Salym Petroleum Development (SPD), a 50/50 joint venture between Shell Salym Development and Evikhon, has been developing the Salym group of oilfields in the heartlands of Western Siberia since September 2003.

Before drilling operations started in April 2004, the Russian well construction practices, materials and drilling equipment were studied. The study lasted for about one year and involved frequent site visits to Siberia. Based on the findings a well construction strategy was developed, that is based largely on Russian well construction materials, top end Russian drilling equipment, such as the Uralmash BU 3900 and 4500 drilling rigs, and Russian Oil field services, and combines them with those Western services and equipment that offer a clear advantage on overall drilling performance. Examples are utilization of Western topdrives, solids control equipment and performance downhole motors and MWD systems.

The rigs are operating on day rate contracts, with the SPD well engineering department driving the operational and HSE performance through the strict application of the Shell Trademarked "Drilling the Limit" performance process.

After 2 years of drilling it has become clear that this carefully selected well construction strategy brought SPD best in class drilling and HSE performance.


At the end of 2002 it became clear that both shareholders of the SPD Joint Venture had a firm desire to develop the West Salym, Upper Salym and Vadelyp oil fields. The Final Investment Decision (FID) was made in September 2003. The task that lay ahead for the Well Engineering department was to drill and complete more then 500 wells over a 6 year period. In the Joint Venture agreement it was stipulated that Shell quality and HSE standards apply for SPD.

License commitments forced a rapid mobilization during the 2003/2004 winter period and drilling began in West Salym and Upper Salym in April and June 2004 respectively.

In order to achieve the targets set by both shareholders, the low cost culture applied in many Russian drilling operations had to be combined with an increased well quality, improved drilling performance and improved HSE performance. A new well engineering strategy was therefore developed that supported the delivery of the wells in accordance with shareholder expectations.

Traditional drilling operation in Siberia

The first step in the development of the drilling strategy for Salym was to inventorise the drilling techniques, drilling technologies, safety systems and organizations used in typical West Siberian operations.

A number of drilling operations were scouted and all but one of them operated the traditional Uralmash BU3000 rigs.

The differences between West Siberian and typical land drilling operations in the West are fundamental and abundant in terms of organization, technology and equipment.

It was recognized that the technology and equipment used in Siberia has been optimized through years of experience in drilling tens of thousands of wells in the prevailing marshland conditions and West Siberian climate with temperatures varying from plus 35 to minus 50 deg C. However, it was noted that many operations had not benefited from the latest improvements available in the global drilling industry.

The following items were seen as positive features applied in West Siberian drilling operations:

  • The general pad drilling rig lay out (single train, easy to move from well to well)

  • The compact rig lay out making effective winterization possible

  • Electricity supply through overhead power lines

  • Largely automated rigfloor

  • Highly skilled and motivated workforce

  • Well documented and highly developed Rostechnadzor HSE management system

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