How Processes Will Contribute to the Next Trillion Barrels
- Jeffrey A. Miller (Baroid Fluid Services)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- August 2008
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 18 - 18
- 2008. Copyright is retained by the author. This document is distributed by SPE with the permission of the author. Contact the author for permission to use material from this document.
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When our industry talks about technology, the discussion quickly moves to game changers and specific events in which a new widget does something new. These widgets are generally successful but are usually applied to relatively narrow applications. While I absolutely agree that such innovations are extraordinarily important to our industry, I believe that the humble, unheralded technology of process innovation will provide an equally important contribution to how we produce the next trillion barrels of oil. Our ability to take broad areas of technology and to reliably and rapidly customize very specific wellbore solutions will become increasingly important to our industry.
In my job, I get to talk with clients all of the time, and I recently had the chance to listen to a group of successful operators discuss a resource play. The conversation quickly turned to how they planned to drill the asset, and I asked them about mud systems. They indicated that they planned to use oil mud, even though they believed water-based fluid would likely get the job done more efficiently. Why is this? The real reason was because the first well drilled successfully in this resource play was drilled with oil. This is an example of a situation where we are effectively doing what we have always done based on observation of a successful phenomenon.
We can rely on observable phenomena as long as all of the “right” drilling parameters somehow remain consistent. I see the challenge less as one of new technology development, but rather as one more closely aligned with how we reliably apply mass customization of technology (in this case, chemistry) to reliably customize broad areas of science to specific wellbore challenges. Nevertheless, it is the rare drilling fluid system that is simply pulled off the shelf, sent to a location, and run successfully without some level of customization—one exception being possibly the soap stick, and even that was only under specific conditions.
So, how do we effectively customize solutions on a large scale? First, we must understand why systems behave and perform the way they do at an elemental level. Next, we must execute stable processes that allow us to reliably investigate observed phenomena.Efficient customization of technology is increasingly important; additionally, complexity and drilling envelopes are pushed to the technical limits of the industry’s current capability. By integrating engineering tools into the customization process, it becomes possible to more efficiently and reliably distill broad technology systems down to a very specific and customized solution that maximizes the operator’s wellbore value.
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