Motive™ Drilling Technologies explains how its automated Directional Drilling Bit Guidance System can help make better decisions and improve performance.
One of the most significant problems identified by oil and gas operators in unconventional plays is the inability to follow a prescribed well path consistently, and to hit and stay within the targets identified by geologists, geophysicists, and engineers. One key reason is that directional drilling technology lags behind other technical advances that have driven the tremendous growth in horizontal drilling.
To address this problem, Motive™ Drilling Technologies developed a Directional Drilling Bit Guidance System automating decision-making at the rig. Automated decision-making has been used for making medical decisions, for automatically piloting cars and planes, for manufacturing, shipping, missile guidance, and much more. Over the past five years, Motive has applied automated decision-making protocols to the development of its bit-guidance system, and subsequently to the drilling of over 2 million feet (600 km) of horizontal and extended reach wells for over a dozen oil and gas companies across North America.
Use of the system, the company says, has resulted in wells drilled with more consistency, in less time, with more accuracy, with more production potential, and in some cases, with fewer personnel. “Drilling rates today are so fast that even the best directional drillers simply do not have the time to perform all the necessary calculations required to make the absolute best directional drilling decisions. As a result, the performance of directional drillers is often quite variable, costing the industry billions of dollars each year due to slower drilling speed, increased tortuosity, and lost production potential,” explained Motive’s VP for marketing and business development, Bill Chmela.
Intuition vs. Computation While drilling horizontal wells, directional drilling experts must make quick decisions determining when to rotate the entire drill string, and when to adjust the direction of the drill string by sliding. These decisions are based upon numerous inputs including bit-walk tendencies, motor yields, anti-collision guidelines, dogleg severity, and future production consequences related to deviation from the target path. In real-time, the directional driller continuously analyses data including gamma ray logs, hook load, surface torque, pump pressures, flow rates, trajectory measurements, distance to nearby wells, and much more. Good directional drillers rely upon expertise developed over many years. This results in an environment where most directional drilling decisions are made quickly, based on the individual’s experience and an acquired intuition. The best directional drillers also know when they must move beyond intuition and use more geometrical computations to make good decisions. However, this belief in intuition can often override practical decision-making in situations where computational analysis may offer better results. This unwillingness to adapt behaviour contributes to the variation in performance often seen while drilling horizontal wells.
The Bit Guidance System developed by Motive™ Drilling Technologies uses a high-performance computer to provide a more data-driven, automated decision-making process, delivering the necessary improvement in directional drilling performance. As a foundation for better decisions, the system automatically performs standard directional drilling calculations previously done by the directional driller, but does so continuously and faster than a human can do.
In addition, the system provides a vast amount of additional analysis, automatically offering the driller step-by-step slide/rotate guidance based on both dynamic analysis and parameters set by the operator. This guidance is communicated to the driller with an intuitive simple display located on the rig floor. The machine can run calculations on millions of possibilities and permutations that a human cannot do, thereby making the best decision to maximise value. The system projects into the future – including calculations such as total drilling time, lost-time risk, and future production potential based on well proximity to the initial target – a degree of analysis rarely considered by human directional drillers. Additionally, tortuosity of the well bore is factored into each directional decision to reduce torque and drag, enable higher drilling rates, extend the maximum reach of laterals and reduce sumps in the lateral that can affect production efficiency. Drilling parameters can also be set according to a particular region, meaning the operator can ensure that the decisions being made on-site are in line with the objectives of the asset manager – rather than at the discretion of each individual driller. The system will continuously adjust the guidance based on driller’s actions and provides real-time feedback to enhance the driller’s performance. In turn, this automation consistently improves the driller’s ability to maximise value to the operator, independent of their level of experience.
Total transparency The graph of Operational Efficiency below shows the results of a case study designed to test the system for a client drilling in the Eagle Ford basin. Two identical rigs were mobilised in the same area and drilled four wells each. One rig used Motive’s decision-automation tool, while the other rig drilled without. All other parameters were the same including bit, BHA, and well paths. The rig using automation drilled 25% faster and with twice the accuracy. The system does not completely automate every single task of the directional driller, but the computational power of the system combined with the experience and intuition of the directional driller provides oil and gas operators with the best opportunity for consistent performance at higher levels while mitigating risk. The possibilities offered by these technologies have profound implications for how future drilling operations may work. With the introduction of decision automation, new roles may need to be defined, and an emphasis on change management and new technology acceptance within industry is critical. Yet, the rewards are great. In addition to the performance gains on an individual well basis, the expertise of the best directional drillers can now be scaled. With the system performing all the heavy computational lifting, a single expert directional driller can now guide multiple wells at one time, all from a single location. With this distributed system, the entire decision making team (on the rig and in the office) is continuously informed of past, current, and dynamically-planned future directional drilling activities using automated reporting, email, and text notifications, freeing the directional driller to perform other tasks. The system provides this transparency through 2D and 3D visualisation interfaces, available through both a browser and iPad app. By providing complete directional drilling transparency to the entire team regardless of location, the system returns operational control back to the operator and provides better utilization of the best directional drillers. Just as decision-automation is helping doctors provide better treatments and cars to be safer, Motive’s technology has been proven to improve the performance and consistency of drilling horizontal wells in today’s tough environment.
Testimonial "Truthfully there was doubt on the part of some of our technical team during our early relationship with the Motive team. Over a short time though that scepticism gave way to confidence that the platform truly does improve the directional drilling process by navigating the optimal path and is therefore an important contributor to our improved performance. The graphical drillers' panel interface conveys the state of operations and directional control in a way that speaks clearly to our team of drilling engineers, rig-site personnel and geoscientists to improve confidence that lateral sections are being steered within planned windows. We are pleased to have partnered with the Motive team in the early development of the product and have now adopted it as an integral part of our DD kit."
Ken Topolinsky, Senior Vice President, Engineering & Applied Technology Hunt Oil Company