Lights, camera, action – downhole

Now Showing at a Well Not Near You

American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG)


It’s so brutally painful in the oil patch when commodity prices plunge dramatically from eye-popping high levels, as witnessed over the past year-plus.

Perhaps bruised yet undaunted, the eternally optimistic E&P folks and their service company cohorts continue working diligently to develop and adopt new technologies and services to advance their business operations.

The new applications often incorporate what has become the most pervasive technology of all – the Internet.

Besides such offerings as Web casts, webinars and the like, there’s “Well Cast.”

The relatively new Well Cast essentially is a real time movie of a downhole video survey. It can be transmitted to all interested parties.

The application is becoming fairly routine in the Gulf of Mexico to assist operators to resolve existing problems in the wellbore and to prevent problems from occurring in the first place.

Expro, a U.K.-based well flow management company with offices in Houston and around the world, implemented the first Well Cast to successfully guide a client through a high profile fishing job at one of the largest producing wells in the Gulf.

Seeing Is Believing

A host of various specialists in different locations simultaneously viewed the Well Cast, which was conducted in conjunction with Expro’s recently developed ViewMax sideview camera.

The downhole camera can be changed from the conventional down-view mode to side view merely by flicking a switch. It also can be rotated 360 degrees to investigate fully in any direction. ViewMax was awarded a Spotlight on New Technology Award at OTC 2008.

“Camera services are still emerging in terms of applications around the world,” said Brett Lestrange, senior vice-president North America-Offshore at Expro. “With any new technology you get early adopters and clients who now see this as a routine part of their tool box. To others, it’s relatively new.”

The company recently engaged in a campaign involving wells suspected of having scale problems.

“You can infer scale, but it’s amazing when you go in and see it,” Lestrange said. “You run the camera, and it’s, ‘Wow, this is what it is.’ After treatment, you can go back in and verify it worked.

“The cameras add a lot of value,” he continued, “and when you hook up with Well Cast, it gives real time satellite data transmission so the data can be shared in real time.”

Anyone with Internet access (given proper security) can be given permission to log in and see the job as it’s happening.

During the scale campaign, the client’s engineers in Lafayette and Houston, an Expro technical support person in Houston and the operations manager in Broussard, La., simultaneously viewed the job via Well Cast, communicating directly with the operator running the real time video log.

“The clients can talk – can say what’s that, go up, go down, check that again,” Lestrange said. “It has a bit of a wow factor in that respect – it’s just very efficient when it all works like that.”

‘Sticking Your Head In It’

Lestrange also noted the growth of the Internet and access speeds not only make such things possible, they’re also relatively simple to implement.

Any of the Well Cast/video applications have a commonality in that once the viewers witness what is happening downhole, they have the ability to know what to do instantly, rather than trying to infer something from production logs, caliper logs, etc.

With a subsea BOP stack inspection, for instance, the viewer(s) basically gets down there and looks at it, Lestrange noted.

“It’s as good as sticking your head in it,” he commented.

The bulk of the Well Cast efforts in the past were directed toward fishing operations. Today, the trend is to use the technology more for preventive measures rather than waiting for problems to develop.

In a field where the wells may have scaling tendencies, viewing only a handful of the boreholes can reveal if problems are in the making and need to be addressed before a field-wide dilemma occurs. Likewise, after dosing water injectors with expensive chemicals to prevent scaling, it’s good business to take a look at a sampling of targeted boreholes to determine if all is still okay rather than waiting until a major remedial operation is needed.

Implementing Well Cast with camera surveillance is not limited to offshore such as the GOM.

Lestrange noted they performed a job recently at an onshore field using a truck unit out of Lafayette, which runs the same cameras.

It’s possible to deploy cameras that only take memory pictures or go all the way to real time video fiber optic Well Cast.

“The ones who use fiber optic with Well Cast tend to do it again,” Lestrange said. “Real time access can quickly become the norm.

“You see the images and within seconds you have an idea of what needs to be done and collaborate effectively,” he added.

Lestrange noted that not all clients need Well Cast, and some of them have their own networks.

“Well Cast is not proprietary,” he emphasized. “It’s a clever implementation that makes use of the Internet today – that makes it more accessible to a lot of operators.

“There’s no huge cost or lead time to set this up,” he noted. “We can be very quickly streaming data either the same day or the next day.”

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