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Author Archives: Arafat Hoque

Safety culture taking root thanks to SEMS


Over the past six years, a quiet transformation has occurred with regard to offshore safety and environmental stewardship. The transformation is in the growth of a culture of safety that is sweeping the Outer Continental Shelf. One of the first major rules published by the US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) following its formation on the heels of the Macondo incident was the Workplace Safety Rule, more commonly known as the Safety and Environmental Management System (SEMS). This was further refined in a subsequent rule, generally referred to as SEMS II. The underlying purpose of SEMS has been for operators to focus on key elements within their organizations, recognize their strengths and vulnerabilities, and develop procedures to minimize the likelihood of safety and environmental failures.

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News Cuttings

The IADC North Sea Chapter held its Annual Safety Awards on 22 April in Aberdeen. Back row from left are: Ivor McBean, Diamond Offshore Drilling (NSC Co-Chair); Alistair McDonald, Odfjell Drilling; Ole Maier, Odfjell Drilling; Henrik Hundebol, Maersk Drilling; Ann Johnson, Blaze Manufacturing Solutions; Ally Malcolm, Awilco Drilling; Julian Hall, Ensco; Jools Coghill, Ensco; and Gary Holman, Awilco Drilling (NSC Co-Chair). Front row from left are: Matt Brodie, Noble Drilling; Stuart Sutherland, KCA Deutag; Geoff Polson, Stena Drilling; Iain Mitchell, Stena Drilling, and Ray Taylor, Archer.

The IADC North Sea Chapter (NSC) gathered for its Annual Safety Awards Ceremony on 22 April in Aberdeen. NSC Co-Chairmen Ivor McBean of Diamond Offshore and Gary Holman of Awilco Drilling welcomed a large turnout to the event. Guest speakers were IADC President Jason McFarland and Steve Rae, Vice President QHSE, Archer. “Everyone is aware of the extremely difficult times the industry is facing, and despite the challenges and uncertain future in terms of oil price and activity levels, the industry will continue to focus on the most important aspect of our business – the safety of our personnel,” Mr McBean said.

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Studies confirm performance of salt-free non-aqueous drilling fluid, bioremediation potential of cuttings

Figure 1 depicts the growth of plants in varying ratios of top soil to salt-free NAF cuttings blend. From left are: 100% top soil, 5:1, 3:1, 1:1 and 100% cuttings blend.

Disposal of cuttings from nonaqueous drilling fluids (NAF) can be a significant expense and logistical issue for the operator of a drilling rig. NAFs typically contain high levels of salts, commonly calcium chloride or sodium chloride, in the internal phase of the emulsion. These salts are beneficial for wellbore stabilization but pose issues for cuttings disposal because the salts don’t biodegrade and can accumulate in high concentrations in soil. A salt-free NAF has been developed and field-validated in the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin in Alberta, Canada. The system uses a biodegradable organic to provide an internal phase with equivalent water activity to traditional salt-containing systems. This results in a fluid system with the performance and benefits of a conventional NAF while potentially allowing for greater cuttings disposal options. Depending on local regulations, the system has the potential to reduce environmental and long-term liability concerns by being able to land-farm drilled cuttings without hindering plant growth.

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Dual cutting structure on hybrid roller cone bit increases efficiency of bridge, frac plug drill-outs


Drilling out bridge and frac plugs is a regular and inefficient task in multi-zone completions. The job is commonly done using a variety of standard drill bits. However, removing between 15 and 40 plugs comprised of hard outer slips surrounded by ductile composites and elastomer materials presents several challenges to bit performance. Like drilling operations, the completion objective is to efficiently drill as much as possible before having to pull out of hole to replace the bit. The plug’s hard outer slips can quickly wear steel tooth cutting structures so that the bit is increasingly less effective with each plug it drills. It is also difficult to achieve small cuttings across the various plug materials in use, which can limit hole-cleaning efficiency. In addition, the fluid pressure behind isolated completion zones can result in pressure spikes that reduce bearing life.

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Perspectives: Siv Hilde Houmb, Secure-NOK: Fortify cybersecurity to avoid downtime


Growing up on a dairy farm in Norway outside of Lillehammer, Dr Siv Hilde Houmb learned how to ski at an early age and dreamed of competing in the Olympics. When a torn knee ligament sidelined her skiing career in 1993, Dr Houmb initially opted to forge a career in sports science and sports biomechanics. However, during her studies at Telemark University College and the Norwegian University of Sports and Physical Education from 1993-1994, she found herself increasingly fascinated by something entirely different – computers. “A computer is logically built. It is made by people, which means it has a finite defined state that it can work in, so you can learn everything about the computer. You can master it,” Dr Houmb said.

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On 27 May, the US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) issued the results of a comprehensive environmental analysis on potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on the Outer Continental Shelf offshore California. Based on the analysis in the joint Programmatic Environmental Assessment (EA), BSEE and BOEM issued a Finding of No Significant Impact from the use of specific well stimulation treatments in oil and gas activities on the Pacific Outer Continental Shelf.

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Industry looks to mobile solutions, alternative transportation methods to reduce water management costs

One of the biggest costs associated with water management in the upstream industry is hauling fresh water to and from well sites in trucks. To reduce this expense, BHP Billiton is increasingly using pipelines to transport water. This method not only saves money but also reduces the number of trucks on roads.

The general public harbors numerous skewed perceptions about hydraulic fracturing – among them that the fracturing process requires astronomical amounts of fresh water. However, data from a 2015 Duke University study, “Water Footprint of Hydraulic Fracturing,” indicates that fracturing accounts for less than 1% of total industrial water use in the United States. Other methods of energy extraction, such as coal and uranium mining, actually use 2.5 to 13 times more water than hydraulic fracturing, according to the report.

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For shale business to survive, employees must think like owners, orient organizational culture to the bottom line


What do you see as the most critical challenges facing the upstream side of the oil and gas industry right now? Clearly, the cost issue is front and center. Some people say that you should never waste a good crisis, but to me, it goes beyond that. The margins have shrunk extensively, and we don’t have an option but to respond. We have cut our capital program for US shale from more than $4.5 billion in FY 2013 to about $1.5 billion this year.

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Critical issues in drilling & completions


It’s a tough time to be in the drilling business. We always knew this was a cyclical industry, yet the consistently high oil prices over the past decade – save for the 2008-09 economic blip – had shoved any thoughts of a real market collapse far into the back of our minds. Initial optimism that there would be a quick recovery to this cycle has also waned, with many adopting the attitude of “lower for longer.” For most companies, the focus has shifted considerably toward cost reduction. Operators are cutting back on exploration and zeroing in on core assets, and drilling contractors are faced with significantly lower dayrates and the difficult decisions of warm stacking, cold stacking or even decommission

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