New technologies are finding their way into well completions that will fundamentally change well management techniques. These technologies are permanently installed in the well completion systems and provide continuous information about the health of the well and allow for control of flow from various zones within the well.

Intelligent Well technologies must perform with very high reliability in order to realize the value of their function. Some applications will require the technology to be dormant for years until commanded once to perform a single action.

The commercial satellite industry was identified as an industry that is very successful in deploying highly complex technology and achieving high reliability in a commercial environment. An assessment of the practices of the satellite industry was performed and evaluated for application to the development and deployment of Intelligent Well technologies.

The results of this assessment indicate the key ingredient making the commercial satellite industry a success is that the purchasers of commercial satellite equipment set very clear reliability performance and assessment requirements via the contracting process. This drives the system and sub-system suppliers to conduct product design and development in a very structured and disciplined manner.

For the oil industry to fully realize high reliability of Intelligent Well technologies, the operators will have to adopt and develop new skills for:

  • Setting reliability expectations.

  • Communicating those expectations to the suppliers.

  • Incorporating reliability specifications into contracts.

  • Working with the suppliers to ensure compliance with the reliability requirements.

This paper will identify and illustrate how these practices are employed by the space industry.


The investment level required for deepwater developments are similar to commercial satellite projects. The high impact of failures in the deepwater environment justifies additional resources implemented to assure the technology performance. Highly reliable systems development not only requires sophisticated technical processes but also requires sophisticated relationships between customer and the supplier.

A common response to discussions on reliability is a reference to Quality Plans such as ISO 9000. Reliability is related to quality but is primarily focused on the basis for the claims of the product performance. Quality is primarily focused on accurately and effectively producing a product from its stated design. This paper is focused on the aspects of delivering high reliability product design.

Understanding What You Are Buying

A key observation of the satellite industry is the in-depth knowledge that the customer has of the product that is being purchased. In addition, the customer also has skills in-house to understand the technology being purchased.

This is in contrast to typical oil industry practices for technology purchases in which operators typically do not have in-depth knowledge of the Intelligent Well technologies being purchased and also do not have the in-house skills to effectively assess the technology.

A common analogy is that the purchase of a reliable TV does not require knowledge of the internal workings of a TV.

This content is only available via PDF.
You can access this article if you purchase or spend a download.