by Savanna Gray
November 4, 2015

During the production downturn that began in 2014, companies are working to increase drilling efficiency and preparing for times when operators will be ready to rush wells into operation. According to Baker Hughes, about half of the rigs that were operational one year ago are operational today (1,024 down from 2,308 one year ago at press time).

Siemens offers a few technologies that they expect to place them in a good position for the return of higher oil prices and increased drilling. Their integrated drive systems (IDS) offer a quick solution for operators looking to get rigs online quickly. "These lead times, in a normal market, are an advantage," said David Jones, business development manager at Siemens.

He describes the IDS solution as "one-stop shopping" and likens the alternative of putting together drive systems with products from multiple manufacturers to "putting a car together with parts and pieces from all over the place."

The company is also working on a power generation solution. "This would reduce the number of generators that can be used on a land drilling rig," Jones said. The technology has already been successfully applied in the marine market. Eliminating some of the diesel engines that power the rig could save money for drillers and mitigate health, safety and environmental (HSE) concerns.

National Oilwell Varco (NOV) is also making strides in drilling technology. According to a recent article in Forbes, their focus is on automated drilling and robotics.1 The starting point for this automation is measurement-while-drilling (MWD) and logging-while-drilling (LWD) devices. Specialized software utilizes the information from these devices to make adjustments to drilling operations in real time.

Drilling, more than other jobs in the oifield, is heavily dependent on the experience of the driller. He or she interprets the behavior of the equipment to determine how to proceed. Vibrations can indicate changes in geological formations or problems with the pumps or other equipment.

Figure 1. New well oil production per rig measured in barrels per day (Courtesy of the U.S. Energy Information Administration) Figure 1. New well oil production per rig measured in barrels per day (Courtesy of the U.S. Energy Information Administration)

But even the most experienced driller takes time to react to any problems with the drilling process. The technology NOV is working on will automate many monotonous drilling tasks and allow a single driller to monitor multiple wells. Systems that allow equipment to react to data from MWD or LWD devices can take some of the guess work out of drilling, according to the company, and allow instant adaptations.

Although drilling activity overall is dropping, the U.S. Energy Information Administration's Drilling Productivity Report for September 2015 shows that operators are producing significantly more oil from each well (see Figure 1). The industry as a whole is becoming more efficient and maximizing any existing assets to continue to operate in a lower commodity price environment.


  1. Forbes. "The Robot Roughnecks." September 7, 2015 (Volume 196, Number 3)