The use of aluminium alloy drill pipes will enable PGE to drill deeper while using less energy.

Alcoa will be producing 3,500 of 4.5in drill pipe, enabling PGE to drill to around 7,500ft, which is around 1,000ft deeper than is possible using steel pipes.

A report from Reuters quoted PGE's drilling engineer Justin Hansen as saying the pipe will allow deeper drilling with less energy and from a smaller drilling footprint. Hansen called it a win for PGE, it's land owners and the environment.

The drill pipes themselves are at least half the weight of steel versions and are constructed from high-strength aluminium alloy tube incorporating proprietary thermal connection technology – meaning that the aluminium drill pipes can work with conventional steel joints and pipes.

It is likely that aluminium drill pipes will find increasing usage in shale operations as they function well in horizontal drilling, which is common to gas operations.