Is the industry on the brink of a step-change in technology development, featuring digital solutions? Do downturns truly drive innovation? Why is our industry slow to adopt new methods and technologies?
These were some of the topics explored by a panel held at Weatherford’s booth during the 2018 SPE Annual Technology Conference and Exhibition, held in Dallas in late September. IADC Group VP/Publisher Mike Killalea was interviewed by two co-hosts from the Oil & Gas Global Network, Patrick Pistor and Collin Mclelland, on the topic “Innovating While Drilling.” Innovating While Drilling is an IADC trademark used in conferences and in IADC’s official magazine Drilling Contractor as an umbrella for advances in drilling technology.
“Innovating While Drilling is a term we came up with at Drilling Contractor several years ago … to capture the essence of new and novel techniques and technologies, primarily downhole, but also on the surface,” Mr Killalea said.
He noted a recent shift in excitement and attention away from traditional “big iron” equipment to digital solutions. “If we were doing this two or three years ago…, we’d be talking about new pieces of iron, and in fact we are seeing some pretty impressive new equipment… in terms of rotary steerable systems….
“But what is exciting is the switch toward the digital, artificial intelligence, and machine learning.”
The panel also discussed industry’s slow pace of adopting new technology. Mr Killalea cited several reasons:
- Industry’s rural roots that produced an “oilfield solutions only” culture
- A fractured business model sustaining an adversarial relationship among operators, drilling contractors, and service/manufacturing firms that frustrates true goal alignment
- High consequences of failure, not only in terms of money, but for safety of workers and the environment
- The large number of downturns
Mr Killalea disputed the conventional wisdom that downturns drive innovation.
“I think it’s just because we have a lot of downturns,” he said.
He pointed to a strong positive correlation of patents vs oil price. Mr Killalea also noted that three new entrants into the rotary-steerable market were unveiled just this year, two at ATCE, largely in response to the continuing prosperity of Permian Basin and other unconventional drilling.