The industry is slowly recovering from the worst downturn we have seen in many decades. Significant brainpower has been lost for good, especially from technical organizations that have been weakened beyond recognition, and many technology developments that were relevant for high pressure/high temperature (HP/HT) have been either cancelled or slowed down significantly, with project teams disbanded. In such times, SPE becomes even more important as a custodian of knowledge and a forum for engineers still employed or searching for their next employment.
What is also different from previous downturns is that technology is now held by service companies much more than before and contracts and rates have declined faster than the worst shale well, so funding for development and maintenance of technology has practically dried up.
Another difference is that, in spite of what the oil price implies, the technically “easy oil” is very much over and new reserves need dramatically elevated levels of technology deployment to be developed successfully. The loss of technical prowess hurts the industry even more for future activities.
The combination of higher technical requirements and lower availability means that, when activity picks up, we certainly will be living in “interesting times,” to use the Chinese saying.
However, it is not all bleak. Some technologies important for HP/HT—such as closed-system drilling allowing for the accurate monitoring and pressurization of the primary barrier and continuous circulation to eliminate the ramp up and ramp down of the circulation system for connections causing wellbore-stability, hole-cleaning, and well-control issues—have developed steadily and have seen increased uptake even throughout the downturn. These technologies have the potential to revolutionize the performance and safety of HP/HT drilling operations, where connection time often makes up a significant portion of the time/depth curve. Similarly, the ability to circulate cooling mud around the bottomhole assembly at all times will allow us to extend significantly the temperature window where logging-while-drilling data acquisition is still possible.
At the end, it will be up to the operators to adopt such technologies into the mainstream of their operations so that service companies continue to be incentivized to follow through with further technology developments. This will be possible only if there is an atmosphere of partnering and cooperation from early in the concept phase of wells and the well-construction leadership of the operators reverses the justification needs of notoriously overworked drilling teams so that it is more of a hassle to prepare a justification to refuse the use of technology on a well than to adopt it.
I invite all to understand and embrace that technology is the key enabler for future success in our stressed industry and work together to bring the HP/HT projects currently deemed “too expensive to develop” within the realm of the current oil-price environment and construct more HP/HT wells.
This Month's Technical Papers
Recommended Additional Reading
OTC 27891 Cost-Effective HP/HT Design Methods Using External and Seawater Depth Pressures by Parth D.Pathak, OneSubsea, a Schlumberger Company, et al.
OTC 27533 Strengths and Weaknesses in the HP/HT Design-Verification Process Within the Gulf of Mexico by Harish Patel, ABS, et al.
OTC 27738 Next-Generation HP/HT Wellhead-Seal-System Validation by Lucas Brown, Dril-Quip, et al.
Robert Ziegler, SPE, Global Director, Well-Control Technology, Weatherford
01 April 2018
CNOOC, Several International Firms Sign Agreements for Areas Offshore China
Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Equinor, Shell, and Total are among nine firms looking to explore the Pearl River Mouth Basin.
High-Temperature Water-Based Mud Faces Challenges Offshore Sarawak, Malaysia
The reservoir section of a gas field offshore Sarawak, Malaysia, consists of two massive pinnacle carbonate structures with heterogeneous porosity and permeability and many vugs and faults.
Integrating Managed-Pressure Drilling Into HP/HT-Well Planning
An early commitment to integrate MPD into an HP/HT drilling operation can make MPD more than just an enabling tool and turn it into a performance tool that offers significant operational benefits.
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