Pioneering Oilfield Technology
- David Reid (National Oilwell Varco)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- August 2008
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 38 - 40
- 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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Talk to industry old-timers about technological changes in the oilfield decades ago and their comments will likely be low-key, despite where they worked geographically or for which companies. While technology has evolved dramatically in the last 50 years, there was not a steady stream of “eurekas” echoing innovations. Instead, workplace-changing big ideas only bubbled to the surface every now and then.
We now have a decidedly quicker pace of innovation. Imagine going back in time—even only 20 years—and telling operational personnel that in 2008 one major oilfield service company currently has more than 230 technologies in active development.
This proliferation of new product development has delivered remarkable new efficiencies to rigs while requiring that management gain an enhanced understanding of how brand-new technology fits into overall drilling operations and how to best introduce the technology.
Innovation as Part of the Whole
The importance of innovation, in terms of how it goes beyond new product capabilities, is illustrated by a recent roundtable of representatives from majors, independents, and oilfield service companies, addressing the ramifications of technological innovation. Topics ranged from influences on the innovation process to where innovation fits in mergers and acquisitions, from the always critical technology adoption challenge to risk mitigation—all key management issues that transcend what is going on in the laboratory.
As a result of forward-looking management at companies, innovative R&D is not occurring in a corporate vacuum. Rather, potential innovations are “valued” at technology forums where presentations are given on a company’s latest trends. From feedback out of the forums, tools and systems are refined and new ones developed, enabling operations personnel to produce better results out of existing assets or to find new assets.
In other words, the purpose of these presentations or fact-finding is, or should be, to discuss where investment money ought to be best-focused regarding the impact on current or new product lines, so that R&D actually makes a drilling performance difference—not simply introducing new technology for technology’s sake. Because the development of new technology for field usage can be extremely expensive, these informational exchanges include focusing on which technologies can feasibly become immediate introductions and which are long term.
Developing and implementing new oilfield technology demands a clear understanding of how the overall process should work to be genuinely effective. Specifically, instead of a general game plan about taking ideas from concept to customer usage, management needs to delineate new product focus along the lines of delivering diversity, quality, and value. In so doing, each new technology or comprehensive drilling solution should ideally include technically advanced, field-proven systems that increase drilling efficiency; enhance health, safety, and environment programs; and maximize customers’ lifecycle economics.
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