Guest Editorial: Forces That Will Shape Intelligent-Wells Development
- Derek Mathieson (WellDynamics)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- August 2007
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 14 - 16
- 2007. 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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This year, the oil industry celebrates the 10th anniversary of intelligent-well completions, a revolutionary technology that has grown from a vision in the early 1990s to an industry-changing reality today. As the technology moves into its second decade, it is an appropriate time to reflect on the factors that have shaped the evolution of today’s product lines and to consider the emerging market themes that will drive the next generation.
The origin of intelligent wells was prompted by a number of factors in the late 1980s:
- The first generation of subsea wells was moving into production decline and presenting many challenges in the execution of strategies to restore rates.
- Deepwater subsea wells, in which intervention would be prohibitively expensive, were being planned.
- Drilling-technology advances were leading to the development of complex wells, including horizontals, multilaterals, and extended-reach.
In effect, well-construction capability had outpaced the tools and workflow of production management, presenting a set of technical hurdles for well and production engineers to overcome. The challenge was to remotely monitor and control different sections or zones within a wellbore without the need for costly intervention. This need eventually would become the definition of “intelligent wells” and culminated in the installation of a surface-controlled reservoir-analysis-management system in 1997.
The first generation of intelligent-completion technologies consisted of a range of integrated electrical or electrohydraulic systems that included both sensing and control capabilities. These initial systems were complex and costly, and they were subject to a number of early field failures. In addition, all but a few users were unconvinced of the actual value proposition and were uncertain about how to express that value in a clear business case for each well. Survival of the technology was challenged initially by market-imposed hurdles of reliability and economic viability. Both of these themes remained dominant over the first 5 years of evolution and led to two clear decisions about development of the second generation of products: focus on all-hydraulic solutions to mitigate risk and focus on simple open/close-type control in subsea wells to avoid intervention and justify the economic case.
Thus, from around 1998 to 2003, most intelligent-well installations were simple open/close hydraulic valves, predominantly applied in subsea wells in the North Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. This period produced a rich set of reference material on economic modeling of active reservoir-management technologies and, more importantly, led to a cultural change for many of the major oil service companies, as they began to embed reliability-engineering practices into the development of oil tools.
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