A Bit Of Shale Efficiency

By Luke Geiver | April 03, 2018

Of all the talked-about-topics in the shale industry since 2014 (excluding OPEC), none has been discussed more than this term that touches every segment of the industry: efficiency. To bring that term to life, and turn it into a tangible story, we reached out to a Fort Worth drilling technology firm that grew its operations during the height of the downturn.

Ulterra Drilling Technologies designs and fabricates unique drill bits for unconventional and conventional wells. From Fort Worth, Ulterra serves an array of firms that includes oil majors in Saudi Arabia to small wildcatters that drill one well every three months. Customer growth, and the company’s financials, started to increase during the downturn because that is when operators needed to start realizing efficiencies, says Maria Mejia, chief financial officer. “The downturn was definitely helpful to us because decision making became a question of ‘Who can make a difference for me now?’ and not ‘Who can make a difference for me two months from now,’” she says.

Ulterra's team harnessed the push for speed in reaching total depth. Five years ago, drillers could drill 20 to 40 feet an hour, but today, one hour of drill time with a bit from Ulterra or others that feature similar designs, can make it through 200 to 300 feet. To ensure faster drill times were not bogged down by the presence of increased drill cuttings, Ulterra increased the efficiency of their bits to move the cuttings. As you’ll find in the story, “Drilling At The Sharp End,” by Patrick C. Miller, the company’s success provides a real-life case study in what efficiency in the oilfield can look like.

Also this issue, we included perspective from energy analysts and experts that helped to define what the prospect of growth in shale energy production could be in the near- and long-term. While the future of shale energy production is on track for expansion, experts believe operator strategies used in the past will have to change. For growth, new ideas on appeasing a new investor sentiment, combined with the continued adoption of new technology is necessary, the experts say. Of course, the most talked about topic in shale—OPEC—will influence the future, but the idea of efficiency will continue to matter. In the end, the basics of global supply and demand appear to once again be in favor of shale’s expansion. In the story, “The Limit To Shale’s Growth,” on page 12, we led the piece with an image of the sky on purpose. After reading the story, you’ll see why.

Luke Geiver, EDITOR
North American Shale magazine