Chasing real solutions

Audrey Leon

January 1, 2017

Audrey Leon speaks with MJ Hellail, president and CEO of Samoco Oil Tools, to discuss a few of the fit-for-purpose technologies the new firm has launched.

Samoco Oil Tool’s Houston facility. Photos from Samoco Oil Tools.

It is often easy for research and development to go by the wayside during a downturn in the oil and gas industry. But, innovation must continue keep operations safe and lower costs.

“One of the good things about the oil and gas industry – we are very innovative,” says MJ Hellail, Samoco’s president and CEO. “We have some great brains that come up with solutions that don’t have to compromise safety.”

Houston’s Samoco Oil Tools, an offshoot of PISC International, aims to solve unique problems for its clients by providing fit-for-purpose technology, both large and small.

Samoco, formed in 2014 and helmed by Hellail, has launched tools aimed at cutting environmental risks during drilling operations as well as saving time and money for critical BOP testing.

Hellail, who has spent the majority of his 28-year career in procurement, logistics and manufacturing, saw an opportunity to dive into research and development and become a solution provider.

One solution Hellail is proud of took only eight weeks to develop. A Houston-based rig manufacturer reached out to Samoco in need of a zero spill solution to mud handling equipment on the rig floor. The result was a tool that integrates the existing mud handling systems on the rig within the iron roughneck, which is responsible for making up or breaking down the drill pipe. With the pneumatic mud bucket integrated into the iron roughneck (BIMB – Built-in Mud Bucket), Hellail says, when the pipe is in location to be broken up, the mud bucket then surrounds the pipe and mud goes into the bucket, straight into the mud system and back through circulation.

MJ Hellail

“Environment was a driver behind this innovation,” Hellail says, “But, another aspect of it was time savings and how to reduce cost. Operators are looking for ways to improve on overall cost of drilling a well.”

Additionally, Samoco has launched a tool aimed at reducing the time and cost associated with downtime that often occurs with critical BOP testing. Hellail says that Samoco was approached by an international operator that was looking for a solution that allows them to continue complying with federal regulations, which require three tests to be conducted on the firm’s subsea BOPs every 14 days. The downtime associated with the testing was costly.

The test involved include ensuring that the BOP can close on both the largest and smallest pipes using the variable bore ram in the well, as well as performing the shear test.

“Currently, the best anyone can do is perform two trips to test, separately,” Hellail says. “Our solution is the One-Trip tool. It goes in and performs all three tests at the same time in one trip. If the test results are not satisfactory, the operator can reconnect while still downhole inside the BOP cavity and test again and again until they get the proper results.”

For this tool, development took about a year and a half because of all the engineering and testing required, which was accomplished in collaboration with the operator’s engineers, Hellail says. Some of the challenges encountered included ensuring that the seal design held the required pressure experienced downhole at the subsea level.

Another was ensuring that the tool had the ability to hold enough weight under it without having to force the operator to pull everything out of the hole as they perform the test, Hellail says. “That was another challenge because the locking mechanism had to be able to hold enough weight and maintain the tool enact while the test is being performed,” he adds.

Hellail says that the One-Trip tool was proved up to 25,000psi of testing pressure and 15,000 of working pressure. After its deployment, the operator was able to save an average 12 hours per test (cutting the time in half), and an average of $600,000 every two weeks when the test was performed during the drilling campaign, Hellail says. The tool arrived on location in April 2016 and was in operation in August of that year.