​Precision coming closer to de-manning directional drilling

Directional drilling technology is one of the foundations of North America’s current oil and gas abundance, enabling both hydraulic fracturing for conventional wells and in situ reservoir drainage in the oilsands.

According to the US Energy Information Administration, 77 percent of the most prolific wells in America in 2015 were horizontal, spiking from less than 500 wells in 2010 to more than 4,000 wells five years later.

In situ oilsands production has grown dramatically since the commercialization of SAGD in 2001, averaging 1.37 million bbls/d compared to mining’s 1.39 million bbls/d in January 2017.

By next year Precision Drilling expects to have achieved a major change in the way that directional wells are drilled, enabling de-manning of the process using intelligent algorithms and digital infrastructure.

The company’s directional guidance system (DGS) creates a coordinated workflow between the rig driller and a remote directional driller, the company said in a presentation given at its annual investor day in Houston this week. And that can be taken even further, the company says, extracting the directional driller from the process.

Precision's directional guidance system. Image: Precision Drilling

Since testing began in 2014, Precision says it has drilled 121 wells utilizing DGS, including 51 wells where the system monitored directional jobs, 53 where the system advised directional drillers and 17 where the system advised the rig driller and the directional driller was removed.

There are 14 processes and 20 decisions involved in traditional directional drilling, Precision says, which using DGS reduces to 7 processes and 10 decisions.

The outcome is reductions in crew, well time and cost, with “minimal additional remote support,” Precision says, adding that DGS is deployable on its full fleet of 256 rigs.

De-manned directional drilling and DGS is the next step in Precision’s technology commercialization evolution, the company says, having already achieved success in pad-efficient rigs, optimization, integrated directional drilling and high-speed downhole data communication.

The company is also working on commercializing process automation control, which it expects to achieve between 2018 and 2019.

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