Editor’s note: This is the third and final installment of a multipart series examining key upstream technology uptake challenges in the oil and gas industry, and the reasons for the lack of accelerated acceptance of viable technologies needed to exploit increasingly challenging drilling and production environments.
Similar to the managed pressure drilling (MPD) article published in the February JPT and the seismic while drilling (SWD) article in March, a permanent downhole monitoring (PDM) survey was conducted among SPE readership around the world. In total, about 1,500 SPE members responded to the survey. The majority of the respondents were operators (64%) and technology providers (13%).
Unlike the previous two technologies analyzed, PDM generally has a higher level of acceptance among operators because it has been on the market for a longer time, and because significant reliability and performance improvements have occurred over the past several years. A key question in the survey was: “What are the main value propositions you see for permanent downhole monitoring?” As shown in Fig. 1, the most important value propositions were: 1) optimizing production through continuous information, 2) avoiding the necessity to shut in the well to obtain pressure ratings, and 3) emerging distributed temperature capabilities that add further value in understanding and optimizing production. There was general agreement among both operators and technology providers on the importance of these benefits.
The relevance of these value propositions was stated by Shahab Mohaghegh, president of Intelligent Solutions: “The thought of being able to know what is going on in the well and in the reservoir in real time is very exciting. You imagine sitting in your office thousands of miles away from the field and being able to decide what needs to be done and then being able to see the consequences of your decision in near real time.”
A similar view was expressed by Garrett Skaggs, monitoring product champion at Schlumberger. “The value of permanent downhole monitoring systems stems from the ability to provide continuous, reliable well and reservoir performance information without the need for intervention,” he said. “These measurements enable operators to manage decisions regarding hydrocarbon assets including production optimization, problem identification and diagnosis, updating reservoir models, and field development planning.”
The growing importance of fiber optic technology and distributed temperature sensing was also raised by a number of operators. Significant improvements in these systems over the past few years have led to an increased acceptance of this downhole technology. In the view of Glynn McColpin, director of reservoir monitoring at Pinnacle (a Halliburton service): “I think we are actually seeing the next wave with fiber optic sensing. Electronics can only get you to a certain temperature, then you start worrying about longevity and failures. You start looking at the fiber optic solutions coming out—we can go into steam wells up to 350°C with just glass and the glass itself is a sensor.”