2010 SPE Drilling & Completion Readers' Survey
Each year SPE surveys readers of its journals. In this issue, we will
discuss results from the most recent survey for SPE Drilling &
When the survey was conducted last summer, we had 4,432 subscribers. Roughly
9% of all subscribers responded to the survey--a total of 382 respondents. Of
those who responded, 75% were print and online subscribers, and 25% were online
only subscribers. The survey comprised 22 questions designed to assess how well
the Editorial Review Committee is performing and help determine changes that
would benefit our readers.
The primary mission of our journal is to provide the best technical content
possible. Consequently, the question and data in Fig. 1 are supremely
Overall the results are encouraging--note that 62% rated technical content
as very good or excellent while only 3% said it is fair or poor. Nevertheless,
there is room for improvement. (Note: all 382 respondents did not answer this
Over the last several years, several changes were made to try to improve the
technical quality and reduce review cycle time. From the perspective of our
Editorial Review Committee, there have been three substantive changes. First,
SPE switched peer-review systems, which greatly improved process efficiency.
Second, we increased the number of technical editors (currently at 160 compared
to 108 in 2009). Finally, two more associate editors were added (currently 10)
and each associate editor has been assigned primary responsibility for specific
subject areas. The following questions helped assess the effects of these (and
other) changes: "How would you compare SPE Drilling & Completion now
with one year ago?" 36% said SPE Drilling & Completion either
improved or significantly improved. 48% said it is about the same. Less than 1%
said it is worse or significantly worse. (The remaining 15% said they did not
subscribe last year.) Again the results are encouraging and tend to confirm we
are headed in the right direction.
As I mentioned in the last issue, there has not been a single discussion
submitted since (at least) October 2009 in SPE Drilling &
Completion. The lack of paper discussion is a serious concern because
expression of express diverse views is an essential component of any technical
journal. Such debate can elucidate pros and cons of important and controversial
subjects. Consequently, several survey questions focused on this subject. The
following comments by respondents highlight the value of discussion of
- In some cases, reading a discussion and author's reply helps me to
understand the subject.
- Very helpful when you need further clarifications.
- Have done this for TIGS (Editor's note: this refers to SPE Technical
- I like that we have the ability to disagree with the author and to tell why
in open discussion.
- Can be very insightful w/observations from other technical
- Discussions and replies have been quite informative because individuals
contribute based on their experiences with similar technology or applications.
The pros and cons can be understood.
Why is there so little discussion? One theory is that changes in information
sharing brought about by the Internet have changed the ways engineers choose to
communicate with each other in discussing technical papers. Whatever the cause,
we will continue to study ways to help readers re-engage in paper discussion.
As always, we are keenly interested in your thoughts--that is, if you would
care to discuss them. Here are a few relevant comments by respondents:
- Pressure of work means I barely have time to read papers, let alone enter
into discussions about them.
- The process is simple enough.
- Published papers are for sharing information from professionals to
professionals. Today everyone is looking to make money out of selling published
articles on just about anything, which is sad. The Internet was all about
providing information to people free because knowledge should be free as it's
one of the best things we can give to our future generations.
For those interested in submitting a discussion for a paper, the current
process is described at http://www.spe.org/papers/pubs/submit_discussion.php.
As described at the link, the process requires submission of a single page with
one figure, table, or equation to the SPE staff editor at firstname.lastname@example.org or mail to: SPE Technical
Publications, P.O. Box 833836, Richardson, TX 75083-3836. All submissions are
sent to the executive editor for determination of suitability for publication.
All discussions shall be posted online under the "Discussion" tab of the
Fifty-one readers provided suggestions for improving SPE Drilling &
Completion. The most frequent suggestion was submitted by nine readers who
want more papers on specific--but various--topics such as drill bits, drilling
and completion fluids, completions, and so on. Other readers made suggestions
that can be grouped into common themes. Four themes are described below with a
few responses under each theme to provide a flavor of the suggestions. The
total number of times each theme was mentioned is also given.
Shorten time to publication in our journal--4 mentions:
- Faster publication of papers so they are not so out of date when they
- The review cycle is very long. In the past it could take years to get a
review, now it is down to about 6 months. I think a fair target is 3 months.
Some authors are in a position to wait, others are not. Thus, the journal is
taking a risk with such long reviews and I know from conversations with other
authors that the journal is often excluded from short lists of publication
targets because of this. The journal should be the first choice of all authors
with a topic on drilling, but it currently is not.
- Continue to improve the speed at which papers are peer approved to keep
them very current.
More practical papers and case histories--6 mentions but with one mention
(the last bullet) disagreeing with the others:
- Have more practical papers than "pure academy."
- More case histories.
- More practical field topics and current practice.
- Would like to see more practical application papers.
- More case histories and less theoretical speculation written by PhDs.
- Keep publishing the practical papers--I have noticed a shift from research
papers to studies with immediate use to the practicing drilling engineer over
the past couple of years.
Keep up the good work--12 mentions:
- Keep doing the great job you are doing now.
- Keep up the good work.
- Keep up the effort to continually improve the publication!
- Doing well good journal.
- Keep the variety coming.
- It is already very good, so don't mess with it too much. And please keep
the hard copy, for the time being at least!
New ideas--6 mentions:
- Divide the paper into segments (e.g., Separate parts of the magazine for
drilling and another for completions and distinguish between onshore/swamp and
- As my field of interest is drilling, completion, and WO fluids, I would
like to see a particular edition perhaps just devoted to these topics. Perhaps
also including cementing.
- To add HSE issues.
- Include papers relevant to drilling contractors (i.e., rig equipment and
- What, Why and How to do it myself, that’s what people want for value from
- Maybe add a "section for dummies" regarding all the new features I (and
perhaps others) are not familiar with. Otherwise, you're doing great!
Comments on Suggestions
The first theme--shortening review cycle time--is a primary focus of our
Editorial Review Committee not only because of the numerous complaints received
about it in the past (as noted in the comments above) but also because we
realized we must do better. Significant progress has been made, but we believe
that further improvement is possible. The key metric we use is average days
from submission to first decision. Presently, the average is 81 days--down from
86 days three months ago--and considerably better than in 2009 when it averaged
between 137 and 273 days.
The second theme--more papers on practical application and case
histories--is not something we focus on. It is up to authors to choose their
subjects. The Editorial Review Committee applies its best efforts in reaching
an impartial decision on each paper. We do not set quotas for specific
categories of paper. In fact, case histories, or field case studies, is already
one of the four general categories of papers for which SPE provides review
guidelines to editorial review committees. The other three categories are
theoretical manuscripts, experimental studies, and review papers. It is worth
noting that five of our fourteen papers in this issue are case histories.
The third theme--what a great job we are doing!--is no doubt self serving on
my part. But there were enough positive comments on the theme that it seemed
appropriate to include them. The key point here is best put by the final
comment: "it is already very good, so don’t mess with it too much."
The last theme--new ideas--has several intriguing suggestions. I will
address the suggestion to devote an entire issue to a specific topic such as
fluids. That is an idea we have previously considered but never done. We
publish four issues each year with each issue containing 12 to 14 papers.
Accumulating enough papers on a particular topic to fill an entire issue could
take up to a year simply because there are not papers on any specific subject.
And if we waited till we had a complete issue on a given topic, then we would
delay publication of some papers by six months or longer. Given our commitment
to publish papers as quickly as possible, such delay would be
counterproductive. So, while we like the idea, there does not seem to be a good
way to implement it. One recent change to address this concern is grouping
papers in each issue under themes that we hope are useful to readers (which was
also one of the suggestions above). However, even this approach has
occasionally proved difficult because of the wide variety of subjects and the
relatively small number of papers in each issue.
Final Remarks on Readers' Surveys
Your Editorial Review Committee recognizes the importance of our maintaining
close contact with our readers. Several avenues exist for such communication.
The readers’ survey is one of the most important methods we use to gauge how
well our journal is perceived by readers. Frankly, it is disappointing that we
cannot draw more significant conclusions from last year's survey because fewer
than 9% of our readers responded to it. We are grateful to readers who
responded to the survey--your voice is being heard. To all our readers, I urge
you to take a few minutes to complete the next readers’ survey you receive for
SPE Drilling & Completion. It will be worth your time and
Now to the papers. This issue contains fourteen papers on the following
topics: zonal isolation, data quality, drilling systems automation,
completions, drill bits, drilling equipment and operations, drilling project
management, and drilling fluids. Case histories are provided from Malaysia,
Kuwait, the North Sea, deepwater Gulf of Mexico, and deepwater Brazil.
Our first paper analyzes creation of microannuli at cement-sheath
interfaces. Microannuli at the well cement-sheath's interfaces (either with
casing or formation) may result in loss of zonal isolation, which can cause
significant problems. Common explanations for the phenomenon are change in
cement volume because of cement hydration or casing contraction caused by
temperature changes. How To Prevent Loss of Zonal Isolation Through a
Comprehensive Analysis of Microannulus Formation shows other modes of
failure also occur. Both theoretical and experimental evidence demonstrates
current theoretical models used to simulate cement-sheath behavior do not fully
predict what is observed in laboratory experiments.
The Influence of Data Quality on Workflows and Decision Making in Well
Delivery delivers outstanding insight into a fundamental challenge facing
the industry in real-time applications--data quality. The authors discuss
critical data issues for drilling work processes in both a collaborative
environment and further automation of the drilling process. They conclude data
quality must be significantly improved to implement more complex but more
efficient workflows or to achieve more automated workflows. A key factor
limiting progress is the lack of a single party that controls all aspects of
data quality. The authors conclude that operators, as the owners of the data,
must take the lead. They also state that a standard means of measuring data
quality of all data streams is needed and propose the best way to do this is to
extend the WITSML standard.
Drilling Systems Automation
Drilling systems automation is an emerging focus area for our industry and
SPE. To help advance this effort, members of SPE have formed the Drilling
Systems Automation Technical Section (DSATS). Any SPE member can join any
technical section. To learn more about DSATS, go to http://www.spe.org/groups/tech_section/.
The growing interest in drilling automation is highlighted by the fact that a
paper on drilling automation in our last issue was the top downloaded paper in
Online First at the time of this writing: "Drilling Automation: Technologies,
Terminology, and Parallels With Other Industries." In this issue, Automation
of Mud-Pump Management: Application to Drilling Operations in the North Sea
describes a new application of automation that reduces chances of fracturing
the formation while starting the mud pumps or circulating. The new system has
been used in several wells in the North Sea.
What are genetic algorithms? That was my first question when I read the
title for Partition Perforation Optimization for Horizontal Wells Based on
Genetic Algorithms. The problem being addressed is early water breakthrough
and rapid water-cut increase in uniformly perforated horizontal wells caused by
heterogeneity in permeability. This paper presents a new method to optimize
perforation parameters along horizontal intervals to help homogenize
inflow-velocity profile. Genetic algorithms are computational models that
simulate the biologic evolution process of Darwin's genetic choice and natural
selection. This novel mathematical approach is explained in detail and
references for genetic algorithms are provided.
Cased-hole gravel packing is commonly used to control sand production.
Effective Perforating and Gravel Placement: Key to Low-Skin, Sand-Free
Production in Gravel Packs presents a fine case history using dynamic
underbalanced perforating (DUP) for removal of perforation damage, effective
gravel pack placement, and packing of the perforation tunnels. DUP was applied
in west Malaysia to improve connectivity to the high-permeability reservoir by
effectively removing perforation and drilling damage near the wellbore.
"An excellent paper blending geomechanics, material behavior, and reservoir
behavior in a convincing manner." That is what one of our Technical Editors
wrote in reviewing Modeling Horizontal-Completion Deformations in a
Deepwater Unconsolidated-Sand Reservoir. This paper presents development
and results of geomechanical models and analyses used to assess the risks of
compaction-induced deformation and potential failure of horizontal gravel-pack
completions in a field located in deepwater but at shallow depth below the
seafloor. Both openhole and cased-hole gravel pack completions were analyzed.
Model results presented in the paper include deformations of the completion and
stresses in the screens as a function of reservoir-depletion pressure.
Standalone screens in openhole can provide highly reliable sand control in
certain situations. A key question though is how are appropriate situations
determined? A Review of Screen Selection for Standalone Applications and a
New Methodology discusses various laboratory testing procedures used in the
industry for evaluation of screen performance. It concludes that current
practices can bias the choice toward a particular type of screen, such as wire
wrapped and premium screens, and unduly limit the possible selection of
standalone screens. Well, this sounds like a "must read" to anyone involved in
selecting sand control techniques. Perhaps even a bit of controversy here? A
new testing and interpretation method is proposed that the authors claim
eliminates the ambiguities associated with current practice.
Early concepts of hybrid bits go back to the 1930s. Gosh, that makes them
even older than I am! Hybrid Bits Offer Distinct Advantages in Selected
Roller-Cone and PDC-Bit Applications describes a new generation of hybrid
bits that combine PDC-bit designs with rolling cutters on the periphery of the
bit. Laboratory and field tests show improvements in drilling mechanics and
dynamic stability. The new design is well suited for drilling heterogeneous and
interbedded formations where roller-cone bits are too slow and PDC bits are
subject to premature damage because of harmful vibrations. Other guidelines for
application of this new type of hybrid bits are offered in the paper.
Breakthrough in 22-in.-Hole Drilling in Kuwait Deep Wells is another
excellent case history. It describes efforts to drill larger-than-usual hole at
a depth of 6,000 to 9,500 ft so that large surface casing can be run, thereby
enabling reaching total depth with the appropriate hole size. A new PDC-bit
design and a more-powerful 12¾-in. motor were developed and improved over the
project, which resulted in achieving the goal of drilling this hole section in
one bit run. This paper should be particularly interesting to readers involved
in drilling large hole size in interbedded formations using PDC bits.
Drilling Equipment and Operations
Design Methodology and Operational Practices Eliminate Differential
Sticking presents fresh insights into causes and prevention of
differentially stuck pipe. Most readers will find some new concepts to
challenge their own thinking. The explanations and logic underlying the
authors' proposed methods are clear, even if all readers may not agree with all
of them. The review and perspective of the literature is exceptionally useful.
Years of field application of the proposed method across the operator's global
operations are convincing validation of their practices. There are some
instances where the authors are uncertain of cause and effect, but the paper
clearly notes where assumptions are made. This paper is highly recommended
regardless of your knowledge level about differential sticking.
Slot-limited platforms have been a problem for some time. As described in
this next paper, dual conductors in a single slot is an existing solution. So
you may ask, what is new? The authors of Magnus: Utilization of Conductor
Sharing Wellhead Technology To Access Additional Hydrocarbons With a
Slot-Constrained Platform encountered a new problem for which they
developed novel twists on the dual-conductor solution, including a new "gamma
wipe" surveying technique. The paper details an excellent case history that
clearly explains what was done and why.
Drilling Project Management
For multiple-well drilling and completion campaigns, cost and schedule
performance tend to improve over time. This trend in improvement is referred to
as a "learning curve." The pioneering work on learning curves applied to well
construction is the classic SPE 15362 by Ford Brett and Keith Millheim in 1986.
Today many operators consider the use of learning curves to be a best practice.
Integrating Learning Curves in Probabilistic Well-Construction Estimates
describes prior work in logical terms that relates their contributions,
including several papers on probabilistic well-time estimation and of course
the classic SPE 15362. The proposed method is a novel and logical extension to
existing methods. In cases where the sample of comparison projects is small,
there may be significant uncertainty in the rate and magnitude of learning. A
general method and specific procedures for integrating learning curves in
probabilistic estimates are given in detail. Hopefully, the authors of SPE
15362 will submit a discussion on this paper because we would really like to
hear their thoughts on this subject.
Drilling fluid containing colloidal gas apron (CGA) microbubbles can bridge
the pores of reservoir rock in the near-wellbore region and reduce risks of
lost circulation and formation damage. Although there has been work performed
on flow of the microbubbles through porous media, little is known about optimal
conditions for blocking the pores. A Study of the Effects of Colloidal Gas
Aphron Composition on Pore Blocking examines the effect of reservoir fluids
on the pore-blocking ability of CGAs. Increasing resistance to fluid flow was
observed as more CGA fluid was injected, indicating that microbubbles could
effectively block the pores. The authors conclude aphrons will mitigate the
fluid invasion into the rock and hence will reduce formation damage. The
blockage was removed successfully by water after injection, indicating the pore
blocking is reversible.
Riserless drilling with weighted-drilling-fluid systems, commonly known as
"pump and dump" is an established technique for deepwater wells with shallow
hazards. Large holes and high flow rates result in large volumes and major
logistical issues. Because most deepwater operations are conducted far from
their resupply point, all fluid for the operation must be at the wellsite in
advance. As described in Salinity-Based Pump-and-Dump Strategy for Drilling
Salt With Supersaturated Fluids, one widely accepted practice has been to
blend premixed pump and dump fluid with seawater to augment the volume. This
technique allows more fluid to be pumped in the riserless operation than can be
stored on location. This works except when drilling through salt because the
salinity of the resultant fluid is the key drilling-fluid property. When salt
is drilled with an undersaturated water-based fluid, the salt is leached into
the fluid, which can result in hole enlargement and potentially lead to a poor
cement job. Hence, fluid management becomes a major issue, which is the topic
of our final paper. This paper is a case history of using supersaturated
drilling fluid in Santos Basin of Brazil to minimize hole enlargement and help
ensure good cement jobs. The excellent hole conditions while running casing and
casing shoe integrities that exceed expectations indicate the strategy was a
One Final Note
Congratulations to Dr. John Thorogood who recently received the 2011 SPE
Drilling Engineering Award that recognizes outstanding achievements and
contributions to the advancement of the drilling engineering discipline for our
society. John’s vision and leadership have been, and continue to be, truly
remarkable. I would be remiss if I did not take the opportunity for one final
plug for SPE Drilling & Completion by pointing out that Dr.
Thorogood is also an Associate Editor for this journal.
That wraps up this issue. On behalf of your entire Editorial Review
Committee, thank you for your continued support of SPE Drilling &
|Fig. 1—2010 SPE Drilling &
Completion Reader Survey, Question 2 Responses