We all strive to follow best practice to deliver safe and efficient rig
operations, but too often the rig schedule, equipment lead times, and
day-to-day demands seem to block out the chance of making those
breakthroughs—sorting out rig operations programs and fire-fighting well
problems; tendering and evaluating contracts; monitoring and reporting costs
and performance; understanding nonconformances and nonproductive time;
specifying and procuring equipment; managing people; approving invoices and
timesheets; understanding what the latest change from subsurface modeling means
to your well design. In the background is that nagging thought that things
might be done differently and better if there was less noise in the open-plan
office and more time to betterunderstand the fundamental
engineering, to look at how similar problems have been managed
elsewhere, and to investigate new and innovative ideas.
Unfortunately, each time a well costs more than planned, the organization’s
enthusiasm for new and innovative ideas can get dented. If the team is on
course to overspend, the focus becomes aversion to risk to protect the
downside, rather than chasing those opportunities. If the project metrics can
be achieved with low-risk well designs, innovations become relegated to
incremental add-ons. Technology becomes limited to a few items of
plug-and-play rental equipment which can be delivered in a few weeks, with a
limited downside. High oil prices push more wells into this category, with
metrics that can be delivered without inviting the perceived perils of
innovation and technology.
One of my current projects is planning for a produced water re-injector.
Previous injectors on the field have failed to deliver required injection
rates, and this well carries expensive consequences of failure. Our well design
conversations are all about protecting the downside, with the result that the
design has gravitated toward a proven, conservative, and more expensive well
design. There is plenty of focus on best practice, but no appetite to invite
The best projects I’ve worked on were around the times of the 1986 and 1998
low oil prices, where well engineering was forced to go outside the proven
envelope. Innovations were not incremental add-ons, but were needed to
deliver the metrics. Multiwell projects meant that new ideas could be
developed and optimized; the challenge was how far qualification testing could
take one up the learning curve before the first field deployment. The
industry has an excellent track record of delivering the goods in these
situations, or at least one gets that impression reading publications like
SPEDrilling & Completions. I suspect we don’t see a balanced
picture, because you won’t get to read about the less successful projects that
get shelved or sold. There is certainly an element of bad luck in some less
successful projects; sometimes even the most thorough prejob preparations can
fall apart in the face of subsurface surprises.
Whether your current project is low-risk or outside the proven envelope, SPE
Drilling & Completions is an opportunity to digest best practice and
look at innovative ideas to help you understand how things might be done
differently or better. Consider it an excuse to get away from the noise for an
hour and consider what might be possible.
This issue starts with two papers looking at annulus pressure buildup;
firstly, theoretical predictions are combined with measurements from a test
well in Transient Behavior of Annular Pressure Build-up in HP/HT Wells.
Analysis of a casing collapse failure during drilling is presented in
Analysis of an Annular Pressure Buildup Failure During Drill Ahead.
The third paper, True Hybrid Operations Combining Coiled-Tubing Drilling
and Conventional Rig Workover Techniques and Practices, presents a slimhole
rig system, while recent advances in water-based mud are presented in New
Water-Based Mud Balances High-Performance Drilling and Environmental
Magnolia Deepwater Development—Striving for Best-in-Class Drilling
Performance presents an operator’s story of development drilling, with many
examples of innovative well operations.
Solid Expandable Tubular Technology: The Value of Planned Installation
vs. Contingency is a good example of adding value from expandable
The final paper, Well-Control Procedures for Dual-Gradient Drilling as
Compared to Conventional Riser Drilling, discusses the challenges of well
control in dual-gradient drilling.
Your subscription to SPE Drilling & Completion means that all
these papers are available to you online at www.spe.org. The website also invites you to
respond with questions and comments about the papers. This is your publication
and your opportunity to maximize learning and add value in your business.