Horizontal drilling: how to strengthen our pioneer spirit
The 1980s completely revolutionized the oil and gas industry. Horizontal drilling made it possible to develop steam assisted gravity drainage (SAGD). Without this thermal enhanced oil recovery method, we could never have produced the Surmont lease in Canada. Horizontal drilling has also been used extensively in the deep offshore, where we are now a global leader. But behind the technology are the people who made it happen. Horizontal drilling has been a tremendous human adventure, a remarkable dialogue between our Geosciences and Drilling teams, who joined forces to solve the puzzle of reservoirs that, because they were too thin or the oil was too viscous, could not be developed using conventional vertical wells. Mostly notably, the FORHOR R&D program made it possible to tap Rospo Mare, one of Europe’s biggest oil fields. The takeaway is that problems are easier solved by working together than by sitting alone at your desk!
Selling a new idea is never easy. Especially if it’s a break with the past or seemingly unrelated to our core business. Some good examples are the robots used in carmaking, nanotechnology in medicine, or the big data that R&D teams are interested in for developments in oil and gas. New ways of doing things shake up people’s frame of reference, so researchers need to make their ideas appealing. People championing projects have to be tenacious and ready to fight their corner. And they need to be visionary, which the key players in horizontal drilling were. The horizontal drilling project had boldness and tenacity in spades. The project’s participants remember an “impossible dream” that “managers didn’t believe in” and that had “many detractors.” It took mutual support among those trailblazers to carry the project to completion. And listening: the pioneers of horizontal drilling capitalized on advances in high-angle directional drilling, early work by Soviet and American drillers and more. The FORHOR R&D program added their pieces to the puzzle and transformed the dream into a success story.
Today we are recognized for our ability to imple-ment technological breakthroughs and incorporate new technologies in highly in-novative developments. As advances often do, horizontal drilling put us at the forefront of the oil and gas industry. This success story should spur us to remain bold so that we maintain our lead and continue to be seen as a pioneering company in France and beyond.
Extract from the book Horizontal Drilling, the story of an industrial revolution (2016).
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