It has been noted in many publications that the two technologies which allowed unconventional reservoir development to succeed: hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling. The reality is that hydraulic fracturing is the true game-changing technology which allowed initial development to occur as these reservoirs do not necessarily require horizontal wells to produce. However, the ability to drill horizontally is the technology which actually made most unconventional plays economic, an equally important contribution. Looking at it closer, one realizes that the ability to drill horizontally by itself is not the key, it is the ability drill ever increasing lateral lengths within precisely defined, generally small windows which has truly allowed economic development to take off in unconventional reservoirs, otherwise known as geosteering.
In spite of its importance, it often does not look like a common goal exists at the implementation level of geosteering. Drilling engineers, geologists and field personnel seem to drill and steer wells in spite of companies' workflows instead of because of those processes. Outside observers such as management would say the geosteering process works fine, yet when viewed from within, it is a fractured, uncertain process that can be somewhat antagonistic at times.
After discussions with a variety of drilling, geology and field personnel and managers, the issues with the geosteering process can be distilled down to two primary issues. The most common issue noted was a lack of knowledge around basic drilling fundamentals by geologists (and vice versa) which led to an inability to understand the consequences of geology geosteering decisions on the ability to drill a well. The second issue was that the job performance metrics by which technical employees are measured, and thus tend to drive their decisions, are not well aligned between disciplines. While different goals and measures of success will obviously continue to exist from discipline to discipline, the fact that each group rarely understands the reasoning behind other teams' decisions leads to a potentially inefficient and combative geosteering process. Each technical discipline has a reason for their basis of design and how they manage real-time processes and performance. When other disciplines do not understand this basis for decisions by others or the consequences of their own decisions, the geosteering operation and thus the well productivity are at risk.
This publication discusses the dynamic between geologists, engineers and field personnel from a drilling engineer's perspective. It covers the common problem areas and dissimilarities in goals which are the root of most differences between these three groups as well as the knowledge gaps between the groups. It must be made clear that this presentation is not designed to be a soliloquy on drilling basics or how geologists hurt the drilling process. Instead it is meant point out the primary dysfunctions within the geosteering process and propose some general solutions. Overall, the hope is to foster a practical discussion on how to understand and subsequently utilize the differences that exist within E&P companies' operational teams to improve the well steering process.