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Monday morning quarterbacking is easy. Playing the game in the moment is far less so.

When looking back at past decisions, it can be tempting to say what the right course of action would have been at the time. The problem is that in the energy, mining and geotechnical sectors, we believe we have remediated the same traps that we inevitably continue to fall into.

It is common in the industry to blame poorly placed parent wells, incorrectly inverted seismic and operational mishaps in the field. Instead of blaming outside circumstances, however, a basic scientific approach to problem-solving is both practical and necessary. Unfortunately, this is not always the first course of action that comes to mind.

Facing industry challenges

There are a number of companies that claim to hold unconventional variables at bay and keep tight control over operations. However, they then attempt to explain away underproducing wells and champion frontrunners that carry a field's production.

These are complex, multivariate but ultimately still physical problems that require a careful approach and a steady leader who has the entire game in mind, not just a single quarter. Surface decisions impact reservoir performance, and the industry needs to properly invest in better understanding this relationship.

For example, investors want their funding to be directed toward acreage development to ensure they are drawing out the most oil in the most efficient manner. When a single well costs $5 million to drill and complete and dense development is being completed with multiple wells, it is reasonable to dedicate 10% to 20% of the budget to get a better view of the playing field and satisfy investors’ needs.

The history of operator relationships with service companies is one that ebbs and flows. Both have shareholders and need to drive profits, and both are essential for the success of U.S. energy independence. But now more than ever, it is important for all parties involved to remember that we are a team, and we all win together.

Identifying development opportunities

During this most recent economic downturn, ESG Solutions saw the opportunity to become a better teammate and be ready to make a measurable difference to operators and investors alike.

Operational technology - ESG Solutions
Deep Imaging's fluid placement is overlaid on ESG Solution's microseismic response in the real-time viewer. (Source: ESG Solutions/Deep Imaging)

One opportunity to be stronger came through acquisition. In May 2021, ESG Solutions was acquired by Deep Imaging, a fluid tracking company that uses electromagnetic (EM) sensors deployed in the field over the horizontal well, not on the pad, to determine the lateral location of the fluid and proppant slurry in the reservoir during fracturing.

This paired well with ESG Solutions’ surface and downhole capabilities. The company specializes in deploying sensors to define the mechanical change induced by hydraulic fracturing all through the reservoir. Together, ESG Solutions and Deep Imaging pushed their technology to real time to deliver more actionable data.

Both companies worked tirelessly with their operator partners to improve their equipment and—more importantly—transform from science companies into operational oilfield technology specialists. They are now able to deliver results the day of, not days later, ensuring optimal operations for the wells they work with.

Building a solution

To bring a toolbox solution, not just a screwdriver, the ESG Solutions and Deep Imaging teams merged to bring a company to market that will work tirelessly to help solve the most difficult questions plaguing U.S. onshore unconventional operators.

Depending on the questions being asked, the company will have a single field crew that can arrive on site with EMs, microseismic, tilt and/or fiber-optic sensing. 

Operators will not have to worry about combing through these multivariate, disparate datasets. Instead, they get a partner in the diagnostic field who will interpret these data for them and ensure results translate directly into whichever system they are working in.

The industry is saturated with terms like machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI), which are expected to solve any problem that might arise. These are powerful tools, but in the same way a power drill cannot build a deck, ML or AI alone will not be enough to build a larger solution to deeper industry issues. Materials, blueprints and builders are still necessary.

ESG Solutions supplies the required building components so operators can begin to develop this solution together.

Examining long-term implications

Years from now, it will all be taken for granted that there is an algorithmic relationship model that consumes information about surface treatment, fluid placement, rock breakage and heave, well placement, structure, weather, and day or night crew. This model will provide real-time feedback to the operator about which decisions they can make to optimize their completions.

This means operators can finally justify a larger technology budget and begin to answer the hard-hitting, high-level questions that investors have been asking in an attempt to understand the playing field:

  • How long should a well be?
  • What is an optimized stage length?
  • How should wells be spaced?
  • How can frac hits be stopped?

Through ESG Solutions’ efforts, there will be a more comprehensive way to examine, understand and optimize frac design. It is time to accept that current industry beliefs and practices may not be entirely accurate, and time to divorce present earth models that do not meet industry needs.

Improving together

When Monday morning comes, it is easy to criticize the plays from the day before. However, no amount of analysis will change the game’s final score. Instead, it is better to focus on the next game, the next play, the next well—and to do it all as a team.

With the right technology and an industrywide commitment to partnership and understanding, operators and service companies can experience success together.