What's Ahead - Final column from 2013’s TWA editor-in-chief, Todd Willis.
Ask most YPs what they want in their career, and you’re likely to hear descriptors like “cutting-edge,” “major project,” or “new development.” Ask us where we want to work, and locations like Houston, London, or Dubai might come to mind. You probably won’t hear us wanting to tend to 5-B/D stripper wells in the Permian Basin of Texas and New Mexico, or be a field engineer in Baku, Azerbaijan, one of the world’s earliest major energy hubs.
Upon initial consideration, these places seem unimportant—not the sexy, cutting-edge future of the oil field. They are where the action was 50 years ago, a relic, interesting to read about in history books, but certainly not to work in. The real technology and capital spending—or so the thinking goes—is in deep water or unconventional gas fields. Indeed, TWA focused this year’s first issue on deepwater plays and the technology required to operate in these areas.
On closer inspection, though, the level of ongoing investment into mature assets and their significance to the operations of companies large and small show that this initial impression just doesn’t hold up.
Many operators have invested tens and even hundreds of millions of dollars into sustaining or revitalizing older assets. Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems and i-Field (intelligent-field) efforts enable an engineer sitting at a desk hundreds of miles away to monitor entire fields single-handedly. Waterfloods, steam floods, polymer floods, infill drilling programs, horizontal side-tracks—all of these enhanced oil recovery (EOR) and improved recovery projects bring tens of millions of dollars of investment capital to these so-called oilfield “relics.” They also bring with them the need for project managers, financial analysts, and talented engineers who can maximize return on investment.