Systems Thinking: Examples of Applications in Drilling Oil and Gas Wells

Abdel-Sattar Dahab, Cairo University and Fouad Khalaf, Cairo University


Deep drilling design concepts will be presented through a systemic approach of using tools and concepts of systems thinking—mental perception, synergy, total quality, management of change, risk management, and systems archetypes. Technical concepts such as HPHT drilling will be reviewed and specific design steps and tools will be discussed for key planning processes using an interactive and holistic approach. Formation pressure prediction, fracture pressure determination, casing setting depth, drilling fluids rheology, hydraulics, bit selection, and cementing programme are all synergised in order to reach total quality drilling of deep wells. Participants will leave the course with a thorough understanding of the importance of prerequisites for quality drilling—well planning, implementation, evaluation, and post drilling improvement.


By the end of this course, participants should be able to understand the design concepts in HPHT drilling, such as:

  • Predict formation pressure
  • Calculate fracture pressure
  • Select the casing setting depth  
  • Select drilling fluids
  • Design cement slurry to avoid HPHT problems
  • Test drilling fluids rheology at HPHT
  • Understand the contaminants of drilling fluids
  • Deal with bore-hole problems related to drilling fluids, pressure prediction and control
  • Apply systems thinking and risk management approaches to drilling operations

Who Should Attend

Individuals involved in HPHT well planning and operations who want to strengthen their well planning skills, especially experienced drilling engineers, mud engineers, and geoscientists.


DahabAbdel-Sattar Dahab received his BS and MS degrees in petroleum engineering from Cairo University in 1973 and 1976 respectively, and a PhD from INPL, Nancy, France in 1980. Dahab then joined Cairo University as an assistant professor of drilling engineering. He was promoted to the rank of full professor in 1991. Dahab was a part-time consultant engineer in the drilling department of GUPCO, Egypt, and a technical consultant for Belayim Oil Company (Petrobel).

Dahab was the chairman of the petroleum engineering department and professor of drilling engineering at Cairo University. He was the SPE continuing education chairman, Egyptian section and SPE faculty sponsor for many years. He was the director of Mining Studies and Research Centre, Cairo University from 2005–2009. He was the head and general secretary of the committee responsible for the promotion of university professors in Egyptian universities.

Dahab offered many short and training courses in the area of drilling optimisation, underbalanced drilling, horizontal drilling, drilling fluids, well stimulation, well control, well completion and workovers for petroleum engineers in Algeria, Egypt, Kuwait, Libya, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, and UAE.

Dabab supervised a large number of MS and PhD thesis in Cairo University and KSU. He published over 60 technical papers in different specialised national and international journals and conference proceedings. He participated in writing and editing a book entitled "Encyclopedia of Petroleum Engineering Terms" published by KSU press, Saudi Arabia.

KhalafFouad Khalaf is an emeritus professor of drilling engineering and rock mechanics in the petroleum engineering department of the Faculty of Engineering, Cairo University (CUFE). He holds a BS degree in petroleum engineering from Cairo University, 1963, a doctorat de specialite in applied mathematics and rock mechanics, 1970, and a docteur és science in applied physics, 1975 from the University of Grenoble, France. Khalaf as extensive industrial experience in drilling engineering and has held many key positions at the Gulf of Suez Petroleum Company and Petrobel between 1977 and 2001.

Khalaf started the Ford's Foundation's Program: Pathways to Higher Education 2001–2003, a project for initiating underprivileged university graduates to lifelong learning; the Tempus Program Risk in 2002, which became the sustainable Risk Engineering Diploma (RED) at the Faculty of Engineering, Cairo University. He is also the founder of the Risk Management Society (RMS), an NGO, whose mission is to enhance risk perception in communities outside of universities. He has been a member of the engineering subcommittee of the Supreme Council of Egyptian universities since 2005.

Khalaf is actively involved in delivering selective continuing education to the industry in topics such as petroleum engineering, rock mechanics, oil and gas transportation, technical and report writing in English, petroleum economics, management, human resource management, systems thinking and creativity, and risk management. He has written for many technical publications and supervised academic research in areas such as drilling, rock mechanics, HR, technical writing, and risk management.