Big Red patents real time!

Halliburton’s US patent for ‘real time reservoir management’ spans the whole ‘digital oilfield’ and raises many issues of how and why patents are granted—and their effect on competition.

Halliburton has been awarded a patent whose scope covers virtually the whole of real time reservoir management. The abstract of US patent N° 6,853,921 for a ‘system for real time reservoir management’ describes an oilfield control loop, whereby feedback from measurement systems operates valves and actuators to optimize production. Such techniques form the core of initiatives such as the ‘e-field’, ‘digital oilfield’ and ‘field of the future’.

Prior art

The preamble refers to ‘state of the art’ devices and technologies from companies such as Baker Hughes, Schlumberger, BP, Geoservices and Kappa Engineering, to conclude that ‘50-70% of a reservoir engineer’s time is spent manipulating data for use in computer programs [..] to obtain a ‘desired’ production forecast.’ This has resulted in adjustments to production systems for better reservoir performance ‘without an understanding of how these may affect reservoir management as a whole’.

The ‘invention’

Halliburton’s ‘invention’ includes a suite of computer programs that ‘seamlessly’ interface with each other to generate a field wide production and injection forecast’. The output is the real time control of downhole production and injection control devices. The detailed description of the patent reads like the collected works of the Landmark marketing department. Along with a tip of the hat to Kappa Engineering, pretty well all of Halliburton, Landmark and Geographix’ software gets a mention.


The patent enumerates production technologies including ‘permanent downhole sensors and pressure-control devices, retrievable packers, communication protocols, umbilicals, mild steel bumber bars’ etc. Geological and reservoir modeling (possibly with Eclipse) also run as do nodal analysis and economics. Various scenarios illustrate how the output of field sensors could be used to drive actuators in a simulation/optimization context.


Furthermore, the patent is ‘not limited to the embodiment disclosed, but is capable of numerous modifications without departing from the scope of the invention as claimed.’ A recent meeting of the SPE Real-Time TIG discussed the defensive patenting of common work processes without reaching a conclusion—but some small companies are greatly exercised by the practice.
More on Halliburton’s patent in this month’s editorial (Page 2).

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