Bit Technology and Bottomhole Assemblies

Topics: Drilling operations

A bronze statue of Will Rogers provided by the state of Oklahoma in 1939 stands in a unique position in front of the entrance to the US House of Representatives chambers. Of the 100 statues provided by the 50 states, only Rogers’ statue is pointed toward the entrance of the House. Rogers, who derived much of his commentary material from Congress, said before he died, “Even after I’m gone, I’m gonna keep an eye on you.”

In January 1975, President Gerald Ford delivered his first State of the Union address in the House of Representatives chambers. The United States had just survived the oil embargo of 1973, which resulted in a shortage of gasoline and high energy prices. Energy independence was the focus of his address to the nation and the impetus behind the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975.

The act contained three main components: (1) oil conservation through vehicle-fuel-economy standards, (2) the creation and direction of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, and (3) the prohibition on crude-oil exports. While no legislation is perfect, the conservation of oil and the establishment of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve are ideas that still have merit today. But is the prohibition on crude-oil exports still necessary? The landscape has changed. The US in now a swing producer of crude.

President Ford continued the vision statement in his State of the Union address. He pointed to goals for dependable and domestic energy. The loftiest goal he stated was, “We must develop our energy technology and resources so that the United States has the ability to supply a significant share of the energy needs of the free world by the end of this century.” While we did not achieve energy independence at the end of the century, that goal is now reachable. It was technology in oil exploration and extraction (shale oil) that increased our production by more than 80% since 2008. Demand has not kept up. Since June of 2014, oil prices have dropped 60%. The duration of the current low prices has already exceeded all downturns since the fall of 1985, when the Saudis, while losing market share to other nation members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, increased oil production to 10 million B/D.

Technology will play an increasing role in the lower-commodity-price environment. Because horizontal and extended-reach wellbores account for the majority of the wells being drilled, technologies geared around that development will produce the highest returns. The understanding and proper application of ­rotary-steerable systems will continue to provide a step change in the way fields are developed. Bit technology continues to improve and innovate. It will take performance and skill by both operators and service companies to compete in today’s low-price environment. Technology developed and implemented during the boom will receive closer scrutiny and evaluation during the bust.

For good fortune, legislators rub the left shoe of the Will Rogers statue on the way to chambers. That shoe has become worn, like that of the statue of St. Peter in Rome, by the touch of the devoted. In January of 2017, the US will swear in a new president and a new class of legislators. May the tradition continue and Will Rogers’ good fortune encourage sensible energy policy and favorable commodity prices.

Recommended Additional Reading

SPE 173861 Precise Quantification of Deformation of the BHA for Improved Performance in Directional Drilling by Przemyslaw Kukian, Weatherford, et al.

SPE/IADC 173168 Freeing Differential Stuck Pipe With Nitrogen Reduces Lost-in-Hole Drillstrings Significantly by Norbert Heitmann, Schlumberger, et al.

SPE 174798 Analytical Model To Estimate the Directional Tendency of Point- and Push-the-Bit BHAs by Yuan Zhang, Halliburton, et al.


Casey McDonough, SPE, is a drilling manager for American Energy Partners. He has 10 years of practical drilling experience working in the Permian basin and with the Barnett, Marcellus, and Utica shales. McDonough has nearly 23 years of combined consulting, managerial, technical, and field experience in the oil and gas industry. He has worked as a consultant providing clients with pore-pressure and wellbore-stability studies. McDonough also held technical and managerial positions in downhole logging-while-drilling development for Dresser and Halliburton, where he contributed to density, neutron, vibration, and hot-hole technology. He began his career as a field engineer for Sperry Sun Drilling Services and holds a BS degree in industrial engineering from the University of Oklahoma. McDonough serves on the JPT Editorial Committee.

Bit Technology and Bottomhole Assemblies

Casey McDonough, SPE, Drilling Manager, American Energy Partners

15 November 2015

Volume: 67 | Issue: 12