Drilling’s Next Generation of Challenges
- Stephen Rassenfoss (JPT Emerging Technology Senior Editor)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- May 2018
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 38 - 43
- 2018. Copyright is held partially by SPE. Contact SPE for permission to use material from this document.
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Drilling is going off in a lot of directions. At the recent IADC/SPE Drilling Conference in Fort Worth, Texas, technical and panel presentations ranged from the first-ever report on the hottest well ever successfully drilled to tips on translating drilling performance data into numbers that management can appreciate.
It was a younger crowd than past conferences, reflecting the industry’s rapid generational change. Panelists noted that “millennials” bring key skills to the industry for a data-driven age, but have a lot to learn about running a business in this fast-changing sector.
The Industry’s New Generation Adds Skills But Faces Hurdles
The rapid generational change of exploration professionals was ac companied by dire warnings about all the experience lost. But the skill sets that younger workers bring with them could provide the industry with the expertise needed to make a big, belated, technology shift.
“Five years ago, the average age of a geoscientist was 65 years. There was talk of a wave of retirements that would wipe out all the knowledge in this industry. You have not heard that in a couple of years. All those people retiring were not nearly as critical” as thought, said Jim Wicklund, managing director for oilfield services research at Credit Suisse.
The comment was made during a discussion of the future of technology at a panel session during the conference.
Those industry newcomers grew up in a wired world where knowing how to get the most out of software is as common as rebuilding engines was for the generation that came in during the 1980s. The panel discussion was sandwiched in between technical sessions focused on gathering and using real-time data to maximize productivity and strides made in automated drilling.
“Millennials are not the bottleneck here. A change of generation will radically accelerate technology,” said Karl Blanchard, executive vice president and chief operating officer at Weatherford, adding that, “We in management are the bottleneck. They grew up with the technology.”
They are a promising group with needed skills, but they also have a lot to learn.
As the father of a son who works in the oilfield services business, Blanchard is both proud of his son’s skills and has some blunt fatherly advice about the hard work it takes to sell ideas—such as building a network of supporters and establishing the credibility needed to get a hearing, and possibly a green light.
For Kuhan Chellappah, a drilling fluids specialist for BP, the future of the industry is his waking reality. He is still young, but with more than a decade in the industry he is among a relatively small group of technical experts with that level of experience.
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