / P: US7823660B2 / IPC: E21B7/08 / Giroux Richard L, Galloway Gregory G, Le Tuong Thanh, Raymond H, Nazzal Gregory R, Swarr James C, Brunnert David J, Beasley William M, Lirette Brent J, Odell Albert C, Terry Jim, McKay Dave, Alkhatib Samir, Wardley Mike / Weatherford/Lamb Inc (US) / Appl. date: 31/10/2007; Publ. date: 02/11/2010. Technology categories: DD / Technology elements: DR / Problems: LEMP, HORR, HOOC / Technical solution types: D, M / Claims: 62 / Rate: 21

SEALED BRANCH WELLBORE TRANSITION JOINT / P: CA2585489C / IPC: E21B17/08, E21B7/08, E21B33/10 / HEPBURN NEIL, BERGE FRODE, DEMONG KARL / Halliburton Energy Services, Inc. (US) / Appl. date: 19/04/2007; Publ. date: 25/01/2011. Technology categories: DD / Technology elements: DR / Problems: HORR, HOOC / Technical solution types: D, M / Claims: 20 / Rate: 21

Below we provide several examples of patented solutions describing specialized equipment for the deflection of borehole direction, such as specialized drill bits, whipstock slips, deflectors, etc.

- US10184298B2 – the patent describes a downhole motor comprising a bearing assembly and an adjustment mandrel for changing drilling direction;
- US10597962B2 – a whipstock is proposed, involving a plurality of slips activated by a hydraulic system having a reservoir and an expansion chamber; the proposed system provides real-time monitoring functionality;
- US9915098B2 – a special detachable connection of the whipstock with the drill bit and a method of its operation in the process of drilling a well.

Patent US10184298B2 “Adjustable bend assembly for a downhole motor” by National Oilwell Varco LP (US) describes a downhole motor for directional drilling. The motor includes a driveshaft assembly comprising a housing and a rotatable driveshaft, each of which has a central axis and two opposite ends. The motor also includes a bearing assembly, consisting of a housing and a single-piece bearing mandrel that rotates inside it. The bearing housing has a central axis and is equipped with a connecting element on one side. The central axis of the bearing mandrel is coaxially aligned with the axis of the bearing housing, while one part of the mandrel is connected to one of the ends of the driveshaft by a universal joint, and the other part is connected to the drill bit. The downhole motor also contains an adjustment mandrel configured to adjust the angle of deviation between the axis of the bearing housing and the axis of the driveshaft housing. The adjustment mandrel has an axis coaxially aligned with the axis of the bearing housing, and two opposite ends, one of which is connected to the second end of the driveshaft housing, and the second – to the first end of the bearing housing.

As the problems the invention is aiming to solve, the authors refer to potential damage resulting from loads occurring in certain areas of motors of this kind.

The patent family of the patent includes 19 documents published in US, AU, CA, EP, MX, CN, RU, WO, BR, XM between 2014 to 2020.

Image from: US10184298B2

Saudi Arabian Oil Company (SA) patent US10597962B2 describes a whipstock system, comprising a whipstock body, a control unit, multiple slips, a hydraulic system, and seal assemblies. The hydraulic system is disposed in the whipstock body, is connected to the control unit, and contains a pump, a reservoir, an expansion chamber, and a check valve, connected to each other. The control unit includes processors, a medium for storing instructions for the processors, and a wireless, standalone power source such as a lithium battery. By the means of a set of transmitters and receivers, the status data of the whipstock is transmitted to the surface via wireless signals, after which instructions are sent from the surface to control the hydraulic system. In the hydraulic system, fluid is transferred from the reservoir to the chamber, which activates the slips, or from the chamber to the reservoir, which returns them to their original position. The authors mention that the use of a wireless, standalone hydraulic system improves the reliability of the whipstock by eliminating the possibility of failure due to damage to the control line, and allows real-time monitoring of the system for timely detection of possible damages.

The patent family is represented by 5 patent documents registered in US, WO, EP, and CN in 2017-2018.

Images from: US10597962B2

Patent US9915098B2 by Smith International, Inc. (US) discloses a design of a whipstock and its attachment to a drilling bit.

The whipstock is attached to the drilling bit by the means of a removable attachment system, a whipstock attachment member is positioned within a recess between the cutters of the bit. A removable retainer is positioned partially within the body of the bit. The retainer consists of a retainer plate, which is attached to the bit by means of a locking member threadably coupled to the bit. The whipstock attachment member has a notch in which the locking plate of the locking mechanism is secured. Also, the attachment member has a notch on the external surface, at which it is designed to break after the whipstock is fixed in a wellbore.

The bit itself includes a plurality of cutters and back-up components having a shape differing from that of the cutters. The back-up components have a contact area with a radius of curvature greater than half of diameter of the cutters, and a semi-circular lead end portion and a flat trailing end portion. The gap between the cutters and the back-up components is 0.03-0.10 inches. The back-up components are designed to limit the cutting depth of the cutters. The bit contains an internal flow passage coupled to outlet nozzles and is equipped with a bypass system that allows fluid to flow into the whipstock. The bypass system has a frangible member for selectively passing fluid into the internal flow passage.

The patent belongs to a patent family that includes 9 documents published in US, CA, WO, and EP in 2012-2018.

Image from: US9915098B2

More detailed information about inventions in the field of directional drilling, and patent research methodology can be found on and in DIRECTIONAL DRILLING. Patent Database. August 2022.