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The drilling industry is entering a world of new challenges and new technologies, said Dr Kurt Reinicke of the Clausthal University of Technology Institute of Petroleum Engineering in his keynote address at the World Drilling 2008 Conference. Global energy consumption has increased by 25% over the last 10 years, driven mainly by a growing population, economic growth and rising prosperity around the world. Demand will continue to rise, and oil and natural gas will remain critical energy sources for the near future.

Although there remains an abundance of resources to exploit, the time of easy oil is over, he said. Extracting the remaining hydrocarbons – reserves in deepwater, ultra-deep below the earth, the Arctic, EOR, heavy oil and bitumen, oil shales, etc – will become increasingly challenging and complex, requiring modern technologies at higher prices. Analysts, including the International Energy Agency (IEA), have already predicted a gap between supply and demand by 2030, he said.

New drilling opportunities to bring new requirements, expectations

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Already, the world is starting to see the first effects of supply worries, most visibly in the price of crude oil. In May 2008, oil hit above $125/bbl – and it was only 10 years ago in December 1998 when a barrel of oil cost less than $10. Consequences since the price increases have been seen in mergers between large companies, downsizings, budget cuts, etc.

Uncertainty about the future of the oil price are expected to continue keep prices high. This will not only increase activities for oil and gas, it will also boost industry efforts on other sources such as geothermal. This means new drilling opportunities will be opened up for the industry in areas like harsh environments, ultra-deepwater, geothermal drilling, coiled tubing drilling, CO2 sequestration, and residual and bypassed oil.

These drilling opportunities, however, will come with different requirements and customer expectations. For example, they will require drilling in harsh environments such as HPHT, drilling for small deposits and in mature fields, and drilling in hard, hot rock for geothermal wells. These types of drilling will doubtlessly require different approaches by drilling contractors in order to fulfill customer expectations, such as lower cost, lower environmental impact, and safe and flawless operations.

In closing, Dr Reinicke discussed the Clausthal University’s ongoing work with Geothermal Energy and Drilling Technology (GEBO), a collaborative project with the industry. Goals include:

  • • Extending the range of applicability of modern drilling technology to HPHT.
  • • Improving economics of geothermal projects.
  • • Reducing well construction costs by 50%.

Looking at the distribution of well construction costs of German post-2000 gas wells, rig-related costs accounted for less than 40% of the total, with large increases seen for casing and well head costs. Successful cost reduction will require an integrated effort, he said.

No doubt the goals of the project are ambitious, he noted, but “we have a vision, and we’ll try to realize that vision as much as possible.”

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