May 2021 /// Vol 242 No. 5


Drilling advances

Just talk among yourselves

Jim Redden, Contributing Editor

“What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.” Anyone of a certain age likely recognizes that iconic quote from the 1967 classic, “Cool Hand Luke.” As movies often define the era in which they’re produced, how would that quote fit in a reboot reflecting today’s increasingly digitalized and cloud-connected world, and in a further debasement of entertainment value, what if the setting was changed from a prison chain gang to a multi-well drilling pad in West Texas? To be more attuned to the time and place, we find that quote taking on an entirely different meaning, especially since much of the conversation is between machines.

Occidental Petroleum’s William Turner suggests an updated quote should be amended as “failure to communicate effectively,” which in his view, begins with actually limiting verbal interactions and embracing cloud-based technologies. “These are generally available cloud solutions that any group can readily employ. It’s really about day-to-day communications and how we’ve been able to help groups focus. We’ve stopped communicating about how to communicate, and we didn’t realize how much we were doing that until we started using these new systems,” said the drilling supervisor for the Permian Delaware business unit.

Regardless of how you do it, Troy Oney, a Helmerich & Payne account manager, said all of the moving parts of a drilling operation must be aligned to enhance efficiency, namely faster ROP. “Each of these aspects has to be linked to where you can communicate where the possibilities for failure are, and where the possibilities for success are,” he said.

Turner and Oney were among presenters giving their perspectives on how “Effective Communications Drives Well Delivery,” as part of a quarterly virtual IADC Drilling Engineering Committee (DEC) technology forum on March 24.

In the cloud. Over the past year, the Oxy drilling and completions group has relied on cloud-based applications, which Turner says has streamlined operations by cutting down on endless streams of emails, phone calls, meetings, duplicate documents and the like. Easily accessible online file storage, teams communications, and notes apps give properly vetted stakeholders secure 24/7 access from any device, where they can concentrate strictly on targeted well(s).

“A main advantage is improved organization and focus,” Turner said. “Instead of having to communicate with everyone about everything, you can communicate directly with people who have a common scope of work. People can opt in for communications on a single rig, for example, and they’ll see just what they need to. There’s a lot of wasted time when people have to absorb communication that really isn’t intended for them.”

As the name implies, a team communication application, which can be established with either internal or external channels, enables applicable personnel to virtually discuss an ongoing operation and share pertinent images and files, anytime and anywhere. “It organically reduces meetings, because you have just one ongoing meeting. You don’t have to call or send individual emails, as everyone pertinent has opted in for what is basically a 24/7 meeting,” he said.

Replacing shared folders, which are all-too-often accidentally deleted or removed, the online file storage app, while physically separate from the team communications channel, can be linked to an active rig, for instance. There, the files can be accessed and updated in real time, thereby avoiding duplications and enabling backup recovery of files complete with version history. The notes app consolidates all relevant best practices and reference guides, eliminating the need for engineers and other personnel to sort through stacks of documents. “When you set up those channels for online file storage, make sure you press your IT group for enough space. Think in terms of terabytes, because there’s a tremendous amount of documents operators receive,” he said.

Leveling silos. Meanwhile, Oney said when it comes to initiatives aimed at enhancing ROP, one of the biggest obstacles that contractors face is the custodial attitude between interrelated components when it comes to information sharing. “The big challenge in the industry is the attitude that ‘I’m the owner of that information and you need to come through me to get it,’ “ he said. “I like the idea of all information running through one system or one area, though it would be cumbersome to have one group forward information and share it out.”

Sometimes lost in efforts to enhance drilling efficiency is having a clear line of information sharing between the contractor, myriad service providers and the operator. The interactions of every mechanism, including details on all surface and downhole hardware, ancillary services and geological data, contribute in some form or fashion to higher sustainable ROP and need to be communicated clearly, he said.

“One of the hardest things to get your hands around is the software side. How well does the rig operating system work within your objectives? Can you plug in a downhole interaction with the rotary steerable or can you change the WOB (weight on bit) or RPMs for a steerable system through automation,” he said?

The growth in ostensibly collaborative remote operating centers raises another question when it comes to free-flowing communication streams. “We’re seeing more and more remote operating centers cropping up among operators, as well as inside contractors and service providers. But are these centers talking to each other and communicating what they see downhole that can impact the operation of each other,” he concluded.

The Authors ///

Jim Redden is a Houston-based consultant and a journalism graduate of Marshall University, has more than 38 years of experience as a writer, editor and corporate communicator, primarily on the upstream oil and gas industry.

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