The Aera Energy LLC (Aera) Development Team has drilled and completed, each year since 2000, about 1,000 oil producers and water/steam injectors, and constructed the associated surface facilities. Such a high activity level, which involves some 800 contractors and hundreds of pieces of mobile oilfield equipment, leads to unsurpassed congestion and logistical complexity, requiring a different approach from traditional planning and execution methodologies. In 2001, Aera turned to the manufacturing industry for ideas. The company realized that drilling and constructing a well is not just a step in delivering a commodity; it is manufacturing a new well. The decision was made to implement Lean principles in the development process. Some of the Lean principles that were adopted were: moving from large batches of wells to near single-piece flow; just-in-time execution of planning and implementation activities; relentless focus on continuous improvement through mapping of work processes and eliminating the identified waste; designing and constructing oilfield equipment that is right-sized for the application needed; and creation of a very transparent system of visual tools that shows the status of key indicators at any point in time. The transition to Lean has paid off. The desired high release rate of wells has been maintained despite significant oil price volatility. The safety performance of the Aera Development Team and its contractors improved continuously and the injury frequency was reduced by a factor of 10. The drilling and completion cost (on a per-foot basis) for the most common well type was held flat in nominal terms between 1997 and 2011, while industry costs more than doubled over the same period. In 2011, Aera was the first oil company to receive the Manufacturing Excellence Award from the Association for Manufacturing Excellence. The award recognizes "demonstrated excellence in their operations" and has a primary focus "to acknowledge continuous improvement, best practices, creativity, and innovation." This paper describes the Lean journey including the culture change that was needed, the obstacles that had to be overcome, examples of Lean implementation (e.g., tools, processes, results), and the critical success factors to successfully implement Lean in new well construction.

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