Cooperation between oil companies and drilling contractors have created impressive results – such as the world-record horizontal well in Qatar in 2008 of more than 40,000 ft MD. However, it is now time for a new partnership model, Troels Albrechtsen, senior VP and head of corporate technology and projects for Maersk Oil, said last week at the IADC World Drilling 2011 Conference & Exhibition in Copenhagen, Denmark.
That’s partly because Macondo has changed the business by increasing safety requirements and regulations and putting the industry’s license to operate at stake. “In our views, the uncertainties, risks and financial liabilities that are inherent to our industry and our business have also shifted fundamentally,” he said.
Moreover, as the industry faces ever more challenging operational environments, new technologies and skills will be needed to unlock future oil and gas. “Collaboration is definitely key to unlocking that future potential in the new frontier technology areas. No company alone has the financial, technical or human resources to do it,” he said.
He believes that solutions will come from joint capabilities from different parts of the industry or even outside the industry. “Stronger partnerships will be the foundation of our future.”
Mr Albrechtsen also predicted a shift in the way development drilling is done in the future. “We need to move away from the more standard factory drilling that now is very successful in the shale gas and move towards more advanced designer wells focusing on sensing and control and even on elements of downhole processing,” he said, calling these wells “recovery factories.”
As a consequence of these types of wells, he believes that drilling contractors may need to move away from the more traditional well delivery role. “It needs to change its attitude, and we the oil companies must allow them pace, space and time and technology partnerships to be able to do so. That can drive us to continuous quality of performance improvement.”
On the issue of the “Big Crew Change,” Mr Albrechtsen called the human resources picture “bleak” and believes that mass retirement over the coming decade will impede oil companies’ capacity to execute projects and develop fields. Figuring out ways to attract new talent into the industry now is therefore an imperative, he said.
We may not be rocket scientists in the oil business, but we can probably call ourselves “rock surgeons” since we have the precision to extract oil from rocks thousands of feet below the earth’s surface in formations five to 10 ft thick in 40,000-ft long wells. “That’s surgery in the energy business, and it can be exciting. We need to find different ways of communicating that excitement to attract people to our industry,” he said.