2013 SPE ATCE, New Orleans

Digital oilfield a ‘done deal!’ Slimming-down the drillship. Fluid’s FloCam. 5D catches dropped objects. Innovation in oil and gas. Aramco on shale. Resqml 2.0. Shell’s data projects. Chevron’s petrotech portal. Intelliserv 2. Oil and gas safety record questioned. EBN’s drilling hazard database.

Speaking at the Society of Petroleum Engineers Digital Energy Technical Section (DETS) dinner event, Mehrzad Mahdavi (Dexa Systems) proudly announced that today, ‘digital technology is in daily operations’ and so the goal of the DETS has been achieved. Mahdavi attributed this success to the various SPE initiatives to ‘raise awareness’ of digital’s potential. How much of this is down to the DETS itself is a moot point as the DETS community home page on the SPE website has not been touched since 2007!

Diamond Drilling’s Moe Plaisance stole the show at the SPE plenary session on deepwater challenges with an impassioned plea to ‘slim things down’ in offshore drilling. Plaisance traced the history of offshore drilling from the 1953 Mr. Charlie rig that cost $1 million to today’s semi-submersibles. The 6th generation semis to appear next year will cost in the region of $700 million with a 10,000 ft water depth capability and dual 7 ram BOP stacks. For Plaisance, further progress will involve a change of tack, ‘we can’t just go on building bigger and bigger hammers!’ How’s this to be done? With new technology rigs, managed pressure drilling and monobore capability. As subsea kit gets more complicated, drillers need to know more about what is happening beneath their feet. More collaboration is needed. ‘If we need to pull something, we need to know like how big it is,’ not ‘OMG it broke! Can you be over there tomorrow?’

On the exhibition floor Steve Bowen presented Fluid Imaging Technologies’ novel system for real time drilling fluid monitoring. FIT’s FloCam actually came out in 1999 but only recently has image processing technology caught up with the requirement for super fast particle classification based on morphology and color—a total of 35 parameters are derived on the fly as the mud flows past the imaging device. More from Fluid.

Another intriguing device is 5D Oilfield Magnetics’ ‘Open Hole Net,’ a massive annular magnet that is positioned atop an open hole to catch any steel objects before they fall into the drill hole. Dropped objects not only cause wear and tear on drill bits but can also pollute the mud with metal fragments that affect directional drilling systems. More from 5D Oilfield Magnetics.

Oil and gas in the past has been categorized as a ‘technology timid’ and as a ‘low to medium tech’ industry. Queensland University’s Rob Perrons decided to find out if this was true with a survey (SPE 166084) of innovation and innovators in oil and gas. Companies were quizzed as to what were their main sources for innovation. Universities, government and trade publications came in some way down the list. Service companies appear to be largely self-reliant for innovation—reflected in a high level of patent intensity. One respondent observed ‘intellectual property is our business.’

Analyzing the potential of non-conventional production is challenged by deliverability parameters that vary slowly and, so far, little production history to work with. Charles Vanorsdale (Saudi Aramco) circumvented these issues with an in-depth study of ‘classic’ wells in US shale basins where production from naturally fracked shales has been underway for some decades. Comparing forecasts made from early years of production with ultimate production, Vanorsdale concluded that for single flow regime wells, production forecasts were conservative to good. For multiple flow regimes they tended to over optimism (SPE 166205).

Speaking in the Digital Oilfield technology session, Sushma Bhan described Shell’s e-Wellbooks (EWB) and its relationship to Shell’s global well, reservoir and facility management (WRFM) initiative. Shell is confronted with a technical data challenge of multiple data sources, incompatible stand-alone applications and data hoarded on shared drives and in Excel spreadsheets. Discipline silos make communications between drillers, production and reservoir engineers problematical. New data types—such as frac data—do not as yet have an owner. The WRFM initiative is a wide-ranging cross discipline effort to bring all of the above together with new systems, data loading and quality checks and new standard repositories. The EWB acts as a data integrator and delivery mechanism for the WRFM. Shell has built a ‘sustainable’ data ownership and governance around the system and claims that users no longer need to ‘know’ OFM, SAP or other corporate tools to access data. Users can now access rolled up data in the EWB rather than resorting to a spreadsheet. Shell’s technical data management has proved a key enabler for increased production (SPE 166339).

Total’s Raphael Henri-Bally presented Resqml V2.0, the latest manifestation of Energistics’ standard for the exchange of reservoir model data. Henri-Bally described Resqml V2 as a ‘much more ambitious’ than V1 which was released in 2011. V2 leverages the Microsoft-backed ‘Open packaging convention’ (OPC) to bundle a set of related XML files into a single object—or as Henri-Bally describes it, like an ‘Ikea flat pack.’ Upon unpacking, the happy recipient of a Resqml V2 package will see not only the reservoir model, but also features like faults, wells and seismic surveys and interpretations. Objects in the package can be connected by chronostratigraphic and topological relationships. Resqml V2’s first release is scheduled for 2014 and will bundle Witsml data along with the model. In 2015 the plan is to add ‘traceability’ and completion objects. Resqml partners include BP, Energistics, IFPen, Geosiris, Total, Texas A&M and Paradigm (SPE 166486).

USC’s Iraj Ershagi introduced the smart oilfield scorecard session observing that ‘smart is no longer an add-on but an integral part of our business strategy.’ Chevron’s Warner Williams underscored the shift in emphasis as the ‘digital’ tag was dropped for this session. What is now key is the overall framework—for Chevron, the upstream workflow transformation (UWT) initiative which applies lean sigma to the oilfield and applies behavioural base lines to ‘make sure folks do what we want them to do.’ Williams stressed the importance of data management—’if you don’t do this right you can forget the rest.’ Poster child for the UWT is the Petrotech portal, a Petroweb (1008) based one stop shop/front end to data in the systems of record. (SPE 166516).

Fareed Abdulla then presented Adco’s data-driven approach to production optimization. Adco uses artificial intelligence (neural net) to build surrogate reservoir models of one mature field. This has resulted in a simple scheme where fine-tuned choke control mitigates water breakthrough—a cheaper solution than submerged pumps. The surrogate model approach also obviates the need for a computationally intense full field model. The approach initially met with some scepticism, this was countered with a successful demonstration on a subset of wells in the field.

Klaus Mueller offered a retrospective of Shell’s successful smart field journey recalling an early digital oilfield exhortation not to ‘automate your inefficiencies.’ Shell has developed a structured process that aims to deploy the appropriate level of smartness (ALoS). Today 80% of Shell’s production is considered to operate at ALoS. Shell’s new ventures team now regularly evaluates an asset’s potential for improvement with smart technology before acquisition. Shell now operates nine ‘collaborative work environments’ (CWE). The company has also deployed ‘WRM,’ a well and reservoir management toolkit and ‘Radar,’ an upstream data management infrastructure which has reduced the time taken to locate pressure data from ‘three days to 10 minutes.’ During the data improvement program Shell found that 16% of all logs never arrived in the office. Today contractors are only paid when all the data is in the right place and format. Latest in the smart stakes is the ‘smart mobile worker,’ an AV headset and real time communications link that allows operators to stay in touch with the CWE. Mueller concluded, ‘The digital oilfield is here. Soon there will be no other way of working.’

A debate followed on ‘soft factors’ and the degree to which domain silos have been breached by the smart movement. The consensus was that the silos are still there but that the CWE has done a lot to make the barriers more permeable. Earlier in the digital decade, IT and the business were at loggerheads. Now they are ‘joined at the hip.’ The ideal person in charge of the digital oilfield is a ‘petrotech with an IT background.’ Such individuals remain in short supply. Another pain point is cyber security, with an increase in frequency of attacks and vulnerabilities. Large PI System deployments came in for criticism. Maintaining a 500k tag system can be problematic.

National Oilwell Varco has announced version 2 of its Intelliserv wired drill pipe with a 57k bits per second bandwidth. While still not exactly broadband, the technology still beats mud pulses with data rates only a few bps.

Kicking-off the safety and risks session, Qianru Qi (USC/Viterbi) observed that the oil and gas industry’s accident record is not as good as it is often presented. According to the US National institute for occupational safety and health (Niosh—1009) the fatal accident rate in oil and gas is seven times the US national average. For Qi, the answer lies in better safety technology and training but here there have been no significant changes since the 1970s. Better monitoring could give early warning of deficiencies such as corrosion, pressure build up or toxic gas release. Remote and automated control stations are a solution. And safety is a constant battle against ‘human limits,’ notably the tendency to be dismissive of safety protocols (SPE 166412).

EBN’s Guido Hoetz presented results from a joint industry pilot project, conducted with help from Netherlands research institute TNO, on drilling geo-hazard prediction. This has resulted in the development of a pilot drilling hazard database (GeoDhaps) of incidents and root causes. The project was hampered by confidentiality issues and some sensitivity as to ‘exactly what went wrong.’ A proposal has now been submitted to Nogepa, the Netherlands operators association, for a full scale geo hazard database (SPE 166254). More from the ATCE.

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