Industry Targets Fit-for-Purpose Drilling Technology

Industry Targets Fit-for-Purpose
Drilling Technology

May 20, 2014

Excerpt from E&P Magazine

By Scott Weeden


Factory or manufacturing drilling will continue to be refined to increase drilling efficiency and improve production effectiveness.

Over the next 10 years, thousands of wells are planned to tap unconventional resources in North America alone. As drilling technology develops, the industry will begin to make uneconomic wells in unconventional resources economic. The biggest drivers for the operators are drilling efficiency and cost.

E&P interviewed experts in different aspects of drilling to find out what technology these companies are developing. Efficiency and effectiveness continue to be the key emphasis in drilling, whether it is in deep water or onshore unconventional plays.

Safety is at the top of every list of priorities when it comes to introducing new technology, followed closely by environmental concerns. There is an emphasis on simplifying the technology to make it more reliable and available for operators and contractors. Being able to gather downhole data and use it in predictive software for advanced warning of potential problems is gaining more attention.

Because of the differences in unconventional plays and the need for factory drilling, the industry is targeting fit-for-purpose tools and technology.

MWD targets improved drilling efficiency, production effectiveness

With longer horizontal laterals, operators want to know more about drilling dynamics downhole. MWD/LWD tools are meeting the challenge with more rugged, robust technology along with more automation in the technology.

“Operators want more information about the efficiency of their drilling as measured down at the bit, and they are looking for more information about the geology,” said Paul Deere, founder and president, Tolteq Group LLC. “Operators are frequently requesting the availability of more information so that they can make decisions while they are drilling. They are getting away from preplanned drilling and starting to make real-time decisions based on what they see in the geology.”

The systems and tools that comprise MWD have evolved, he explained. The electronics have improved in quality and are a lot smaller. Even the mechanical materials have improved.

“However, basic directional measurements and sensing elements still use the same physics for what’s needed to navigate the formations. What has changed is the processing of that information and the devices required to do that,” he continued.

The most critical information that MWD gathers is directional information. “The main point of the MWD is to be able to steer,” he added. “That’s number one. If the tools are not telling the driller where they are located to help steer, it doesn’t matter how good the other stuff is. Getting accurate data back to the surface is critical so that they know that they’re drilling efficiently and can increase their ROP.”

Enhancing MWD measurements

In the early days of MWD, operators were looking for the direction the drillstring was headed, which was just enough information to meet the well plan. Now, if there is more information about the downhole dynamics and accurate formation data, operators are appreciative.

“Several years ago we put in shock and vibration data that could be sent to the surface. Everyone jumped on that and said, ‘We want access to more drilling dynamics. We want to know more about what is happening downhole.’” Deere explained.

Providing that additional data is Tolteq’s focus. The company sells its equipment worldwide and uses the information from the equipment in the field to improve MWD/LWD systems and tools.

“Our long-term vision is to build more integration with MWD, particularly with LWD components and the BHA [bottomhole assembly],” he said.

As he pointed out, much of the data gathering has become standard. For example, all operators want gamma ray measurements so they can tell what type of formation they are in.

“There is a lot of information available, and we provide access to much of it, but we are constantly asking ourselves, ‘Can it be refined? Can the information that we send up to the surface be more accurate and timely?’” he continued. “There is definitely room for increased measurements and better understanding of those measurements. We need more bandwidth, which would get more information to the surface.”

Improved use of measurements

Deere said that what needs to be developed to improve drilling efficiency and production effectiveness is better understanding and use of the measurements.

“More logging instruments need to be developed that can tell you not just omnidirectional types of measurements but actually provide a visual indication of the formation’s characteristics,” he added.

There are other types of information needed about downhole dynamics. For example, drillers are putting agitators on the drillpipe along with other equipment to “move the pipe down because gravity is not working for them. This places strain on the sensing equipment that’s downhole because [the sensors] are subjected to more shock and vibration. To meet some of those demands, we are developing top-mount sensors that are more secure instead of the retrievable pulsers that are not locked in place,” he explained.

“We are also developing more robust boards and shock-vibration snubbers to meet those demands,” he added. “The environment has changed a lot since they started doing these longer reach horizontals.”

As far as placement of the wellbore, Deere said operators always have a strong, detailed plan of what they want to do and are able to place the drillstring where they want. When they have access to more information, they can drill a lot more smoothly and efficiently. The result is less dogleg; it’s a smoother bore. “But if they are making decisions based on what they see in the geology, there may be some deviations from the well plan that will hopefully increase the return on the investment in the well.”

The industry is moving toward different types of tools for different applications. For example, in the Woodford shale, the use of lost-circulation material (LCM) is a big issue.

“We’ve developed several tools to meet that demand,” he explained. “There are some formations that take on fluid. They’ll put LCM in the mud system and pack that formation off so it doesn’t take on fluids, trying to plug holes. We’ve got a pulser down there that is opening and closing a hole to provide a signal up to the surface. The LCM wants to plug that off as well.

“There are quite a few differences between formations, rigs, and drillers. Our goal is to develop complete systems that will meet all the demands. That’s what our customers expect, and we are rising to the occasion,” he emphasized.


Read the rest of the article online in E&P Magazine: