Friday, March 11, 2011

An Oilfield Rant

I was rudely interrupted from a much needed repose to prepare equipment because some rig out on the ocean somewhere could not get their pipe out of the hole. Just when I planning a nice little trip home I had to rebook all my flights....such is life.

Drill pipe gets stuck. It gets stuck for a number of reasons. There could be differential pressure across the wellbore, shales swelling in, poor solids control, or any other number of reasons as to why the rig can't get the pipe out of the ground. Usually when drilling rigs get stuck they need wireline people to get them unstuck or backed off. Its about the only time when the drilling supervisor is happy to see us.
Part of the challenge in freeing stuck pipe is to select the most appropriate means of cutting the pipe above the stuck point. This means choosing the right explosive for the job. Furthermore little foresight is applied by drilling and completion people in terms of designing a completion than can be recovered if necessary.  A drilling or completion string may have a number of restrictions in it that complicate the pipe recovery process. The burden falls on the service company to provide a cutter that can satisfy the customers drill string however screwed up it is.

So here is a Drillers Dream Cutter

Can cut any size casing, tubing or drill pipe.
Able to fit through a 2" restrictions
Requires no explosives or dangerous chemicals
Includes a free point device as well as correlation device
Can be rigged up easily with no special power supplies or personnel

Unfortunately such a device is still within the realm of fantasy. In the meantime we have to go through the tedious explanation of why you can't use a 2 3/8" cutter to cut 5 1/2" drill pipe. Eventually this message sinks in and our clients re size their expectations as to what is actually doable.

The next difficulty is to determine where the pipe is stuck and to convince the client that he needs to cut above the stuck point if wants to have any chance of recovering any pipe. You would be surprised at how many millions of dollars of drilling hardware are lost in the well every year because Drilling people can't understand this simple concept.

Details. You can never have enough. Its surprising what you don't know and how that can make or break a job. A lot of time can be saved beforehand if only people knew the ID of a piece of assembly was 2.25" and not 3.5". We had to run a drift just to confirm an ID because some guy in town couldn't be bothered to gauge an assembly.

Hindsight is always 20/20. I think that the oilfield has the most disproportionate number of armchair quarterbacks in the world. Anyone with 2 years experience on the rig thinks that they are an expert and I think I heard more sentences beginning with  "we should have" than I have since that last time |I was out here to free stuck pipe. Service contracts are not written for should haves. They are representations of what level of risk that operators are prepared to accept  - if you are worried about losing a 50 million dollar well then you "should have" built that into your contract.

And finally....CYA (cover your ass). The acronym CYA almost completely sums up the entire exploration industry. Never leave yourself in a position where you can be held accountable for anything. Although this means that the job safety review will be a 30 page document translated into 2 languages for a 10 minute operation this is the way things are trending in the patch. Cutting through the bureaucracy means self-exposure and I can't afford the risk.

Get used to it. No wonder the price of oil is hitting $100 dollars plus.