Top achievements in drilling technology

OE Staff

December 1, 2014

OE spoke with experts from Halliburton, Hess and Weatherford to answer the question:

“What have been the top achievements in drilling technology in the last five years?”

Hess Corp.

List provided by Dr. Neal Adams, adjunct faculty and research associate in petroleum engineering at the University of Houston.

Today’s search for energy often involves accessing multiple reservoirs with a single wellbore to economically produce hydrocarbons. Complex drilling and completion challenges must be managed to deliver a completed well with a reliable life expectancy. Developing new enabling technologies continues to be an important part of enhancing production and improving well delivery economics.

For example, multi-zone stimulation and sand control are required to deliver the value at one of Hess Corp.’s Gulf of Mexico offshore projects. The cost and complexity of remedial stimulation of these subsea wells requires the stimulation is done right the first time. Value is maximized when all zones can be delivered with a single trip multi-zone system. After evaluating several commercial systems for the ultra-deep completion, a new design for the casing size is underway and will be tested on land prior to offshore use.

In the onshore world of the Bakken in North Dakota, it was evident early in development that Hess needed multi-zone completions to be successful. Plug and perforation could deliver the number of zones, but not the efficiencies needed to satisfy well economics. We worked with vendors to design, test and deliver sliding sleeves to increase the number of completed zones to 18 to 40, instead of the 8 to 10 previously available. Hess takes learning like this and applies it globally. For example, technology developed for the Bakken is used to complete offshore wells in Denmark to further maximize well value.

The Tubular Bells development in the Gulf of Mexico. Photo from Hess Corp.

Drilling methods continue to evolve to create wellbore for environments with pore pressure and fracture gradient issues resulting in tight drilling windows. Hess uses enabling technologies such as underbalanced, managed pressure, and air drilling with low rheology drilling muds and cements to improve wellbore pressure control in more than half of our current projects. Another example of improved drilling methods is on-command expandable reamers for hole enlargement to help reduce equivalent circulating density during drilling and casing installation. The latest generations of rotary steerable tools improve our ability to more precisely place wellbores to maximize production with better reliability and reservoir evaluation telemetry.

Equipment reliability is a cornerstone of drilling and completion performance. Hess’ quality assurance program partners with contractors to align objectives and expectations to create a clear plan for controlled equipment deployment in the field. Continuous improvement methodology ensures the overall service delivery processes are actively assessed for opportunities based on industry performance data. This approach ensures reliability can be planned into the business while managing the reactive aspects inherent in well operations.

Operators face the challenge of engineering and integrating these capabilities into a well design for operations teams to deliver. A robust well delivery process organizes the technical work and leverages past learning to find the best engineering solutions to maximize the value of the well.

Matthew Isbell
serves as a drilling optimization advisor at Hess, specializing in drill bits and drilling optimization. He holds 26 drill bit patents and has published 23 technical papers. Isbell has held a number of drilling technology roles in R&D, field engineering, marketing and managerial roles.



XBAT azimuthal sonic and ultrasonic LWD. Image from Halliburton.


The drilling industry has seen two major inflection points in the last five years – proliferation of horizontal drilling linked to the growth of unconventional drilling and accessing complex reservoirs in deeper water environments. Both of these challenges have guided the key technology developments and applications.

The first major inflection point was the advent of horizontal drilling required to economically exploit the unconventional resources and the consequent development of drilling systems that were efficient, able to deliver high dog leg wellbores and highly reliable to avoid multiple trips into the wellbore. An additional feature has been systems that can drill the entire well trajectory in one run i.e. avoid downhole drilling assemblies that are specific to a hole section. This major development can be summarized as the High Dog Leg Rotary Steerable Drilling systems provided by various major service companies. The need for efficiency has also led to a resurgence of drilling mud motors (positive displacement motors), including customized high performance basin specific mud motors.

A related development has been the need for drill bits that are matched or aligned with these new drilling systems and a number of new drill bits have emerged especially for the high dog leg efficiency drilling.

The next major development has been the drive to acquire information in drilling time and not post drilling. This has led to the increase in measurements while drilling/ logging while drilling which in turn has supported well bore integrity and well bore stability during drilling operations. The most notable achievement has been the sonic and high resolution imaging LWD systems.

Another major development in the drilling world has been the move to complex geologies and Deepwater prospects where maximizing reservoir recovery through placing wells in the best spot has been challenging. A major sweep of developments in well placement tools (Geosteering tools) and planning tools has helped the industry make a step change in well economics. This is an area of continued rapid development where the reservoir models will evolve in real time as the well placement tools observe reservoir horizons.

The last and probably highest impact trend is moving from drilling tools to performance based matched drilling systems. A system involves the drill bit, the drilling bottomhole assembly (BHA) and the fluids (the mud system). This integrated approach has allowed the service providers to match the best systems, leverage on past knowledge and add a common consolidated planning platform, with technical experts to help reduce risk to the operators. The integrated drilling systems approach projects have in most cases outperformed standard discrete product-based projects. The integrated drilling systems will eventually lead to automated systems in the near future with access to global lessons learnt and technical expertise as well as address the critical industry need to reduce rig site personnel.

Akshay Sagar
is the global business manager for Drilling and Drilling Engineering Solutions for Halliburton (Sperry Drilling). Akshay looks after the Drilling Engineering Solutions (DES) group – Sperry’s latest integrated service offering. He also looks after the Directional Drilling portfolio and strategy and future roadmap. He received a Bachelor of Technology with a concentration in civil engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology in New Delhi and an MBA from the Rotterdam School of Management in Holland.



As drilling operations keep moving to deeper waters and more remote reservoirs, conventional means of downhole tool activation are unable to keep pace. Mechanical actuation via ball drop, shear pins or push-pull mechanisms means that tools may only be opened or closed one to two times before the entire bottomhole assembly (BHA) must be pulled to replace the equipment.

RFID technology. Photo from Weatherford.

Weatherford has called on its 80-year history of providing high-performance drilling tools to address the limitations of mechanical actuation. One area of focus is the development of drilling tools that are activated and controlled via radio frequency identification (RFID). Programming and pumping small RFID tags downhole to control equipment in the BHA provides several benefits to well construction, chief among them the ability to activate and deactivate a tool multiple times and on demand. The tool can thus remain in the hole for much longer than tools controlled by mechanical means, which improves drilling efficiency and lowers rig costs.

Weatherford’s RipTide RFID drilling reamer, for example, is the industry’s first high tech, intelligent underreamer. Fitted with RFID technology, this drilling underreamer is capable of being activated and deactivated on demand multiple times while tripping or drilling. The ability to control when the premium PDC cutter blocks are deployed during borehole enlargement operations is key to increasing drilling efficiency.

The JetStream RFID circulation sub builds on the success of the RipTide. With its RFID-activated circulating valve, the JetStream features essentially unlimited opening and closing capability, without the need for flow-restricting mechanical actuation devices such as ball seats. This provides full-bore pumping and improved hole cleanup at higher annular velocities.

Most recently, Weatherford introduced the RipTide RFID Rathole Killer, an underreamer based on the RipTide RFID technology but designed for placement between the BHA’s measurement-while-drilling (MWD) tools and the rotary-steerable system (RSS). Unlike the conventional RipTide reamer that is placed above the MWD assembly, the Rathole Killer is opened and closed via pump-cycle activation to underream the rathole section of the well. The tool’s position in the BHA allows for a significantly shorter rathole (to just a few meters above the RSS), without having to trip out of the well for a dedicated cleanout run.

These deepwater-proven technologies are actively being deployed in high-profile wells where performance, reliability and innovation are required. And because these tools contain pressure sensors, they can be actuated via pump cycle, a major benefit in deepwater and long-lateral wells that limit the effectiveness of ball drop-activated tools.

These tools also have the capability of recording drilling data via onboard accelerometers, pressure transducers and temperature sensors, making them from intelligent measurement and control devices. Weatherford continues to develop RFID-enabled versions of other tools that are currently mechanically activated, thus revolutionizing their use for drillers’ most demanding applications.

Eddie Valverde
is Weatherfords’s global product line manager, Performance Drilling Tools. He joined Weatherford in 2009 as Global Product Line Manager where he has spent the last five years developing and commercializing RFID enabled downhole drilling tools. He graduated from Stephen F. Austin State University, Nacogdoches Texas, in 1995. He began his oilfield career with Smith International and held various positions including International Sales Manager, Product Line Technical Specialist, and Regional Operations Manager.