Streamlining Shale Drilling

Oil majors and startups have unleashed new advanced drilling aids for quicker, cheaper and more efficient operations, starting with ExxonMobil.
By Luke Geiver | May 07, 2017

ExxonMobil system makes every driller better
A single drilling rig capable of creating the long-reach laterals present in North America’s major shale plays can drill roughly the same number of wells today as two or three drilling rigs operating two years.

A single drilling rig currently deployed in one of North America’s major shale plays can drill double the footage in the same amount of time as a rig could in service two years ago. That drilling efficiency increase, present in plays from Texas to Pennsylvania, can be attributed to greater reservoir knowledge and modeling, rig deck communications gains and to technology like ExxonMobil’s recently released Drilling Advisory System (DAS). The trademarked DAS combines high-end modeling of drilling physics with structured well planning to maximize performance while drilling a well.

Jeff Moss, a career driller for ExxonMobil who is currently a senior technical professional at its Upstream Research Co., helped to oversee the development and implementation of DAS. “The system takes real-time measurements and presents them to the rig operator, the one with his hand on the controls, so that he can be more efficient,” Moss says. “The system will tell the rig operator the optimum place to operate to maximize the rate of penetration and to help reduce the number of trips needed due to downhole tool damage,” he says.

The system is part of the company’s Fast Drill technology suite, which has improved ExxonMobil’s drilling rate by more than 80 percent since it was first introduced more than a decade ago. With the addition of DAS, the company says it has been able to improve its drilling performance at nine fields. 

Erika Biediger, drilling and subsurface technology manager for ExxonMobil Upstream Research Company, helped design and lead the global roll-out of the process. “With its automation, it [DAS] is doing math behind the scenes for the driller. It can eliminate the need for the driller to figure out on his or her own the inefficiencies down hole,” Biediger says.

Reducing the inefficiencies that occur 8,000 feet below surface helps to streamline the drilling process by reducing the time to reach from spud to total depth, and, according to Biediger, it saves the rig operations energy. “We found that if you drill more efficiently,” she says, “you are able to consume less energy to drill the same hole. If you have less vibrations downhole, you have less tool vulnerability.”

Although the system is highly complex and uses unique algorithms to enhance the drilling process, the system is rig agnostic and can be added to nearly any set-up. Training for the system is also relatively simple. In matter of minutes, a rig operator can learn how to utilize the system. If a rig team wants to better understand why the DAS is telling the team to perform certain actions, the system and training can be tweaked to do so, Moss says. “We can scale it based on a drilling experience. It can make a good driller very good and a bad driller pretty darn good,” Moss says.

ExxonMobil has chosen to license its DAS. Earlier this year, Pason Systems Inc., a drilling data provider, purchased a license. Pason worked with ExxonMobil through the development and field demonstration of the system. Marcel Kessler, president and CEO of Pason, says the DAS can significantly improve the efficiency and effectiveness of drilling operations.


Making life easier for drilling engineers
Mobilize, a data aggregation and analytics provider, is committed to making the lives of drilling engineers easier. The Texas-based firm has created several data interface solutions that take machine-based information and analyze the intel before repackaging into an easy-to-read format capable of pushing decisions or driving infield actions. According to Chris James, customer service manager for Mobilize, as drilling rig activity picks up, the time of drilling engineers becomes more valuable.

Mobilize has created an interface system that compares drilling performance from well-to-well or pad-to-pad. The system allows engineers and interested parties to monitor rig performance. “If a system is underperforming, an engineer will get an alert and then be able to inform the rig crew,” James says. In addition to helping the engineers understand the best times to trip pipe, the system can also indicate how to reduce slide percentages when drilling the lateral. Today, the data is only specific to individual companies, but in the future, Mobilize hopes to form drilling consortiums so that may provide a more comprehensive set of data explaining trends and norms for drilling operations in the U.S. generated from rig-centric data.

Author: Luke Geiver
Editor, North American Shale magazine