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Improving Drilling Processes to Maximize Efficiency

SmartDrill Is Our Innovative Approach to Improving Well Performance and Reliability

Launched in 2011 in our shale oil and gas development in North Dakota, the program streamlines the identification and resolution of issues so that drilling can be done faster and more efficiently.

SmartDrill uses a continuous improvement method to identify and remove drilling rate of penetration limiters.  When we used the program on nine rigs at our Bakken development area in Northwest North Dakota, we improved performance by as much as 30 percent.  We have since expanded SmartDrill throughout the Bakken development, implemented it in select other areas and continue to refine its tools, processes and training for worldwide deployment.

SmartDrill is a way to manage penetration rate to deliver the most efficient results. It helps us reduce the cost of each well we drill and enhance performance so we can increase the number of wells we drill each year. Our goal is to drill a 10,000-foot horizontal section of hole with a single bit run.  This helps reduce non-productive time, speeds well turnaround and reduces cost.

SmartDrill helps drilling teams identify the primary factors limiting drilling progress (measured by penetration rate) and address them by redesigning the drilling system.  By working on one thing at a time, SmartDrill simplifies the complex drilling system and all the interactions of the individual components of the system. 

Drilling a well requires a lot of energy to power the rig and bore a hole.  The drill bit gets its energy from pumping drilling fluid down the drillstring to turn a drilling motor while the drillstring is turned and progressively lowered into the hole.  Ideally, all the energy put in at surface would reach the bit and break apart the rock for the drilling fluid to transport cuttings to the surface.

Ideally drilling would occur at the highest efficiency and leave behind a “perfect wellbore” making it easy to run casing and completion equipment.  However, not all of the energy that is created at the top makes it to the bit; it is consumed by drillstring friction along the wellbore.

Steering the bit and bottomhole assembly along the desired well path introduces torque and drag along the drillstring as it follows the hole shape.  Some of the energy can create unwanted drilling vibration, further increasing torque and drag, and potentially producing an oversize borehole.

Destructive energy is harmful to the system and, instead of breaking down the rock, can destroy the bit and downhole tools.  This inefficiency may result in a lower overall drilling rate of penetration.  As a result the drilling may take longer and costs may increase.

SmartDrill addresses these issues with processes and tools that help us recognize drilling problems and quickly address them with corrective actions, including innovative technologies.  In essence, SmartDrill is a mechanical specific energy (MSE) optimization program.

MSE measures the effective drilling strength using power and drilling rate of penetration.  Changes in MSE levels indicate changes in the drilling process.  The goal is to keep MSE as low as possible – an indication of good drilling efficiency.

The SmartDrill process consists of four basic steps: 

  • The use of real time surveillance of MSE to maintain maximum drilling efficiency.
  • Comprehensive MSE data analysis that tracks the issues discovered, documents what was learned and distributes the knowledge to the entire drilling and completions team.
  • Investigation of the drilling rate of penetration limiters encountered and, when possible, development of solutions to mitigate them.
  • Taking steps to improve drilling performance, including the design of optimum bits, bottomhole assemblies, drilling parameters and procedures.

Using the SmartDrill approach to drilling optimization, we are able to manage the rate of penetration achieved at the rig and drive the efficiency improvements needed to meet performance goals for well delivery.