The last decade has seen significant change in many areas of the drilling business, particularly with bits and bottomhole assemblies. Rising drilling costs, more-complex and -demanding drilling environments, and the ever-present stimulus of provider competition are continuing to drive improved understanding and decision making in this area. The days when bits were seen as simple commodities, with their leverage on well time and cost unrecognized, are fading. And this is long overdue.

Particularly encouraging is the growing use of field-behavior modeling of the bit and drillstring under realistic conditions, and the development of knowledge- based tool-selection techniques, refined by an intensive study of field data. The migration toward deeper or more-tortuous well designs, often accompanied by simultaneous drilling and hole opening in regions in which vibration effects are prolific and are more punishing, is leading to more understanding and rigor. These are admirable trends that more-traditional operations can and should capitalize on, and sometimes are.

My learned colleague Graham Mensa-Wilmot wrote of these trends a year ago in this feature, correctly pointing out to us that “We have the key, let’s open the door.” Perhaps we can claim to have done so with some challenges and in some geographical areas (e.g., vibration diagnosis and mitigation in deepwater Gulf of Mexico operations). However, with other equally important challenges (quantitative optimizing of the rate of penetration comes to mind), fundamental understanding and rigorous methods are not so widespread; we are still operating with “pockets of excellence.” So, it is appropriate to lay another challenge to those managing drilling operations and providing drilling services–if your teams are relying on a fuzzy definition of downhole processes or on trial and error to deliver drilling performance, it is time to modernize–let’s have the current pockets of excellence show the rest of us the way.

Read the paper synopses in the December 2011 issue of JPT.

Martyn Fear, SPE, is General Manager of Drilling & Completions for Husky Energy’s Atlantic Region, Canada. He has more than 25 years’ experience in drilling optimization and operations management across a wide variety of international locations. Fear serves on the JPT Editorial Committee. He earned a BSc (Honors) degree in geological sciences from the University of Birmingham, England.