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H&P's Orr: Technology has skewed US rig count/production correlation

Posted on 19 June 2009

 A traditional and, as it turns out, blind assumption is being made that there is a direct correlation between the North American rig count and production, according to Alan Orr of Helmerich & Payne International Drilling Co.

Mr Orr told the IADC World Drilling 2009 Conference & Exhibition in Dublin on 18 June that little account appeared to be taken of what is actually out there drilling and that advanced units, such as H&P’s FlexRig concept introduced in the late 1990s and now thoroughly proved, are far more efficient than traditional drill packages and could work faster and more flexibly.

 Advanced technologies on modern rigs are quietly rewriting the onshore drilling book, say Alan Orr, H&P.

That means that fewer rigs are needed to accomplish the same task. In essence, he said, new rig technologies are quietly rewriting the onshore drilling book.

Mr Orr said another aspect broadly ignored is that the number of rigs engaged in horizontal drilling has overtaken units active in drilling vertical wells. Focusing on gas rigs, he noted that each of the 380 or so units currently engaged in horizontal work were the equivalent, in production intensity terms, of two conventional units.

“Right now there are 50 more rigs in the United States drilling horizontal sections than there are rigs drilling vertical wells, and it’s not going to reverse.”

Mr Orr said that they might in fact effectively be doing the job of 1,000 conventional units. He highlighted analysis of Barnett Shale wells drilled in 2008 that showed they were three times more productive than the average 2006 US land gas well.

“That’s to say that the rig that drills one such well displaces two other rigs,” said Mr Orr, adding that at Hanksville, early indications are that wells drilled there are ten times more productive than the average 2006 gas well.

“What that comes to is, how many wells are we going to need in the United States? What’s going to be the right number to supply gas?”

Mr Orr said 50% of gas produced is coming from so-called unconventional shale plays and that it is no longer satisfactory to directly couple the state of US domestic gas production to the rig count. It is crucial to factor in technological advances.

Concentrating on land rig technologies, Mr Orr said the successful FlexRig concept showed what was possible but that the industry should be looking at further innovations.

In his vision of the future land rig, he reeled off a shopping list.

He highlighted closed-loop LWD … bringing information back to the surface, processing it and sending it direct to the rig’s control systems … apparently much more efficient than the current process.

“Already we have automated down-linking with driller acceptance emerging on the rigs … we’ll see more of that; then there are drilling optimisation algorithms … as we bring information back to the surface, we’re going to process it, send it to the rig’s control system, and we will begin to see improved results from that.

“Rotary steerables out there … it’s the real thing; it always made sense that we would have that type of guided system.

“And the transition from mud pulse telemetry to wired drill pipe is kind of like going from smoke signals to broadband. There are unlimited possibilities and improvements and advancements that we will see as we get into that and move it forward.”

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