Innovations Improve Drilling Accuracy and Efficiency Leading to Increased Well Output 0

By Luis Gamboa, Oil & Gas Business Development Manager, Rockwell Automation

In late November, Nabors Drilling, the largest land drilling rig contractor in the world, invited a few members of Rockwell Automation staff and the media down to Houston, Texas, to see the latest innovations they’ve made in drilling automation to improve drill time, accuracy and efficiency while enhancing worker safety.

Our tour included a look at the services Nabors provides to support rig operation remotely, new software solutions Nabors is engineering to automate drilling navigation, and a visit to a rig build site to tour a SmartRig™.

The Services

The first stop on our tour was the Rigline 24/7™ operations center: a glass-walled area where expert technicians remotely monitor the status of hundreds of drilling rigs in operation all over the globe.

The technicians can view KPIs like rate of penetration, directional path, weight on the drill bit, torques, fluid flow rates and various other parameters throughout all phases of the well construction process.

We visited the largest land drilling rig contractor in the world to see how they are using the latest technology.

They watch for alerts of rig issues, answer phone calls from rig operators who have questions, and intervene if a “red-status” is created. The Rockwell Automation FactoryTalk® suite of information solutions is used to capture all the rig data in real time, and contextualize and display it as useful information.

The level of expertise the staff can provide from afar is impressive – some of the rigs are even equipped with video cameras in key places to provide visual insight in addition to the data coming in from the controllers on the rig. This allows experts to operate the rig remotely from Houston, if needed.

The Software

Next, we stopped down in the software simulation area to learn about the software Nabors has developed to automate navigation, including directional drilling. Nabors sought to fix an industry issue that was causing extra expense and downtime during the drilling process: the need to bring an experienced directional driller on-site when it was time to execute a slide, and the variability associated with relying on human operation.

In the software simulation area, Nabors has a full drilling operator station set up so engineers can test the constraints of this new software, and also to allow for operator training on how to use it. We got a peek at the ways Allen-Bradley PACs and motor control centers are powering the drilling equipment and feeding data to the software to help automate control of the rig equipment and enable this more efficient and accurate drilling.

The Rig

Finally, it was time to drive 40 minutes over to Crosby, Texas, to see a Nabors SmartRig in person. The rig stood an impressive 90 feet tall, with the platform, operator cab, and e-house standing 45 feet in the air.

The rig we saw was a walking side-saddle design, with automated pipe racking capability: which means the pipe can be racked without any human intervention off on the side of the rig.

When drilling a multiwell pad, the entire rig can be walked in any direction to drill the next well without needing to disassemble or move the racking equipment out of the way.

We’re getting closer to seeing completely automated, remotely monitored drilling rigs – which opens up a ton of possibilities.

The modular rig design allows Nabors to rig down and move all the equipment to the next drilling site in as little as 36 hours. Nabors next iteration of the SmartRig, which they’re branding as the iRig, will have a robotic arm that completely automates movement of rig floor equipment and pipe through Rigtelligent™ controls, powered by Rockwell Automation.

It was interesting to see the innovative ways Nabors has leveraged the capabilities of MCCs, PACs and software to automate the well drilling process. The industry is taking giant leaps forward, and we’re getting closer to seeing completely automated, remotely monitored drilling rigs – which opens up a ton of additional possibilities to reduce drilling cost, improve drilling operations and safeguard workers.

For more information on the work Nabors is doing, visit their website. And to learn more about the ways Rockwell Automation technology is supporting greater efficiency and innovation in the oil and gas industry, visit the oil and gas section of their website.

Previous ArticleNext Article

Recommended Lighting Practices Collaboration 0

FORT DAVIS, Texas — The University of Texas at Austin’s McDonald Observatory has collaborated with the Permian Basin Petroleum Association (PBPA) and the Texas Oil and Gas Association (TXOGA) to reduce light shining into the sky from drilling rigs and related activities in West Texas. The excess light has the potential to drown out the light from stars and galaxies and threatens to reduce the effectiveness of the observatory’s research telescopes to study the mysteries of the universe.

“This partnership of PBPA and TXOGA with McDonald Observatory to protect dark skies in its vicinity is vital to the research of the universe taking place at McDonald,” said Taft Armandroff, director of the observatory.

The collaboration’s Recommended Lighting Practices document details best lighting practices for drilling rigs and other oilfield structures, including what types of lighting work best and how to reduce glare and improve visibility. These practices will increase the amount of light shining down on worksites, thus increasing safety while decreasing the amount of light pollution in the sky. Reducing excess light helps the observatory and also decreases electricity costs for the oil and gas producers.

The document specifically targets oil and gas operations in the seven counties with existing outdoor lighting ordinances surrounding the McDonald Observatory: Brewster, Culberson, Hudspeth, Jeff Davis, Pecos, Presidio and Reeves. However, the recommendations can be beneficial across the industry.

A new video that helps to introduce the recommendations to oil and gas companies is now available. It features the observatory’s Bill Wren explaining the importance of dark skies, and how lighting practices can both preserve dark skies and improve safety for oilfield workers. The video was produced with the support of the Apache Corporation, following the company’s extensive collaboration with observatory staff and implementation of these practices with their assets in the area. It is available to watch and share at: https://youtu.be/UnmwnO6CIR4

“For years, the PBPA and the McDonald Observatory have worked together on educating members of the Permian Basin oil and gas community about the Dark Skies Initiative and the possible impact lighting practices can have on the observatory’s work,” said PBPA President Ben Shepperd. “About two years ago, the PBPA board of directors agreed to support the creation of lighting recommendations. We decided a great way to educate members of the industry on how they could provide a positive impact on this issue was through the utilization of such recommended practices.

“So we began work with the observatory to publish recommended lighting practices and have since worked to educate our members and those outside the oil and gas industry on the recommendations through presentations, seminars, articles in magazines and newspapers, and even one-on-one conversations,” Shepperd said.

Recently, the Texas Oil and Gas Association joined the collaboration.

“The Texas Oil and Gas Association recognizes that production practices and protecting the environment are in no way mutually exclusive,” TXOGA President Todd Staples said. “The Recommended Lighting Practices collaborative effort allows for the oil and natural gas industry to continue the work vital to our economy and our future, and for the simultaneous reduction to our ecological footprint.”

In April, the observatory’s Dark Skies Initiative was named one of six Texan by Nature Conservation Wrangler projects for 2018. Texan by Nature, a Texas-led conservation nonprofit founded by former first lady Laura Bush, brings business and conservation together through select programs that engage Texans in the stewardship of land and communities.

The award will provide the observatory connections to technical expertise, industry support, publicity, and more for its Dark Skies Initiative.

“Our Conservation Wrangler program recognizes innovative and transformative conservation projects across the state of Texas,” said Joni Carswell, the organization’s executive director. “Each Conservation Wrangler project positively impacts people, prosperity and natural resources.”

— END —

Media Contacts:
Rebecca Johnson, Communications Manager
McDonald Observatory
The University of Texas at Austin
512-475-6763

Stephen Robertson, Executive VP
Permian Basin Petroleum Association
432-684-6345

Kate Zaykowski, Communications Director
Texas Oil and Gas Association
325-660-2274

Taylor Keys, Program Manager
Texan by Nature
512-284-7482

Castlen Kennedy, VP of Public Affairs
Apache Corporation
713-296-7189

Case Study: Large E&P Operator in Permian Basin Uses ZerO2 to Reduce Emissions, Capture Full Value of Production Stream 0

Situation

A multinational exploration and production company with significant operations in the Permian Basin needed a solution to continue developing its oil and gas assets in compliance with stringent emissions standards and without increasing lease operating costs or reducing economic returns. The operator’s area of operation covers over 100,000 net acres reaching from the city of Midland in west Texas to the border of New Mexico. The company recently told the market it plans to invest heavily in the Permian Basin by 2020 to grow production significantly. To achieve its growth plan, the operator required a solution to proactively handle emissions of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) from tank vapor gas and Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) produced when VOCs are burned using flares or combustors. Importantly, the solution needed to have a minimal impact on operating costs and not require significant capital investment.

Solution

The operator turned to EcoVapor for a solution to handle its emissions of VOCs and reduce or eliminate NOx while avoiding any adverse impact to operations, cash flow or financial returns. EcoVapor applied its ZerO2 oxygen removal technology in a staged rollout covering an initial five production pads. Born from EcoVapor’s proprietary vapor recovery technology, its patented ZerO2 systems offer operational flexibility, modularity, and reliability. ZerO2 units can be all-electric, using existing lease power or gensets, are skid mounted and have a small 4’x4’ footprint so they can be installed on any production pad. With no moving parts, ZerO2 units are extremely reliable.

The ZerO2 rollout proceeded as follows:

  • September 2017. Three ZerO2 units installed and run in parallel on the first production pad, handling over 1.0 MMcf per day of flash gas.

  • October 2017. Three more ZerO2 units installed on second production pad handling 800 Mcf per day of flash gas.

  • December 2017. Three additional ZerO2 units installed on third production pad handling an initial 750 Mcf per day. Additional development drilling and turning more wells to production increased production and in April 2018, two more ZerO2 units were installed to process flash gas volumes of up to 1.5 MMcf per day.

  • July 2018. Six ZerO2 units were installed on a fourth production pad with the capacity to process an expected 1.8 MMcf per day of flash gas.

 

Results

The ZerO2 solution gave the operator a scalable, efficient and reliable method to process rising flash gas volumes generated from the continued development of its Permian Basin asset position.

The multiple operational, economic and regulatory benefits of implementing the ZerO2 solution are summarized below:• Eliminate the flaring or combusting of flash gas by capturing 100% of tank vapors, as compared to typical efficiency levels of 80% for competing solutions.

  • Easily achieve compliance with current emissions standards and even more stringent regulations likely to be introduced by federal and state regulators in the future.

  •  Reduce Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) by flashing gas at atmospheric pressure and capturing it before the oil is transported.

  • Generate incremental revenue and profits by capturing and selling rich, high-value tank vapor gas previously lost by flaring or combusting.

  • Improve the quality of sales gas by removing oxygen from the gas stream and ensuring consistent, ongoing production and revenue by avoiding the triggering of slam valve safeguards.

  • Maintain operational reliability by adopting the ZerO2 units, which have no moving parts and minimizes the impact on unexpected maintenance and repair costs.

This table summarizes the estimated emissions reductions based on installations made to date. Emissions reductions are estimated based on an 80% efficiency rate generally attributed to Vapor Recovery Tower technology. To put the impact of the total estimated emissions reductions in perspective, the reduction in VOC emissions is equivalent to
removing approximately over 28,000 passenger vehicles from the nation’s roads for a year, using per-vehicle estimates from the EPA’s publication Average Annual Emissions and Fuel Consumption for Gasoline-Fueled Passenger Cars and Light Trucks.

Based on the successful applications of the ZerO2 solution, the operator requested that EcoVapor design a larger unit to handle greater volumes of flash gas expected to be produced by its Permian Basin growth plan. These new units can each process 1.2 MMcfd and will be deployed in the second half of 2018.

Contact us today at 1.844.NOFLARE (844.663.5273) or Info@EcoVaporRS.com to see if ZerO2 is right for your operations and if you’re ready to Flare Less, Sell More.

Case Study Permian Basin

 

Study: Filtration a Viable Option for Produced Water from the Marcellus Shale 0

The rising production of natural gas from hydraulically fractured wells in Appalachia generates along with it contaminated produced water that must be carefully disposed of. Researchers at Pennsylvania State University say that producers would be wise to consider the environmental risks associated with the most commonly used disposal practice of underground injection, and instead adopt more environmentally friendly and sustainable innovations in water filtration.

The study, Sustainability in Marcellus Shale Development, published by Penn State’s College of Engineering in conjunction with Chevron, notes that produced and flowback water from the prolific Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania is most commonly disposed of through injection into saltwater injection wells drilled far below the deepest known aquifer.

But although this method is the cheapest available and most frequently used, it brings with it the potential for surface spills and casing leaks that can contaminate freshwater, as well as the risk of activating dormant faults and causing earthquakes.

Disposing Fracked Water

“During the hydraulic fracturing process, water and chemicals are used to stimulate the fissures in the rock in order to extract the natural gas. Water is mixed with sand and other chemicals and then injected into the well. After creating cracks in the Marcellus Shale, flowback water, a brine solution with heavy metals and chemicals, quickly comes back. Typically, this flowback water is stored in tanks or pits before treatment, recycling, or disposal,” according to the report, co-written by Kyle Bambu, Mike Spero, and Harry Polychronopoulos.

The most common way to dispose of this produced water is by pumping it into saltwater disposal wells that are drilled hundreds below the deepest known aquifers. But Pennsylvania’s unique geology is not well suited for such wells. At the time the study was published in Fall 2016, there were 144,000 Class II injection wells in the US and only eight of them were Class II salt water disposal wells in Pennsylvania. These eight wells combined accepted 8,667 barrels per day of brine, while similar wells operated in Texas can each dispose of more than 26,000 b/d of brine.

According to the report, the average cost to dispose of one bbl of fluid can range from as low as 25¢/bbl if the oil company operates its own disposal well, to anywhere from 50¢/bbl to $2.50/bbl if a commercial saltwater disposal well is used. The cost of using disposal is further increased by the cost of transportation.

“In northern Pennsylvania, where commercial disposal wells aren’t plentiful, the brine water may have to be transported to Ohio or West Virginia. This can increase costs by $4.00 to $6.00 a barrel, bringing the net cost of disposal in the Marcellus Shale region to $4.50/bbl to $8.50/bbl,” the study said.

The use of underground disposal wells is not without risk, and frequent concerns include the potential for groundwater contamination and induced seismic activity. In Youngstown, Ohio, the researchers noted that a Class II disposal well for fracking wastewater was linked to seismic activity after it activated a previously unknown fault line. That well was blamed for 10 minor earthquakes, the largest of which is a magnitude of 3.9. A spate of earthquakes in Oklahoma in recent years has likewise been linked to the increased injection of water into disposal wells.

The need to dispose of produced water in Pennsylvania has become more pressing in recent years as natural gas production from the prolific Marcellus and neighboring Utica shales has taken off.  Data from the federal Energy Information (EIA) Administration show that output from the shale formations more than tripled Appalachian gas production from 7.8 billion cubic feet per day in 2012 to 23.8 Bcf/d in 2017 (EIA). These plays are credited for driving growth in US natural gas production since 2012 and have played a critical role in enabling low domestic prices and increasing exports.

The Water Filtration Alternative

Researchers note that a number of alternatives to disposal wells are emerging at varying levels of cost. These largely involve treating the produced water to remove its various contaminants, which can include radioactive substances, heavy metals, and high concentrations of salt. Traditional wastewater treatment plants cannot be used because they lack the sufficient processes needed to clean this water.

The most cost competitive alternative to underground injection highlighted by researchers is the option of using a membrane to clean the brine produced water. The company Oasys Water offers a system that drives the brine solution through a series of semi-permeable membranes at a cost of nearly $2/bbl of water. The water that emerges from this process is clean enough to be discharged into streams or drainage systems.

Other potential treatments on the horizon that require further research include the option of boiling the water. However, researchers note that the cost of using this process can run upwards of $17/bbl and the heavy salt causes extreme wear and tear to the requisite industrial boilers, resulting in massive equipment replacement costs.

Lastly, the study says the process of electrodialysis could be used to separate water from contaminants. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have found that an electrical current can be used to separate fresh water from a salty solution. Salt is an effective conductor of electricity and successive stages of electrodialysis can remove most contaminates. But this process has not been tested in the oil and gas industry and there are not commercial treatment options available.

Researchers ultimately concluded that while the common practice of injecting produced water into disposal wells is relatively cheap, this practice comes with high environmental risks. These risks include the potential for groundwater contamination that is caused by surface spills or breaks in the tubing for saltwater disposal wells and even induced seismic activity.

At present, the impetus for improving produced water disposal practices is driven primarily by the sustainability practices of each producer and not government regulations. Researchers found that the oil and gas industry is exempt from some of the most stringent federal environmental regulations, like the Safe Drinking Water Act the Clean Water Act, but noted that states have been working to impose their own rules to address areas of concern. For instance, Pennsylvania in recent years adopted new guidelines intended to prevent spills and releases of harmful substances.

Today’s Best Option

The study ultimately recommends Oasys Water’s membrane filtration as the best option for disposing of produced water today. Researchers said that while using this method can result in slightly higher costs for water treatment and transportation, it appears to be the most sustainable solution until other technological advances are advanced in the future.

“This (membrane) system was recommended because of its relatively cheap cost yet adherence to sustainability and environmentally friendly concerns,” the study said.

To read a PDF of the Penn State study, click here.

Most Popular Topics

Editor Picks

Send this to a friend