Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Thanks, Raytheon: radar technology applied to enhanced oil recovery

Posted by John Keller

I gotta hand it to Raytheon Co. They sure know how to spin off technology for a surprising number of uses.

Look at everything Raytheon has done with its pioneering radar technology. First the company -- with help from its famous engineer Percy Spencer and his candy bar -- figured out how to use microwave energy from radar signals to heat food from the inside. VoilĂ ! The microwave oven.

Microwaves also are the basis of nonlethal directed-energy weapons to control crowds. Some folks are even thinking up ways to use microwave energy to heat homes, although this approach has a lot of things to work out before it could be made feasible.

Now it gets even better. Aviation Week and Space Technology reports that Raytheon is starting to sell RF technology to help with crude oil extraction. Reports Av Week:

Raytheon is getting in on the oil boom. The defense electronics company has sold a radio frequency (RF) technology to multinational oil services giant Schlumberger Ltd., which hopes to use it to extract hard-to-reach oil deposits. The technology, developed jointly by Raytheon and CF Technologies, uses RF waves to heat shale underground and cause it to release deposits of thick crude that are known as "heavy" oil.

You realize what this is? Raytheon has found a way to wrap a massive virtual microwave oven around underground oil deposits to heat and liquify the gooey, tar-like crude enough to pump it easily out of the ground. Sure, they also use a lot of interesting chemicals to aid with enhanced oil recovery, but shoving a microwave oven down the well hole is a new one.

This gives a whole new meaning to the term Radarange. Thanks, Raytheon.

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