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Challenges outlined in directional drilling through salt in deepwater GOM

With the Lower Tertiary trend continuing to gain prominence, especially in the Gulf of Mexico, associated issues related to the difficulty of drilling through salt layers have surfaced as well. During Wednesday morning’s Deepwater I technical session, Rias Israel of Schlumberger discussed challenges faced and lessons learned by two major deepwater GOM operators, BP and Chevron, in directional salt drilling. Schlumberger provided the directional service.

Salt drilling is problematic for many reasons, one being the salt’s ability to move, or “creep,” into newly drilled wellbore. Therefore, thorough well planning will be a key factor in successfully drilling directionally through difficult salt formations, Mr Israel said. Even the zone above the salt will demand caution. The area is typically stressed due to the way the salt has migrated over time. Risks of wellbore stability issues and losses are always present and must be carefully monitored, he said. Several challenges seen in previous GOM experiences, plus possible solutions, were given:

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New IADC committee to work toward guidelines for rig automation

Advanced Rig Tech CommitteeThe IADC Advanced Rig Technology Committee held its inaugural meeting on Wednesday during the 2008 IADC/SPE Drilling Conference. One of the group’s goals is to develop guidelines/best practices for automated drilling systems.

The new IADC Advanced Rig Technology Committee plans to work toward guidelines and best practices for automated drilling systems, as well as examine standard methods of reporting reliability problems with advanced rig equipment. The committee held its inaugural meeting during the 2008 IADC/SPE Drilling Conference in Orlando on 5 March.

Automated drilling systems are increasingly common, though hardly universal, in today’s rig fleet. However, reliability can be problematic, due to human, mechanical and electrical issues.

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Norman Warpinski named 2008 SPE Drilling and Completion Award winner

Warpinski AwardFord Brett, SPE technical director – drilling and completions, presents the 2008 Drilling and Completion Award to Norman R. Warpinski, chief technology officer, Pinnacle, on Wednesday at the 2008 IADC/SPE Drilling Conference in Orlando, Fla.

Norman R. Warpinski, chief technology officer, Pinnacle, was awarded the SPE Drilling and Completion Award on Wednesday, 5 March, at the 2008 IADC/SPE Drilling Conference.

“Norm is a known pioneer in the advancement of hydraulic fracturing through the development of fracture diagnostic technologies, including micro-seismic mapping, which has really changed the way that people understand how fractures work,” said Ford Brett, SPE technical director-drilling and completions, in bestowing the award. “And it’s very important, because over half the wells in the world are fracced.”

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Plenary panelists call for simplification in drilling, completions

Opening Wednesday’s plenary session, “Technology: The Key to Finding and Producing Difficult Hydrocarbons,” session moderator Charlie Williams of Shell International E&P Technology noted that the industry is facing two types of “difficulties” in difficult hydrocarbons. One is the physical location of the remaining hydrocarbons – whether in ultra-deepwater, in HPHT environments or the Arctic. The other is the hydrocarbon’s very nature, and recovery of enhanced and unconventional hydrocarbons still requires improvement, said Mr Williams, Shell chief scientist, well engineering, production technology.

The first panelist, Hesketh Streeter, vice president – energy consulting for Latin America for Wood Mackenzie, examined the risk management aspect of producing difficult hydrocarbons. There’s no doubt the industry has dramatically improved the way it manages risk over the past decade, he said, “but are we doing enough?”

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NOC drilling activities lead to Eastern Hemisphere investments for Varel

Varel International’s Varel Europe subsidiary, the base of the company’s Eastern Hemisphere operations, has announced the expansion of its PDC drill bit manufacturing facility in Tarbes, France, and the addition of applications engineering personnel to regional offices.

The Tarbes facility’s square meterage has been doubled, enabling the implementation of “lean manufacturing” flow lines to reduce the average time required to deliver a PDC bit. Sales in the East have especially fueled Varel’s growth in the last few years — more than half of the company’s total revenue now comes from Eastern Hemisphere sales.

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Thursday plenary session to map industry future on people, processes

On Thursday, 6 March, the plenary session will focus on “Roadmap to the Future: People and Processes.”

Moderated by Ford Brett, president of Petroskills Oil and Gas Consultants International, the session will discuss how the industry can accelerate the competency curve for the thousands of new-hires and what processes and methods will be developed to sustain growth to 2015. Panelists are:

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More than 1,300 pre-registered for 2008 IADC/SPE Drilling Conference in Orlando

More than 1,500 drilling and completion  professionals had registered for the 2008 IADC/SPE Drilling Conference in Orlando, Fla., by the end of the first day on 4 March. Opening-day technical sessions covered HSE, performance drilling, completions, fluid technology, tubulars and rig equipment.

The kick-off plenary session explored the challenges of managing operating costs for D&C operations. Titled “Operating Costs: Validation, Consequences and Solutions,” the session was moderated by Paul R Goodfellow, regional wells manager-Americas, Shell E&P Americas. (See below article for more information.) 

The 2008 IADC/SPE Drilling Conference continues through Thursday, 6 March. A preview of Wednesday’s program begins below.

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IADC chairman calls for operator-contractor-service company collaboration

John LindsayIADC chairman John Lindsay, executive vice president – US and international operations for Helmerich & Payne, called for collaboration and team-building among operators, drilling contractors and service firms to maximize profits. High prices for oilfield services are inevitable when demand stands near all-time highs, he said in opening remarks prior to Tuesday’s Plenary Session I. The goal should be to ensure the total well cost is lower.

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Rising costs take center stage at opening-day plenary session

 2008 IADC/SPE Drilling Conference chairman Rodney Eads of Pride International (at podium) introduces the expert panel at the conference's opening-day plenary session on 4 March in Orlando, Fla.

Titled “Operating Cost: Validation, Consequences and Solution,” the conference’s opening plenary session on Tuesday brought together five industry experts to discuss rising drilling costs, the impact of those cost increases, and how lessons learned can be applied to the future. Paul R Goodfellow, regional wells manager – Americas for Shell E&P Americas served as moderator.

While a service company’s discretionary costs can be cut down, said William Coates, Schlumberger president North America, other costs – such as people – are embedded and can’t be rolled back, he said.

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Schlumberger-TESCO offer directional casing while drilling

Most casing while drilling (CwD) is done by attaching a non-retrievable bit to the bottom of the casing and leaving the bit in the hole. Directional casing while drilling (DCwD) uses a steerable BHA that is retrieved, making DCwD a viable alternative to conventional directional drilling in depleted or mature fields that have severe lost-circulation and wellbore stability problems, said Schlumberger during a press conference held at its exhibit booth on Tuesday.

Well construction in mature fields with standard drillpipe sometimes requires extra casing strings to avoid well stability problems caused by depleted formation pressures. Because they improve wellbore stability, the DCwD techniques developed through collaboration between Schlumberger and TESCO may reduce the number of casing strings needed.

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