Drilling with cutting cost technology


Workers drilling oil rig

It is no longer news that crude Oil price has been travelling South at an alarming speed since the fall of last year. What is news is that several companies are seeking and developing innovative methods to remain in business. Necessity, as they say, is the mother of invention.

This is what has prompted some drilling companies to develop their oil drilling rigs in such a manner that the cost the world over will be in tandem with the crashing international crude oil price. Drilling contractors, oil companies and such other concerned professionals will find this week’s edition in the very best of their interest.

A story captured by Christopher Helman in the September 7, 2015 edition of Forbes magazine reveals that National Oilwell Varco, NOV is the world’s biggest builder of oilfield gear. In 2014, it sold $21 billion worth of everything from drilling rigs and compressors to blow out preventers and pipes. This year, as oil prices plunged, NOV’s sales, like every other company servicing the oil industry, have plummeted.

Where others see disaster, Clay Williams, chief executive officer of National Oilwell Varco sees opportunity because oil companies get interested in learning new tricks. “In the $100-per-barrel world, there’s not much incentive to do things differently because everybody is making money but in a $50-per-barrel world, reality sets in and our customers ask, ‘How can we do things differently? How can we make the economics work?’ Williams has an answer: big data and robotics. Rather than drillers using intuition and experience to seek oil today, a core part of NOV’s business is selling technology that let’s machines do the heavy lifting. “We are in the golden age of oilfield technology, says Williams.

National Oilwell Varco has been working to perfect its automated drilling techniques for some time now. At one of the company’s nerve centers in Houston, sensors embedded behind drill bits cutting through rocks meters underground feed real-time data to charts and squiggles on giant screens. Engineers talk over headsets, using the data to advise workers on board rigs across the United States and the Gulf of Mexico. A handful of wells don’t get nearly as much human attention because artificial intelligence is doing the work on some sections. Software sucks up real-time data on well conditions, runs it through painstakingly designed algorithms and immediately adjusts operations much faster than humans can. Now that National Oilwell Varco has drilled automated wells for the likes of Hess Corporation, ConocoPhilips and more, the verdict is in: Computers can do it 40 per cent faster than humans.

Faster drilling means cheaper drilling, which makes marginal oil fields economical at lower oil prices. It costs about $20,000 a day to contract an onshore drilling rig, so having four days off a well yields an immediate $80,000 in savings. If smarter computers can reduce a drilling rig’s head count by one, cut another $200,000 a year in salary, benefits, and accommodations.

The savings will be greater at offshore projects, where drilling rigs cost more than $100,000 a day and wells go up to 15 Kilometers deep. Fred Dupriest who oversaw drilling at ExxonMobil for many years and now teaches in Texas says most of the time, the secret to drilling faster is simple: Add more weight to push the drill bit harder.

“You don’t need a computer for that.” Tony Pink, vice president of National Oilwell Varco drilling automation division disagrees. “Drilling is like an art form,” says Pink, who spent the first ten years of his career drilling in the North Sea, Nigeria and the Gulf of Mexico.

The Bauer Machinen GmBH of Schrobenhausen has an innovative oil drilling rig designed to further cut the cost of drilling by reducing the number of manpower needed. The advantages of the rig include; a Man-riding system for mast and top drive inspection. No fingerboard and derrick man needed. Hands-free operation with automatic pipe handling system. Ergonomic workplace with joystick control. Drilling information system (Real-time and historical). Data acquisition system with optional satellite transfer. Automated drilling control with an anti-collision system. Remote fault diagnostic system. Fast and safe rig-up operation.

Some companies in Nigeria with a vision to remain in a business where everything, including profits are crashing phenomenally with crude oil price are making sure, along with their technical partners to have their eyes set on delivering innovative services in an increasingly hostile market. Among them are SAP drilling and WELLSMART drilling.
Finally, out of the oil bust comes a golden age of cutting edge or putting it in financial parlance, cutting cost drilling technology, the age when human roughnecks will be replaced by robot roughnecks and this, certainly, is the future of drilling in these times of cost control and optimal service delivery.

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