The development of remote operations work in the US land market has occurred more slowly than in other markets because of resistance to change at the rig site, continually evolving approaches to drilling programs, and significant increases in penetration rates over the past several years. Because the barriers to entry in the US land directional and measurement-while-drilling (MWD) market are low and the accessibility to the wellsite is high, typical risk mitigation and personnel retention aspects of remote operations play a smaller role in the acceptance of remote operations. The decrease in oil prices from late 2014 to 2016 renewed interest in remote operations to reduce cost.

Successful remote operations in the US land market required revising the traditional remote operations model. Several factors remained similar to the established practices, such as efficient communication networks and intelligent backups of these systems, reducing on-site personnel, and establishing dedicated remote operations center (ROC) workstations. Other factors, however, have changed, including staging a single operator at the wellsite to troubleshoot and maintain interpersonal communication, and developing software solutions to enable the remote operator to operate up to four jobs simultaneously at instantaneous penetration rates of more than 1,000 ft/hr (300 m/hr).

A large service company successfully performed more than 140 MWD remote-operations wells in the Midwest/Rocky Mountain area during the first year of remote operation. During implementation, it was discovered that remote operations are less a technical challenge, and more a value challenge requiring buy-in from all stakeholders. In terms of drilling efficiency, the results seen during this project were significant, with one-third fewer trips for MWD failure, as well as significant reductions in MWD downtime while drilling.

This paper discusses the implementation of remote operations, resulting lessons learned, and optimization opportunities. These lessons learned and optimization opportunities include the challenges of integrating remote operations into a ROC and why personnel selection is crucial to the long-term success of remote operations. The paper also describes how the integration of specialists from several disciplines enhances both remote-operations efficiency and customer experience. Finally, it provides a long-term outlook on US land remote-operations development.

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