Humans long ago figured out that tools were the secret to prosperity. For the oil and gas industry, tools are necessary in tackling tough challenges. In all stages of development, from exploration to production, operators seek out innovative technologies to increase efficiencies and hydrocarbon recovery in a sustainable manner.
“Contrary to popular belief, the oil and gas industry has always been at the forefront of technological advancement,” Dr. Gary Aillud, reservoir geology team leader with RPS Group, told E&P. “With our ever-changing world and the increasing importance of sustainability, the role of technology in improving the efficiency of hydrocarbon recovery from shale plays has never been more important. With advancements in technology comes the added benefit of reduction in the environmental impact and energy security for the producing countries.”
While technology and tools are continually evolving, the development of shale resources required some creative thinking to efficiently and effectively drill, complete and produce shale wells.
“Oil and gas operators require service providers to develop solutions for continuous improvement in order to lower extraction costs,” Wayne Prejean, president and CEO of Drilling Tools International, told E&P.
“Legacy technology has been improved but is limited, and new innovation is what drives efficiency improvement.”
One way the industry is driving improvements is through the use of digital technologies. A recent report from GlobalData stated there is an increase in the number of companies that are “leveraging immersive technologies, such as augmented reality and virtual reality, to improve operational efficiency, lower costs and overcome [the] skilled labor shortage.”
While there are significant costs associated with digital technologies, it is minimal when compared with the potential returns. Data properly collected today can deliver long-term returns when properly applied to future operations.
“The shale industry is rapidly moving their subsurface data to the cloud, and companies need to seriously consider the true costs of these initiatives and how they’ll be able to access their data thereafter,” Patrick Meroney, vice president of U.S. Operations and Consulting Services with Katalyst Data Management, told E&P. “Subsurface data in the cloud still needs to have some level of context or metadata extracted and applied, otherwise E&P companies will just have a big file server on someone else’s computer.”
But there are more than bytes and pixels being improved upon by shale technology innovators.
The industry runs on complex combinations of big iron, tiny sand grains, explosive powders and metallurgical wonders that vanish over time. Everything from plugs, frac fluids and perforating systems to proppants and diverters can help drive down breakevens. New technologies in the completions field are among the most important components to the overall cycle of producing a barrel of oil. Additionally, affordable and effective solutions are being developed for water management to ensure continued optimization of water resources.
“Once again our industry has been hit by oil pricing that’s daunting and unforgiving. We must rise to the challenge by focusing on minimizing operating costs at every level,” Lisa Henthorne, P.E., senior vice president and CTO with Water Standard and president of Produced Water Society, told E&P. “Water management contributes about $4/bbl of water when considered from cost of sourcing through its life cycle to disposal. This equates to $10 to $20/bbl of oil. We’ve greatly improved our overall economics the last few years, but there’s still much to be done to reduce water management costs. [For example,] recycling/reusing produced water can reduce transportation and disposals costs. It’s also good for the environment.”
There is an underlying need to increase efficiencies across the upstream sector.
“There is a reason we coined the term Shale Revolution. Together we have changed the entire business of energy extraction. But we cannot stop evolving. We must push forward into new frontiers of efficiency, safety and productivity. The world depends on us to deliver plentiful, affordable, clean energy for everyone,” Frac Shack CEO Todd Van Vliet told E&P.
In E&P’s annual Shale Technology Showcase, the following pages feature a sampling of new shale technologies and services that were developed to improve efficiencies in the exploration, drilling, completions, production and water management space.
—By Ariana Hurtado and Jennifer Presley