Intelligently Using Intelligent Completions
- Patrick Schorn (Schlumberger Completions)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- April 2008
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 40 - 40
- 2008. Copyright is retained by the author. This document is distributed by SPE with the permission of the author. Contact the author for permission to use material from this document.
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Oil and gas producers and service companies have long been committed to recovering more hydrocarbons from fewer wells. This presents a significant challenge, and most in our industry will agree that innovative application of technology is key to addressing it. Today, however, the challenge is even more daunting: to produce more complex hydrocarbon resources economically while continuing to increase ultimate recovery.
In the past, a well’s longevity could be prolonged by plugging it back and recompleting it in a shallower pay zone, continuing until all zones had watered out and the well was abandoned. However, engineers realized that in spite of their best attempts, recovery factors averaged only 30%, and often their response was to drill more wells.
Engineers sought new ways to improve recovery while drilling fewer wells using geophysical and reservoir information to guide well placement. More accurate, higher-resolution data reduced interpretation ambiguities and decision risk, and advances in drilling technology allowed wells to be steered into the most prolific portions of the reservoir. Most significantly, the shift from analog to digital data recording enabled integration of information from separate sources. This integration improved knowledge and allowed full field simulation, which in turn resulted in better reservoir understanding and more efficient field development plans.
From Knowing to Doing
Over time, several techniques have been employed to maximize early production and optimize financial returns. However, in the current environment, production rates alone do not define a good project.
Economically improving recovery is perceived as more difficult to achieve than just increasing production. Recovery is highly dependent on completion technology and reservoir management. Completion technology and reservoir management are more likely to succeed when applied on a fieldwide basis, and they both require substantial upfront engineering and investment. Despite the technical challenges, increasing recovery economically is essential to bringing the industry to a new level of success.
As we encounter more complex reservoirs, requiring multiple-zone completions, it is critical to have the capability to modify the downhole completion as production parameters change over the life of the well. The types of completions that can be modified to improve recovery are intelligent completions—combinations of downhole sensors and actuators, plus the software and systems integration to monitor and control individual sections of a well remotely.
In the first applications of intelligent completions, the focus was on single-well flow-control valves with limited monitoring. The economics of such technology limited its use to complex, often subsea, wells with high productivity. Over the course of a decade, however, about 1,200 zones now are producing through intelligent completions.
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