CATEGORIZED | 2009, Features, January/February

DC talks with industry experts on the challenges ahead

Posted on 17 January 2009

The drilling industry was dramatically different – almost melodramatically, you might say – when Drilling Contractor spoke with industry leaders a year ago for our “Critical Issues in Drilling & Completions” feature. The price of oil had just broken the $100/bbl mark, to many’s disbelief really, and no one knew where it was headed. Construction of newbuild rigs was chugging along at a brisk pace, and the industry couldn’t recruit and train new workers fast enough.

Without dwelling on the negatives (oil in the $30s, newbuilds getting canceled, layoff announcements, etc), let’s just say that things are different now. Leaders we spoke with for this issue’s “Critical Issues in Drilling & Completions” appear to agree that, at the very least, the next six months will be difficult. The global economic mess is compounding the downturn, and how long it will last – nobody really knows. “I think that, for the industry generally, the word uncertainty is the first thing that comes to mind,” commented Brian Taylor, KCA DEUTAG chief operating officer.

Amid uncertainty, however, drilling contractors know how temperamental this business can be – it can come back up just as quickly as it did going down. In the meantime, leaders like Mark Burns, president of ENSCO Offshore International, urge the industry to remember to “take care of the fundamentals,” like the safety of our people.

Ed Jacob, senior VP – operations for the former Grey Wolf Drilling (now Precision Drilling), hopes that we won’t “sacrifice the investments we’ve made in people and training. In soft cycles, we ought to be investing in people instead of equipment.”

Challenges continue on the technology side as well. Carl Montgomery, senior engineering fellow with ConocoPhillips, notes that selective completions technologies are still falling short. Dave Tucker, COO of VetcoGray and Hydril Pressure Control, says they continue to work on making 20,000-psi capable riser strings. And Carel Hoyer, Weatherford group VP – drilling hazard mitigation and pressure pumping, notes that a lot of work remains to be done before we can truly see ahead of the bit.

In the following pages, industry leaders discuss some of their biggest concerns and share insight on how they’re dealing with issues like people and technology in an unpredictable market. Times may be tough, but these guys have seen tougher.

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