Since people started drilling for commercial quantities of oil in the 19th century, the exploration and production oil and gas industry has been constantly coming up with innovative and bolder ways to tap hydrocarbon resources around the world.
As technology advanced, exploration and production started to extend into offshore areas. Deepwater drilling and production is an essential part of global oil and gas supply these days.
In the United States, the major drilling innovation of the past decades—horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing—has advanced the production of oil and natural gas from shale formations. Fracking technology has boosted shale production so much that the United States has recently surpassed Russia and Saudi Arabia to become the world’s largest oil producer.
At the same time, the latest oil industry downturn which began with the price crash of 2014 has prompted all companies in the supply chain—from equipment providers to oilfield services providers to the oil and gas supermajors—to look for ways to innovate their onshore and offshore drilling and design processes so as to make their operations feasible and profitable in a world that may never see oil prices at $100 a barrel again.
Most recently, the oil and gas industry has been combining decades of drilling expertise with the latest digital innovations—AI, machine learning, robotics, automation—to reduce downtime and costs and boost efficiencies in drilling and completions.
At the latest major oil and gas industry conferences and exhibitions, many companies—both large and small-sized—were awarded for their innovations in drilling.
The Offshore Technology Conference (OTC)—the annual gathering in Houston typically held in early May each year—awarded a number of companies in its 2018 edition for innovative technology and solutions in drilling.
The Spotlight on New Technology® Award was handed out to 16 companies, while two others were honoured with the Spotlight Small Business Awards.
The awarded companies included Aegion Coating Services, producer of ACS™ HT-200 ultra-high temperature subsea wet insulation system for pipelines, risers, field joints, and subsea equipment with operating temperatures up to 204 °C (400 °F), and Ampelmann, producer of N-type, the only motion-compensated gangway system of its kind in operation. Baker Hughes, a GE company (BHGE), won two awards—for the TerrAdapt™ adaptive drill bit, which autonomously adjusts DOC to mitigate stick/slip and expand the smooth drilling window with no surface interaction, and for the DEEPFRAC™ deepwater multi-stage fracturing service, which uses tools and techniques perfected in unconventional plays to improve the efficiency and economics of offshore completions.
Delmar Systems was awarded for its RARPLUS™ technology, which allows drilling rigs to completely release from their moorings within minutes to evade ice floes, cyclonic storms, well emergencies, or to simply increase rig move efficiency. Dril-Quip grabbed an award for HFRe™ - Hands Free Marine Drilling Riser System, Expro won the award for its Next Generation Landing Strings (NGLS) subsea well intervention.
Halliburton won awards for its GeoBalance® Automated Managed Pressure Drilling (MPD) System and for the Azimuthal Lithodensity (ALD™) logging-while-drilling (LWD) service. LORD Corporation was distinguished for its 10K Completion Workover Riser Flexible Joint, while NOV won two awards, for the industry’s only reflexive drilling system NOVOS™ and for the Seabox™ concept which makes it possible to treat seawater at the seabed, providing high quality water for reservoir pressure support. Oceaneering International was awarded for its self-contained, battery-powered remotely operated vehicle system E-ROV, which is capable of operating for extended periods of time without being recovered to surface. Oliden Technology won an award for its GeoFusion 475 Laterolog Resistivity and Imaging LWD tool, and Teledyne Marine was distinguished for its FlameGuard™ P5-200 fire-resistant electrical penetrator which reduces risk to personnel and assets.
The two Small Business Awards went to CoreAll, producer of Intelligent Coring System, the first core drilling technology to provide real time transmission of formation evaluation data to surface, and to Luoyang Wire Rope Inspection Technology Co., Ltd., for its TCK.W Automatic Real-time Online Wire Rope Inspection System.
At the end of August in Stavanger, ONS 2018—one of the largest networking events in the energy industry held every other year since 1974—handed out the Innovation Awards to Interwell P&A and to Typhonix. Interwell P&A won the Innovation Award for “Thermite P&A Barrier”, an innovative and rig-less approach to well abandonment, while Typhonix won the SME Innovation Award for “Typhoon Valve System”, an innovative low shear valve technology.
Apart from innovative drilling technology and services, the oil and gas industry is increasingly using the power of Big Data, cloud computing, smart drilling, digital twins, and digital oilfields to improve drilling and enhance oil recovery.
In one of the latest such ventures, one of the world’s largest oil and gas companies, ExxonMobil, teamed up with tech giant Microsoft to use cloud computing platforms and data analytics to boost production and profitability at its operations in the Permian Basin in the US, the fastest-growing shale producing region in the world. Exxon will use mobile field data apps to optimise well performance, as well as AI algorithms to analyse drilling and completions data to improve performance.
In the UK, the Oil and Gas Technology Centre (OGTC), supports predictive digital company Akselos to advance research and development in digital twin technology for the oil and gas industry. Akselos will generate Digital Twins of pressure vessels within the OGTC robotics program, in order to produce more accurate predictions for maintenance and inspection. Data and outcomes will be made available when the project finishes in June. Akselos VP John Bell said:
“The OGTC is of crucial importance to the future of the UKCS. This partnership will consolidate our efforts to bring value to the UK oil and gas industry with world-class emerging digital technology. We look forward to collaborating with the asset integrity team at the OGTC to address these significant challenges for operators.”
The evolution of digital twins in subsea operations - By Alan Whooley, Subsea Manager, Wood