Well planning beginning to merge seismic and drilling

It is now possible for geoscientists and engineers to work collaboratively, integrating their drilling and geoscience workflows [136,308 bytes]. For years, geoscientists in exploration and production (E&P) companies have been applying advanced integrated computer software to conduct complex 3D interpretations. While many of their counterparts in the drilling departments have been using software applications to design wells, the two groups have traditionally worked independently of each other.

May 1st, 1998

Collaboration lowering cycle time

Candida Scott
Landmark Graphics
For years, geoscientists in exploration and production (E&P) companies have been applying advanced integrated computer software to conduct complex 3D interpretations. While many of their counterparts in the drilling departments have been using software applications to design wells, the two groups have traditionally worked independently of each other.

The conventional well planning process has followed a fairly linear and disconnected path that starts with the geologist working at one end of the planning process and the drilling engineer at the other. Essentially, the geoscientist identifies potential drilling targets and sends them to the drilling engineer for further study.

Using this process, devising a well plan that is both economically feasible and hits the optimum geologic targets could take weeks. And incorporation of important subsurface information relating to the targets is often omitted until the plan is close to completion. This can result in the need for more iterations to avoid potential drilling hazards such as high pressure or depleted zones, salt bodies, or faults.

Market forces, such as a lack of experienced personnel, the rising cost of drilling rigs, increasingly remote and complex drilling locations, and declining oil prices, are driving the industry to use limited resources more efficiently and to make critical business decisions more quickly.

To better manage costs and reduce project cycle time, E&P companies are examining methods to eliminate the interdisciplinary barriers that have limited effective communication and collaboration between the geoscience and drilling professionals who drive drilling decisions. In short, E&P companies are seeking to expand their integration efforts to include not just geological and geophysical data, but also engineering, economic, and other data that represent the entire oil field life cycle.

Integrating disciplines

With the new generation of integrated E&P software available today, it is now possible for geoscientists and engineers to work collaboratively from the beginning of the interpretive process, merging their drilling and geoscience workflows. The result of this collaboration not only breaks down artificial barriers between disciplines, but creates an intuitive process that can provide safer, more economic drilling targets in hours, instead of days or weeks.

Today, geoscientists can select potential drilling targets within 3D seismic volumes and earth models, then create an initial wellpath plan based on basic planning algorithms. New graphical tools also allow them to screen the proposed well and determine its basic "drillability." Then, the drilling engineer can analyze these path plans and targets in detail using a wider set of planning tools.

The engineer can also conduct anti-collision scans to ensure there is no conflict with surrounding wells, as well as torque and drag analysis to determine the optimal drill strings to run. At this point, the engineer can send the refined path plan back to the geoscientist, who can view the results in a 3D earth model. Using this iterative process, both the drilling engineer and the geologist get the most value from the information that directly impacts successful well completion.

Integrated software solutions allow managers to make better drilling decisions by allowing them to rapidly review well design changes, to evaluate the consequences of these changes, and to quantify costs and risks associated with multiple scenarios.

An integrated environment expands the drilling engineer's analytical abilities by not only linking design data with design decisions, but by also allowing these elements to be compared against historical data. As a result, the engineer can identify the lessons learned during the project and capture the information for future reference.

Modern satellite communication technology now links the oil field and the office, making "just-in-time" engineering decisions a possibility. Major design changes can be made in the field with confidence because drilling operations located in remote areas can receive immediate support from engineers and geoscientists who are located in the design office. This quick response maximizes the effectiveness of the design engineering staff by enabling them to support multiple field locations at once.

Computer-aided design

While tremendous progress has been made toward integrating the geoscience and drilling domains through E&P software applications, further integration efforts will undoubtedly incorporate more geological and geophysical data into the drilling workflow. E&P professionals will move quickly and easily between geologic and drilling domains, resulting in a truly iterative process, better drilling and reservoir management decisions, and, ultimately, a more significant economic return.

The future of drilling lies in the continuing integration of data, not only within drilling processes, but also across E&P disciplines, encompassing the whole spectrum of oil field design. However, rather than just refine existing drilling processes, the industry must undergo a cultural shift.

As artificial barriers are removed between disciplines, the drilling engineer will play an increasingly critical role. And as communication and computer technology continue to bring oil field operations and the head office closer together, time and location restraints will become increasingly less significant.

By moving away from segmented decision-making processes to an integrated, computer-aided well design system that incorporates geoscience and other relevant data, the drilling community will more readily achieve its goals of using its limited resources more efficiently.

Critical business decisions will be made much more quickly and accurately, resulting in reduced cycle times, lower project costs, and safer drilling solutions that are designed to maximize reservoir potential and increase reserves.

Author
Candida Scott is the Business Development Manager for Landmark's Drilling and Well Services. She holds a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Leicester University in England and has worked in the oil and gas industry for 20 years. Scott joined Landmark following the merger of EnerTech with Landmark.

Copyright 1998 Oil & Gas Journal. All Rights Reserved.

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