Thursday, March 30, 2017

Science & Technology: Drilling by Remote Control

Fracking 2.0: Shale Drillers Pioneer New Ways to Profit in Era of Cheap Oil (Wall Street Journal)

EOG's rig workers at drilling sites and geologists miles away in an office share information through EOG’s iSteer app. They can make corrections within minutes on a drill bit's trajectory, compared with an older process that took at least 30 minutes to make adjustments. Drill bits can progress up to 500 feet an hour. COURTESY WALL STREET JOURNAL
Using a proprietary app called iSteer, Brian Tapp, a geologist for EOG Resources Inc., dashed off instructions to a drilling rig 100 miles away. This tool is among the reasons the little-known Texas company says it pumps more oil from the continental U.S. than Exxon Mobil Corp.—or any other producer.

A rig worker received Mr. Tapp’s iPhone alert and tweaked the trajectory of a drill bit thousands of feet underground, to land more squarely in a sweet spot of rock filled with West Texas crude.

EOG uses iSteer to help navigate through rock thousands of feet underground, landing in identified layers with more precision. A device behind the drill bit underground transmits information—including depth and direction but also readings to identify types of rock and the presence of gas—to a geologist at the office. The numbers are crunched, using EOG’s databases on the location’s rock layers and on previous wells, and course corrections are sent to the driller on the rig.

The apps help EOG answer a range of questions, such as how much pressure to use to crack a particular geologic stratum, to identifying ideal trajectories for drills, to more mundane queries, such as the fastest route to drive from one drilling site to the next.