While the world at large is coming to terms with high oil prices with the
recent spike of more than U.S. $75/bbl, there is another oil-industry
milestone you may not have seen in the media: Our industry has just passed
100,000 SPE papers! It began with paper SPE 001: Earl Nichols’ “Reserve
Evaluation and the Independent Oilman,” in 1961, all the way to paper SPE
99999: “Optimized Workflow for Designing Complex Wells” by Moreno et al. in
June 2006. This volume of papers has captured an almost unimaginable breadth
and depth of oilfield technology, field histories, research, and development.
But there is a sobering question here, like searching for a tree in a forest:
How do we extract value from this vast collection of papers with its estimated
100,000,000 words of wisdom?
There are numerous valuable nuggets of information in many of the older
papers, even if a large number of these are now considered by some to be
obsolete. But there is real danger that the value in these papers will remain
inaccessible because of the effort required to extract the relevant details.
An often-cited comment is that 90% of our oilfield problems have already been
solved by someone else, and every lesson is learned many times over. These
100,000 papers may have helped in solving the problem of inaccessible
information, but they have not eliminated it. Some time ago, an effort to make
the solutions more accessible was attempted. Systems were designed to capture
learning and make it accessible under the general description of
My lasting memory of an organizational-learning system was a fruitless search
through a huge lessons-learned database for the simple phrase, “coiled
tubing.” I found that there were some very interesting lessons filed under
that title. Search the 100,000 SPE papers on www.spe.org/elibrary for
“openhole gravel packing,” and you will see 815 papers; search for “open hole
gravel packing,” and you will see 2,245 papers. What a difference a space
makes! I would like to imagine a search engine on the eLibrary for “openhole
gravel packing + horizontal wells + reactive mudstones + water-based mud +
poor packing efficiency + early sand failure” and get a response along the
lines of, “Your search gave a loose match with 612 papers, a close match with
20 papers, and an excellent match with 3 papers.” I suspect that this type of
intelligent search engine is available and might prove to add a lot of value
in our overly busy industry.
While cash flows are riding high on the crest of high oil prices, they are
leading to rapid oilfield inflation, personnel shortages, manufacturing plants
running at capacity, drilling-efficiency trends going in the wrong direction,
and a focus on delivering the basics of safety, compliance, and finishing well
programs within budget. Long lead times mean scoping and committing to next
year’s well designs today. This sort of harried environment squeezes out space
for accessing or implementing new technology. When a productive well delivered
within budget gives rapid payback, there is less reason for operators to chase
innovative technology—it can seem too much like inviting unnecessary risk—and
leaves little space for these new technologies. This issue has eight diverse
papers. I urge you to pick one, tear it out, and make the space to digest it.
Viscosities for Completion Fluids at Temperature and Density presents
laboratory data on brine viscosities—important parameters in any brine-pumping
operation, such as gravel packing. It is worthwhile to check that this new
data is being used in your company’s hydraulics program for planning and
The Effect of the Synthetic- and Oil-Based Drilling Fluid’s Internal
Water-Phase Composition on Barite Sag looks at barite sag in oil-based
mud, specifically how the internal phase affects sag. Understanding sag means
increased mud weight and fewer well-control incidents.
Cuttings Transport With Aqueous Foam at Intermediate Inclined Wells
reports on detailed laboratory work looking at cuttings transport in
aqueous-foam-drilling fluids. This type of work underpins our understanding of
this drilling environment and allows us to focus more on planning for success
rather than diagnosing what went wrong.
Helical Buckling of Pipe With Connectors and Torque advances the
theories of pipe buckling with the influences of connections and torque. This
paper gives insight into some of the complexities behind “turning to the
right.” Building these better methods into our software will improve our well
engineering and reduce failures.
Evaluation, Impact, and Management of Casing Deformation Caused by Tectonic
Forces in the Andean Foothills, Colombia presents a field history of
casing deformation, showing how the operator has come to live with the problem
and manage the consequences.
Basis of Design for Coiled-Tubing Underbalanced Through-Tubing Drilling in
the Sajaa Field takes a detailed look at engineering an underbalanced
coiled-tubing drilling campaign. This type of paper has real potential to
transfer knowledge and advance the industry’s performance in coiled-tubing
Controlled Mud-Cap Drilling for Subsea Applictions: Well-Control Challenges
in Deep Waters looks at well-control challenges in deepwater drilling and
presents a new concept of controlled mud-cap drilling by use of a new
high-pressure riser and blowout-preventer arrangement.
The final paper, The Management of Drilling-Engineering and Well-Services
Software as Safety-Critical Systems, looks at the importance of
well-engineering software and recognizes the criticality of these programs in
directing key design and wellsite decisions.
It has been pointed out that quite a few of this issue’s papers come from
employees of BP. I can assure you that this is just the way the cookie has
crumbled—life is far too busy to plan anything like that.
Over the years, SPE practices in numbering papers have varied. At times, SPE
paper numbers have been assigned to items that did not result in an addition
to the SPE eLibrary. For example, for several years an SPE paper number was
assigned to every paper proposal submitted for consideration by conference
program committees, but approximately only ⅓ of those were accepted into the
conference and became an SPE paper. The result is that SPE paper numbers do
not correspond to the total number of papers in the eLibrary. While it is
true that SPE paper numbers passed 100,000, the actual number of papers in the
elibrary is slightly more than 43,000, with more being added daily.
In addition, SPE continues to improve the eLibrary. In February 2005,
intelligent search capabilities were added. The more specific the information
entered into a search field, the better the search results. By providing more
information, the search engine finds those papers that focus on the concepts
entered—resulting in those papers most likely to have the solutions needed.
Search results are sorted by relevance, with a relevance percentage listed on
the left side of the search results.