In the quest
for efficiency and productivity, can an oil field be operated in
John Sherman says yes.
In fact, Sherman says it is a necessary -- perhaps
inevitable -- development that will become the norm in the next
Prospecting, drilling and producing all will be accomplished
in real time -- now, if you will -- each process taking cues from
the others, he said.
Sherman, an executive vice president with Landmark
Graphics, said technology is moving the industry toward the day
when an oil field will be run like a refinery -- a system guided
by digital control processes and rapid decision making.
This is already happening to some extent, he said,
as computing power and speed continue to increase and processor
size decreases, allowing more "smarts" to be put downhole.
Separator trains are being put downhole, microprocessors
let scientists direct or redirect drilling as newer and clearer
data become available from the well, reservoir simulations that
once took days to accomplish are now completed in hours, he said.
In the next five to 10 years, advances in geocomputing,
material sciences and engineering should be able to reduce the current
three-year timetable from discovery to production by 50 percent
or more, he said.
"You recover more reserves ... you reduce costs by
reducing time ... use less people and equipment ... money is produced
faster. There are a lot of positives," he said.
Accuracy in predictions is increased as well, because
the explorationist "has more time to think," analyzing data and
identifying areas for optimization, he said.
Sherman paints a picture of doing geological analysis
as the seismic data are being acquired in places like the Gulf of
Mexico. [SEE "SMART
WELLS NOT EASY"]
"You assess the subsurface and develop a reservoir
simulation on the fly," he said.
"You could cost-out production while imaging the
subsurface ... to see if it's an area worth exploiting at this time.
"I want the drill ship to follow right behind the
seismic boat," he said.
Technologies and ideas borrowed from other industries
and disciplines also have helped fill the sails of petroleum technology,
- Computer gaming visualization technology is driving desktop
- Algorithms developed in the study of crystalography are being
applied to seismic modeling.
The ability to have more accurate deeper imaging
bodes well for efforts in the Gulf of Mexico, potentially easing
U.S. dependence of foreign supplies. [SEE
"HOW BIG CAN OIL FLOWS GET?"]
"Real time" technologies are providing time- and
cost-saving capabilities in a "quiet revolution," he said.
Sherman said technological advances are providing
the key to industry success, as stated by BP, to take assets and
match them to market demand.