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Miller: What it will take to get it right in the shale plays

Posted on 15 November 2010

Pete Miller, CEO of National Oilwell Varco

Pete Miller, CEO of National Oilwell Varco

Pete Miller, chairman, president and CEO of National Oilwell Varco, pointed out how to get it right in the shale plays at the IADC Annual General Meeting on 11 November in San Antonio, Texas. Following a discussion of some of the technologies that it will take to continue to render shale plays as economic, Mr Miller sparked audience interest by pointing out that instituting automation could be a huge benefit in these plays. “I think we can run these rigs without people…not that we would,” said Mr Miller. “But the automation will allow (actions) to take place simultaneously. It makes a lot of sense.”

Remarking that the shale plays are absolutely the most exciting thing going on in this industry, Mr Miller offered an overview of what it takes in terms of technology and know-how to successfully unlock the shales. The economic object is to offset the steep decline curve on these wells with a long, steady tail of drilling and production. The driller must address particular needs that include equipment, rigs, horsepower, coiled-tubing units, water disposal, pad drilling and transmission. In Europe, noise abatement will be added to the list.

Thus far, fluids and bit technology have carried the day in terms of economics in the shale plays, according to Mr Miller. However, the industry will need to employ new technologies and methods to push ahead, such as andereamers, turbo torque, lighter and smaller equipment, higher level controls, top drives, advanced drilling solutions, collaborative framework, and wire drill pipe. Andereamers are a new technology that allows one to drill a traditional horizontal hole and then open the hole to create a larger space through which production can flow. Turbo torque offers a method of reducing the number of revolutions needed to rotate the pipe or the bit to four or five from 10 or 12, reducing drilling time.

Surface equipment will be lighter weight and smaller than before for use in ecologically sensitive and urban areas. There will be an increase in driller and rig control functions and receipt of more incoming well information. Top drives will see increased use to effectively control drilling in horizontal wells. Also, there will exist a highly collaborative framework that will help operators achieve their well manufacturing objective on an advanced drilling systems basis. Wire drill pipe will deliver much more information from downhole, including seismic data, where the best permeability can be found, etc. Every rig will be connected on a real-time basis.

Who wants in these shales? There is a remarkable lineup of participants like Total CNOOC, Statoil and BP. They don’t want in for the US production, says Mr Miller, but rather to learn from the companies working in the US plays and take that knowledge to the rest of the world. While skeptics, environmentalists and politicians represent some concern, the shales, according to Mr Miller, will be important to our industry for quite some time.

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