Schotman: Innovation most needed in replicable, tailored solutions to well construction

Posted on 30 January 2013

Industry has built wells in the same way since the 1970s, which translates into opportunity for innovation, Gerald Schotman, EVP, Innovation, R&D and Chief Technology Officer, Royal Dutch Shell, said in an exclusive interview with Drilling Contractor at the Shell Innovation Summit on 9 January in Houston. “I think there is room for step-changes.”

Industry has built wells in the same way since the 1970s, which translates into opportunity for innovation, Gerald Schotman, EVP, Innovation, R&D and Chief Technology Officer, Royal Dutch Shell, said in an exclusive interview with Drilling Contractor at the Shell Innovation Summit on 9 January in Houston. “I think there is room for step-changes.”

By Katherine Scott, associate editor

Replication and standardization can create more space for industry to learn and innovate, Gerald Schotman, EVP, innovation, R&D and chief technology officer for Royal Dutch Shell, suggested in an exclusive interview with Drilling Contractor at the Shell Innovation Summit on 9 January in Houston. “The world is moving in two different, more segmented directions. There are big wells like the ones in the Gulf of Mexico, and then there are unconventional gas wells that can be drilled in a shorter amount of time.”

Such segmentation of oil and gas operations is calling for innovation that will bring about tailored solutions in well construction and reduce nonproductive time. “In terms of technology, we have been building wells in the same way since the 1970s,” he said. “And in the business of drilling these wells, there are too many things which wear and tear off the drill bit, resulting in too much nonproductive time. I think there is room for step-changes.”

In June 2011, Shell set up a joint venture (JV) with China National Petroleum Corporation  (CNPC) to develop a highly automated well manufacturing system to significantly improve the efficiency of drilling and completing onshore wells. The project focuses on using bespoke machines to drill and complete different phases of the well in a manufacturing-like mode, according to Mr Schotman. “It’s about making rigs which can’t do everything. They can do two or three things very well and have tailored capabilities to what is needed rather than all the extras.”

Going forward, Mr Schotman believes automation will be key to improving drilling and completions because of its ability to replicate a task. “You have minimum reliance on staff from a handling, steering and design perspective. It brings the cost down, it makes things very predictable and repetitive, and it take drillers away from places where we would like to have them as minimally as possible.” Automation, too, can help industry understand the relationship between drill bit vibrations and the drill collar, thereby preventing nonproductive time, a significant challenge in drilling large deepwater wells, Mr Schotman said.

Although innovations like the well manufacturing system don’t happen overnight, Mr Schotman said he sees opportunities for breakthrough innovations in both offshore and unconventional wells. “You start with an application; it won’t be perfect but you’ll learn a lot, and if you have a replication plan, you can see the first and the second attempt as an investment,” he said. “Right now, for instance, we’re looking at how we can configure smaller and smaller wells. These things take years to develop, but we give it time. The probability that it’s ultimately successful is smaller because you’ll find all kinds of headaches as you develop the solution, but if it works, it works big.”

However, innovation is not just about the end goal, he stressed. Industry should embrace “transitional logic,” he urged, which means that for any idea to be fully realized, there has to be a period of change. For example, industry should invest in specialized new areas like unconventional gas drilling in China, where a modern infrastructure is lacking. “We should be a little more brave as an industry. It will pay off.”

Leave a Reply

*

FEATURED MICROSITES


Recent Drilling News

  • 29 September 2014

    Rosneft discovers oil in Kara Sea

    Rosneft successfully completed the drilling of the Universitetskaya-1 well in the Arctic – the northernmost well in the world, according to the company, and discovered oil at the East-Prinovozemelskiy-1 license area...

  • 26 September 2014

    Statoil and PL713 partners discover gas in Pingvin prospect in Barents Sea

    Statoil has together with PL713 partners made a gas discovery in the Pingvin prospect in the Barents Sea. The discovery is a play opener in an unexplored frontier…

  • 26 September 2014

    Maersk Drilling names fourth ultra-deepwater drillship, delivery expected in Q4

    Maersk Drilling’s fourth ultra-deepwater drillship was named Thursday morning in a ceremony at the Samsung Heavy Industries (SHI) shipyard in Geoje-Si...

  • 25 September 2014

    Eni awarded 3 new exploration licenses in Egypt

    Eni was the successful bidder of three new exploration licenses in Egypt as a result of the competitive 2013 EGPC and EGAS bid rounds. The new licenses will be formally awarded after the ratification...

  • 25 September 2014

    Petrobras finds gas in Sergipe-Alagoas Basin

    While drilling extension well 3-BRSA-1022-SES (3-SES-181), Petrobras discovered gas. Poço Verde 1 well, 58 km off the coast of Aracaju, is in the Poço Verde Discovery Evaluation Plan area...

  • Read more news