New tools—hardware and software—are facilitating drilling that is faster, deeper/longer and more accurate, the latter zeroing in on the heart of pay zones to increase production.

U.S. land drilling companies Patterson-UTI and Helmerich and Payne are using technology to inform procedures and design.

The best analysis comes from assimilating and processing the widest range of information, according to Patterson-UTI. To that end, they have developed services such as HiFi Nav (High Fidelity Navigation) and REX (Rules Engine Exchange), the latter a cloud-based real-time alerting system that aggregates data from daily drilling reports, EDRs and drilling control systems.

Chad Hanak, president of Superior QC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Patterson-UTI, explains his company’s HiFi Nav process this way: “We integrate measurement data from various hardware sources to give a more precise estimate of the wellbore position and orientation, and we use that to generate recommendations for how to steer the well.”

HiFi Nav’s trajectory optimization approach ties in with the HiFi guidance algorithm. Within 15 seconds it has collected and processed MWE measurements, returning “the next recommendation for what you should do” to the driller, Hanak said.

Automatically-operated interfaces with MWD platforms can pump their readings into a database for processing, evaluation and cleanup. The now-useful data goes to the field, the operator and the geosteering company. One focus is the “ERD (extended-reach drilling) data, to determine whether they are sliding or on bottom. We’re fusing all these data sources to create a much more robust and accurate picture of where the wellbore is,” Hanak said.

It’s a 3D view, involving both horizontal and true vertical depth (TVD).

REX, Patterson-UTI’s rules-engine exchange platform, uses time-series data from the rig site to create custom alerts to users via email or text, allowing teams to monitor Patterson’s 130-rig fleet with minimal personnel. (Source: Patterson-UTI)

The data helps directional drillers accurately land the curve from vertical to horizontal, allowing more exposure to the producing zone and “landing on target” in Hanak’s words. While all this sounds like an artificial intelligence (AI) paradise, Hanak said most of the work is done by tried-and-true algorithms, some more than a century old.

Katy Dickson, senior vice president of engineering and technology at Patterson-UTI Drilling, added that their CKey platform uses a similarly broad-data aggregation model. Data originating from sources such as the rig control system, the EDR system and other sources, is aggregated into a single-time series database.

Several applications leverage this database. One of those is REX, Patterson-UTI’s rules-engine exchange platform. This system uses the time-series data from the rig site to create custom alerts that can be sent to users via email or text. Users can subscribe to existing alerts or create custom alerts to remain informed of operations in real time, she explained. The REX system allows Patterson teams to monitor its 130-rig fleet with minimal personnel.

Torque focus

With the shale revolution, producers started drilling deeper wells using longer laterals, increasing zone exposure in tight shale. This multiplied drill pipe connections, which required greater annular velocities. Increased velocities meant larger drill pipe, moving from 4-1/2 inches to 5-1/2 inches. More premium connections were also needed.

For Helmerich and Payne (H&P), the combination of longer wells with aggressive drilling parameters was stressing their standard floor wrench performance while making and breaking connections. They identified an opportunity to upgrade.

After examining market trends and hearing from clients, H&P sought stronger and more durable wrenches. They found an automated wrench from Calgary, Alberta-based Drillform Technical Service Ltd. (DTS). After H&P added some design input based on their research, the two entered an exclusive manufacturing agreement for DTS to manufacture this version of the automated wrench for H&P, Project Manager Sonny Auld said.

The automated wrench achieves 120,000 ft-lb of breakout torque. Its higher torque suits it for use with premium connections while drilling wells with high well construction complexities.

Helmerich and Payne’s automated wrench is designed to support new drilling operations using bigger pipe, longer laterals and exponentially more connections entering and exiting the hole. (Source: Helmerich and Payne)

The automated wrench also helps mitigate the effects on drill pipe connections susceptible to deforming when making the connection, which is important for accurate torquing.

The hex, or six tong dies on both sides of the connection, “is the other key to the tool’s design,” Auld said. “With two tong dies on either side of the connection [the old way], the box of the connection deforms so you’ve torqued up something that’s not round-on-round.”

Upon release during the connection at what is thought to be the right torque, “The box returns to round and you don’t have those shoulder-to-shoulder connections for connection integrity,” he said.

Moving to six contact points removes most of the deformation modeled on the box of the connection, improving torque accuracy and lowering variability of make-up torque. This combined with higher break-out torque capacity has shown to reduce manual tong events by 90% when tripping out of the hole.

Sensors attached to the tool collect operational data, helping producers understand any overtorquing there may be. Data enables H&P and the operator to have improved discussions on “designing wells that eliminate overtorquing and associated risks,” along with aiding tubular design, said Auld.