Visual immersion yielding more efficient well planning

Direct input from directional well planners

Jul 1st, 1999
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Imagine sitting in an operating company office, completing directional drilling plans for a new prospect, and monitoring on-going wells in realtime 3D. No morning logs or reports, just a darkened room with a surround screen and 3D visualization glasses.

All required information is available to you in this visually immersed environment, designed for all service and operator personnel to have interactive, team-oriented input. This is not a dream. Successful well planning and realtime drilling monitoring case studies are currently being achieved.

There is plenty of well-documented information on the use of 3D virtual technology in the analysis of reservoir seismic and log data. Operators have been using this technique for several years now. But taking this environment to the next "realtime" level has only recently been realized. Advances in telecommunications and computer technologies have made it possible for realtime monitoring of the drilling and production processes.

Process changing

Pre-drill well plan decision-making processes are changing. Directional well planners currently design their maps using an operator supplied surface and bottom hole target location with close proximity wells and anticipated geologic markers figured into the plan.

In many cases, they perform map drawing separately, and never directly interface with project planners. Completed maps are mailed or sent electronically to project planners who continue with the planning process. This takes time and doesn't allow for coordinated team inputs in the planning process.

Collaborative, immersion environments give the directional well planner the opportunity to build a directional plan sitting alongside the key decision-makers of the respective project. The plan is completely dynamic and can be updated instantly. Constant interface of directional experts and project planners yields a quick and optimal directional well plan solution.

If key decision-makers are separated geographically, another option is available. Teleconferencing and remote terminals, networked via intranet, can facilitate keeping key decision-makers and planners working simultaneously in the collaborative environment.

Grouping applications

Associated directional well planning software applications are being grouped together and made available through integrated packages. Most providers of visual immersion technologies have a set of common software applications like: torque and drag analysis, trajectory analysis, bottom hole assembly analysis, hydraulics, and collision avoidance. All of these all being grouped together for more efficient sharing of data.


Integrating key decision-makers with better realtime information provides for effective decision-making (Image provided by Landmark).
Click here to enlarge image

Realtime data links between the rig-site and office asset teams allow for constant, two-way flow of information between the decision-makers and data gathering, operational personnel. Realtime data can be imported into the project earth model for reprocessing, and then sent back to the rig-site as an updated model. Well trajectories can then be modified as needed to penetrate reservoir targets. With all of this realtime information readily available, along with unique contributions of visual immersion techniques, the traditional morning meeting has the potential to take on a new structure.

Morning meetings?

Daily operational decisions can be made with the input of all service providers present, geologic models and updated at this time, and then sent to the rig for wellsite personnel to implement. With software security measures in place, select representatives from team members can interface continually with the drilling process to more efficiently address the urgent operational issues so frequently encountered in our industry.

"Technology is the driver that enables E&P companies to change their business processes," explains Doug Wille, Integrated Technology Product Manager with Landmark Graphics, commenting on their approach to 3D immersion techniques. "By first building a foundation consisting of a multi-disciplinary asset team and a collaborative environment, you have the ability to take advantage of leading-edge technologies." This approach succeeds on the ability of the environment to enhance "team" oriented decision-making.

Landmark's fundamental database platform is Open Works™ with visualization and well planning derived from Landmark's Drillability Suite™ and 3D NT Viewer. Drilling data is collected from Sperry Sun's Insite rig information system. Halliburton's RESolution 3D is the complete real-time 3D drilling and reservoir solution system, which allows real-time updating of the earth model in a 3D-visualization environment.

Driven by software

Recognizing the industry-wide presence of different software platforms and their clients' request for more flexible functionality, GeoQuest focuses on integrating team members, not necessarily in the same visualization room, but also linked via individual office terminals. Drilling team collaboration is facilitated via the Drilling Office and GeoViz software applications, incorporating all aspects of the planning and engineering functions. Rigsite drilling data is collected from the InterACT service. The success of Schlumberger's approach is centered on the ability of software applications to provide for, and facilitate, a collaborative decision-making process.


A collaborative environment can be facilitated via remote workstations or the immersion environment. (Image provided by GeoQuest)
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"The future focus of product development will revolve around model-centric tools," explains GeoQuest's Larry Denver, Vice President, Marketing. "This implies surrounding the shared earth model with applications that feed back to, and update the model." The GeoFrame reservoir characterization system, will be used as the centerpiece of software development and future growth. By integrating discipline-specific E&P applications through intertask communication and a shared project database, a firm foundation is set for total operational control in realtime well operations.

Continuum Resources sees all of these technologies fitting into the overall framework of corporate visualization and integrated asset-wide visual databases. "It's simple. We try to provide the best-of-breed solution to the client's problem," says Cindy Berlier, Director of Corporate Communication for Continuum. Clients can use Continuum's voice and joystick controlled, no "pull-down menu" navigation software, CoReExplorer, to explore vendor-independent oil field models, while utilizing intersite collaboration to accomplish team cooperation, whether on Unix or NT platforms. Multi-sensory immersion is available by using sound cues and data mapping of different data types to sound in order to enhance perception and information retention in the immersive environment.

A unique application already offered by Continuum is Oilplan™, which allows drilling platform or pad locations to be optimized to accommodate the drilling of large numbers of wells. The software employs a client- provided cost model and, using a series of drilling constraints and cost factors, moves the location and orientation of the pad/platform to find the minimum project drilling cost.

The new well trajectories and locations can be visualized within a seismic or reservoir model imported from other vendors' software. The software module also checks whether a single or multiple platform/pad approach is better.

Baker Hughes Inteq is taking the modular, remote operation approach to this technology. Building on existing rig site geosteering services and applications, the EarthVision WorkFlow Manager, developed with Dynamic Graphics, Inc., builds the 3D earth model and monitors the drilling process realtime, updating continually the earth model for realtime geosteering information.

Directional and logging data are input into the earth model to better define and correct deviations from the original well plan. Art Paradis, president of Dynamic Graphics, explains the process: "Earth Vision's Unix based and Windows NT 3D Viewer software enable asset team members to view the well paths and geologic models from several remote locations simultaneously." In other words, team collaboration is facilitated via the EarthVision WorkFlow Manager software and networked remote terminals.

Development of a total visual immersion system will occur later in 1999 and early Q1-2000. The focus in the short term is to immediately provide a "field solution" to customers via this modular, rig approach.

Customized or leased

Some operating companies have bought systems, and in some cases built their own systems based on personal preferences. The advantage of this is having a private facility to conduct day-to-day operations. Several companies are offering facility services where an operator and partners provide the data source. Visualization rooms and qualified system operators are provided with a full suite of software capabilities available for data evaluation.

How will the industry as a whole utilize this technology - outsource to service providers or purchase and build independent systems? Many service providers offer similar software products and services. The differentiating factor is in those unique software packages offered, and how these companies integrate people with the technology.

There will most certainly be a place in the market for both custom designed and leased facility arrangements. Operating companies opting for the custom designed alternative will eventually face the problem of limited availability of visualization room time. This technology has the capability of becoming an even greater part of the day-to-day business of an oil and gas industry company, with the result being more needed access to visualization technologies. These companies will then be faced with a decision to build multiple facilities, or outsource to other service providers.

One key issue to be addressed will be confidentiality of proprietary information. Information primarily viewed and managed by the operator in the past will now be viewed by directional well planners and other third party staff.

The "team" oriented environments currently being emphasized in the industry bring many different service providers together into the decision making process. The further development of flexible, but effective, software security applications could be necessary to efficiently administer this new trend.

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