Oilfield Drilling Optimization: A Step Toward the Digital Oilfield

By Jyoti Prakash

Industry Trends

Optimized drilling techniques, first incorporated in 1967, have significantly reduced drilling costs over time, but still not yet reached their full potential. Management systems for hydrocarbon exploration & production have become even more complex and challenging over the last decade or so due to the growing need to pursue unconventional onshore production. This includes shale oil and gas, and ultra-deepwater and subsea operations.

Drilling optimization systems are designed to enable owner-operators, independent E&P companies, and drilling contractors to enhance operational efficiency; optimize production; and provide real-time operational visibility and agility. These systems can help maximize rate of penetration, speed to first oil, improve recovery rates in new wells, enhance oil recovery in more mature wells and open up production on a broader array of well types and application locations.

Given the current large number of onshore producing wells, many of these low- to mid-producing well projects typically pose the biggest challenge from an economic perspective - as the relatively high cost to implement a drilling optimization system solution may initially appear prohibitive, particularly for smaller companies that may lack robust financial and personnel resources.

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However, the latest technology solutions that integrate safety and control onto a single platform could enable companies of all size to achieve more reliable, efficient wellhead operations. Many of these solutions deliver continuous monitoring and precise control in a wide range of situations—onshore and offshore—helping increase production uptime and asset performance, and lower total cost of ownership. As oil and gas wells are being drilled to greater depths and distributed over further and wider areas with higher associated risks and greater upfront investments, high performance is imperative for companies to succeed. Companies that focus on optimizing wellhead operations while ensuring safety and reliability can capture greater profitability in upstream production for long-term growth.

Using Big Data analytics to anticipate potential interruptions to drilling can provide obvious benefits. Being able to use large data volumes to identify conditions or anomalies that would impact drilling could save millions in labor and equipment costs alone. In general terms, the main objectives for drilling optimization are to make decisions based on measurable facts and data analysis rather than “seat of the pant” experience and build a local database of best practices.

Some of the major players like Schlumberger, CNPC, Sinopec, Halliburton, and Baker Hughes offer real-time data analysis of drilling, downhole equipment and sensors; plus, associated software tools and interpretation techniques. Most current drilling optimization solutions focus on critical parameters such as weight on the bit, revolutions-per-minute, pump and mud parameters, and rate of penetration that help the operator observe and maintain optimized operations by avoiding costly and potentially dangerous situations such as mud loss, stuck pipe, or kick or blowout resulting from the drill bit unexpectedly hitting shallow gas.

ARC is initiating research into the markets for drilling optimization systems, including areas such as managed pressure drilling, underbalanced drilling, software designed to better optimize mud pumps, reduce kicks and stuck pipe, etc. ARC welcomes the opportunity to speak with technology suppliers and users alike about your activities, perspectives, and specific questions on this important technology space.

For further discussion or to provide feedback on this, please contact the author Jyoti Prakash at jprakash@arcweb.com.

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