IT SOUNDS like a spectacular feat of engineering. Employees of Royal Dutch Shell located in Calgary, Canada, recently drilled a well 6,200 miles (10,000km) away in Vaca Muerta, Argentina. In fact, the engineers of the Anglo-Dutch oil major were using computers to perform what they call “virtual drilling”, based on their knowledge of Fox Creek, a shale bed in Alberta, which has similar geological features to Argentina’s biggest shale deposit. They used real-time data sent from a rig in Vaca Muerta to design the well and control the speed and pressure of the drilling. On their second try, they completed the well for $5.4m, down from $15m a few years ago. “It’s the cheapest well we’ve drilled in Argentina,” says Ben van Beurden, Shell’s chief executive.
Shell is not alone in deploying computer wizards alongside geologists in an attempt to lower costs in an era of moderate oil prices. The industry as a whole is waking up to the fact that digitisation and automation have transformed other industries, such as commerce and manufacturing, and that they have been left behind. Technology firms and consultancies are knocking on…Continue reading