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Petroleum professionals, that is engineers and geoscientist, routinely make recommendations to drill wells. This process requires the generation of a production profile, oil producing rate versus time, which is a key component in the final economic decision of whether or not to drill the well. The success of the drilling program, and possibly the professional's career, rests, to a high degree, upon the accuracy of this predicted production profile. The more accurate this prediction the more certain the economic value of the recommended drilling location. This paper looks at this predictive process as used in the Vacuum Field of New Mexico. It explores the predictive methods used in the past and reports on their accuracy. A new method, using artificial intelligence, is presented which improves upon the accuracy of this process.


Acting upon a recommendation to drill a well, which usually involves hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars, is a major decision. The final decision of whether or not to drill a well is based, in part, upon the economic evaluation of the anticipated performance of the well. A key component of this economic analysis is the predicted production profile, oil producing rate versus time. This forecasting of the production performance of a new well is one of the most important functions a petroleum professional performs. Both underestimating, predicting a producing rate that is lower than actual, and overestimating, predicting an oil producing rate that is greater than actual, the producing performance of the well is common. Both have a major impact upon the actual economic value achieved by drilling, or not drilling, the recommended well. At the extremes, either overestimating or underestimating oil or gas producing rates results in a potentially disastrous economic decision. Overestimating the production profile will result in the drilling of a well that is not economical while underestimating the production performance causes a well to not be drilled which would have been economical. Usually the result of an inaccurate production forecast is the drilling of a well whose economic performance does not yield the optimum economics for the available drilling investment.

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