New contractual relationships such as Partnering/Alliances/Lead Contractors and the use of incentive drilling are often advertised as providing the panacea for the drilling business. Yet in many cases visible tangible improvements are difficult to identify and a sustained commitment has proven difficult to achieve.

By taking a gradual approach to getting the contractual and organisational cornerstones in place and by learning from the front runners and their advisors it is possible to make the theory a reality. The profitability of both Contractors and Operators can be improved through combining an incentive and partnering approach to well construction, but it takes a committed change to beliefs and attitudes to get the real benefits.

Brunei Shell Petroleum (BSP) has experimented with a variety of mechanisms to improve drilling efficiency, eventually choosing to model their approach to partnering on the NAM (Nederlandse Aardolie Maatschapij) GO team. It required building on the GO team's experience together with the experience of Shell Expro to develop the North Sea Partnering model further to work in Brunei. Implementation has been rapid but also carefully planned. As the Menang (from the Malay 'to win') Well Construction Team settles into the operational phase clear benefits are already emerging and the move to sustainable performance improvement is gathering pace. Change does not happen overnight, but unless you act as though you want it to, it will never happen at all.


In the late 1980's the Shell International Group of Companies re-evaluated how it was to conduct its drilling business and produced a concept "Drilling in the Nineties" in which the responsibility for planning and particularly execution of wells would be contracted out. The Shell Operating Companies would no longer own rigs and traditional drillers would gradually be replaced by a new breed of Manager/Engineers. At the same time the contracting community would develop to fill the space left, developing well engineering expertise and a best-for-well mentality.

Six years on from "Drilling in the Nineties" some progress has been made. More Service Contractors are offering an Integrated Service and some Drilling Contractors are including drilling engineering as well as rig management in their suite of services.

Drilling is also now perceived by most Operators as a high risk/high cost activity where best available expertise and a focus on costs are an asset. Operators are increasingly turning to Partnering, Alliances, Turn-Key and Integrated Services to fill their needs and expecting the new-style Contractor to deliver. Yet the much sought after "best in class" contracted service anticipated by Drilling in the Nineties is still not readily available through the tender box, so how does one achieve this state of nirvana, particularly in an environment where compulsory competitive tendering is the norm?

The answer is quite simple, given that a solution cannot be hired but must be co-developed from the existing experience base available. This is in fact the essence of Partnering. Fundamental to it is a belief that what you have available is capable of becoming better if not the best. The recipe is to combine the talents of Contractor organisations with the Operator, encourage investment in new technology and personnel. With an understanding of the competencies and goals of each organisation, performance can be re-focused on clear business goals, represented by achievable targets and tangible rewards.

P. 351

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