Journally Speaking: Smart drilling technology

July 22, 2019

Computational power has come to oil tools, Dana Larson, senior drilling engineer with Talos Energy Inc. and president of the Houston chapter of the American Association of Drilling Engineers, told OGJ in a recent interview.

“The latest technology I see involves rotary steerable tools,” Larson said, citing Halliburton Sperry Drilling’s iCruise intelligent RSS, which enables companies to drill longer laterals faster than before with more accurate well placement.

Larson said intelligent RSS helps operators drill on time and on budget. Such systems are a step toward industry achieving directional drilling automation.

The iCruise RSS combines advanced electronics, sophisticated algorithms, multiple sensors and survey packages, and high-speed processors to maximize the rate of penetration (ROP) in unconventional plays, deep water projects, and mature fields.

For instance, iCruise helped an operator set records by drilling the longest lateral section and deepest well so far in Argentina’s Vaca Muerta shale play, Halliburton’s web site said.

Software helped match iCruise technology and a well trajectory bottomhole assembly to a particular bit for drilling the extended lateral section. Advanced sensors–including a continuous inclination and azimuth package close to the bit, along with gamma ray and pressure-while-drilling (PWD) sensor ensured accurate logging-while-drilling measurements in real time, optimizing geosteering and ROP, Halliburton said.

Deep resistivity readings

Larson also noted service providers offer new generations of deep resistivity tools.

“It’s gone from a few feet, to tens of feet to 120-200 ft into the formation,” Larson said.

Schlumberger Ltd. introduced its IriSphere look-ahead-while-drilling service in May. Electromagnetic (EM) technology detect formation features ahead of the drill bit in oil and gas wells.

EM-based resistivity measurements reach more than 30 m ahead of the drill bit. Real-time measurements are compared with formation models prepared in advance of drilling.

“You can pick up the bed boundary, so you know you are approaching the target,” Larson said. “You do not overshoot your targets.”

With such technology, operators can make decisions proactively rather than reacting to measurements taken at or behind the bit while drilling wells.

Schlumberger reported more than 25 field trials for clients using IriSphere service in Asia, Australia, Latin America, and Europe.

The trials detected reservoirs and salt boundaries, identified thin layers, and avoided drilling hazards, such as high-pressure formations, that can lead to wellbore instability.

An operator working offshore Western Australia used the IriSphere service in an unexplored part of a field to detect the reservoir 19 m ahead of the bit while drilling. The operator determined reservoir thickness to be 25 m, which avoided the need to drill a pilot hole.

Rig automation evolves

Jim Wicklund, managing director, energy, in the investment banking division of Stephens Inc., told OGJ that digital and smart technology has evolved within the oil and gas industry to help reduce the number of people needed on the rig floor.

“Rigs are drilling wells with the computer taking over most of the chores,” Wicklund said.

In particular, he mentioned NOV’s IntelliServ, which is wired drill pipe that allows data to be transferred instantaneously from downhole to surface.

“A massive increase in the speed and quality of data transmission—up to 57,600 bits per sec—effectively turns the lights on downhole, allowing drillers to see things with clarity and accuracy in a way never before possible,” NOV’s web site said.

IntelliServ wired drill pipe and its associated high-speed telemetry network provide data-driven activities—like surveys, downlinks, and slide orientations—in seconds vs. minutes, NOV said.

Technology integrates downhole measurement tools with drilling software to help industry approach drilling automation. Wicklund expects the pace of drilling technology development will continue to accelerate.

“We’re in the third inning of getting there,” Wicklund said. “The next six innings, the technology is going to develop faster.”