The Weekly Reflektion 07/2022

The drive for effective operations must be balanced with the drilling of robust wells.

Welding on a pipeline

What does ‘good’ look like to you in your operations, and is it the ‘good’ expected by others?

We all strive to improve performance, to do better than we have done before, to set records both for professional pride and because the management expects it. In previous Reflektions we have addressed the issue of what ‘good’ looks like to the different participants. Geologists may want to maximise the gathering of geological data, the HSE manager may want a safe well, the service companies’ low downtime and maximum return on investment, and the top management a record breaking well. All these are defendable targets, but what gets talked about the most is what the focus becomes. 

In December 2021 in Norway a well was drilled by a major operator with a rig owned and manned by a major rig contractor. Services were supplied by a major service company and the topical mantra of ‘One Team’ binding them together. The focus of this one team was detailed planning, identification of risks, and removal of inefficiencies and the values encouraged were trust, transparency, inclusion and common goals. Alignment of goals of an operator, a rig owner, and a service company is a challenge unless these common goals are kept at a high level, with various mechanisms to share the ‘win’ when performance is good. A press release was sent out on completion of the well to the market claiming a new record for meters per day from spud to total depthexcluding logging, beating the previous record set by the same alliance partners.

The authorities in Norway performed an audit on the planning and execution of another well in the same campaign and shortly after the press release claiming the new record, issued an instruction to the operator related to verification of the planned barriers in the well before drilling into the reservoir. The barrier in question was ‘green clay’, an often-used barrier in plugging and abandonment of wells, but rarely used during the drilling phase. During plugging of wells, this formation usually has sufficient time to flow around the casing to form abarrier that can be logged to demonstrate that the barrier is in place. In the drilling phase there is not enough time for the clay to form a barrier. In this case the logs clearly showed this barrier was not in place when drilling the reservoir.

When drilling out the production casing shoe an influx was taken from behind the casing exposing the intermediate casing shoe to reservoir pressure above the formation strength at that depth. This raises the question regarding which goals were given priority by the team. Was it detailed planning and identification of risks, or was it a record-breaking performance mentioned in the press release?

The Petroleum Safety Authority (PSA) in Norway focus on robust solutions, while the ever-demanding management and shareholders focus on performance, performance, performance. The oil and gas industry is under continuous public scrutiny and any major incident will put more pressure on the industry and its reputation. Are we agreed on what ‘good’ looks like, and are we conscious of the consequences of cutting our safety margins to achieve record wells?

Reflekt AS