Drilling knowledge management applications are often criticized as lacking in structure and providing little value return to users due to lack of relevant content and difficulty of use. The drilling optimization group of a major service company identified knowledge management as one of the enabling technologies for service delivery and embarked on an initiative to create a knowledge management system that addressed these key weaknesses.

Previous collaboration with a major operator led to the development of a generic best practice system for drilling performance optimization. We have now supplemented that system with a separate but linked knowledge tool that allows us to capture and share the specific technical lessons learned by our engineers in their project work. This new tool promotes sharing of new knowledge amongst our optimization engineers. It gives company-wide access to the new knowledge they create. And the new knowledge it captures is used to update the generic best practice system.

Proven knowledge engineering techniques were used to create an ontology of the drilling optimization domain, which was in turn used as the basis for the new knowledge tool’s structure. The knowledge tool is used to capture all projects undertaken by the group and the main technical and process lessons learned in those projects. It is therefore a repository for case-based drilling performance knowledge. Entries created by applications engineers are processed and reviewed by technical experts prior to publication to the global community. The knowledge is structured according to problem, operating practice and the applicable phase of the project. A key element is the physical description of the downhole environment in which each lesson was learned. A structured search facility allows engineers to locate lessons learned and performance achieved in drilling environments that are physically equivalent but geographically distinct to those of the well they are studying.

This paper shows how knowledge engineering and knowledge management techniques have been adopted to structure drilling knowledge, increasing its quality and ability to be re-used. We show how the new knowledge tool aids rapid location of relevant knowledge and further how the use of structured knowledge facilitates integration of different knowledge tools and updating of best practices. Several case histories are presented that show how use of the system has delivered real drilling performance improvements by communicating learning across geographic boundaries.

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