Operators question drilling efficiency

The drilling industry should channel more resources into resolving long-standing efficiency issues, said speakers at today's plenary session at the SPE/IADC drilling conference in Amsterdam.

Jeremy Beckman
Editor-Europe

AMSTERDAM, The Netherlands -- The drilling industry should channel more resources into resolving long-standing efficiency issues, said speakers at today's plenary session at the SPE/IADC drilling conference in Amsterdam.

According to Braulio Bastos, GM of well construction engineering at Petrobras, recent advances in technology "have added a lot of complexity to construction and drilling process, and increased the costs and risks of our services. Unfortunately, skyrocketing prices are no longer supported by high oil prices."

Drilling performance - in terms of the power generated to drive to the drillstring and what actually reaches the teeth of the drillbit - is not what it should be, Bastos added, "because most of that power and energy is wasted in friction and vibration. And we do much of this process without fully understanding what is going on downhole."

Petrobras is working on various ways of improving drilling efficiency, including greater use of niche intervention vessels. "A rig is not a Swiss knife," said Bastos. "To use the latest generation rig for every type of task is not the best use of resources, and in certain cases, a light recovery vessel can be better."

Halvor Kjorholt, chief researcher, drilling and completion at StatoilHydro said that despite advances in subsea technology since the early 1990s, non-productive drilling time had stayed constant over the past 20 years. "Efficiency in offshore drilling has not developed or increased," he claimed.

"It's the same situation for costs - there has been no cost reduction over this period. That's in contrast to most other industries, where significant cost reductions have been achieved."

"What is needed to get the progress we are looking for? I think we have to look into the drilling process, which can be very dependent on an individual's interpretation, attention and skill. People make mistakes...and they are relatively slow, compared with computers and automated systems, in detecting and reacting. And the majority of operations are performed far below their technical limit."

Kjorholt called for a greater focus on automated processes and development of sensors to analyze operations downhole. "We need to get a better picture of hole cleaning, and limit operations in a well to what is necessary. Today we perform reaming and cleaning and other tasks in the well, but we should be doing this only according to our needs."

03/18/2009

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