Nowadays, it seems like every oil company wants to become the Usain Bolt of drilling. Get out the blocks fast, hit every stride sweetly and cross the finish line to first oil in record time.

As any elite runner will tell you, the equipment alone doesn’t win you the race. Developing a race plan, road-testing it, and developing the intelligence to know when, where and how to hit the gas are just as important.

And when it comes to the race to first oil, advanced technology is no match for intelligent planning, design, testing and execution. And just as it is with sprinting, success depends on how holistically these aspects are managed.

But the reality is that often vital steps on a new well are managed in isolation – threatening success. Equipment, analysis and intelligent design are there, but the critical connections and interfaces between them are not.

We live in a ‘smart’ age where drill bits are being redesigned to increase efficiency and real-time drilling advisory systems are transforming operations. But technology alone won’t make drilling projects safer, more efficient and cost-effective. Instead, ‘smart drilling’ will be how firms reimagine, manage and execute a harmonised approach to the start of a well’s life.

There’s no ignition in initiation

The initiation engineering phase is the foundation of long-term project viability. Yet most early-stage drilling activities are typically outsourced to several specialist providers that operate independently – leaving drilling engineers to connect the dots. Valuable insights are often underutilised and it prevents engineers from concentrating on what they do best – drilling.

It’s an issue reminiscent to the final phases of drilling projects prior to the advent of completion engineering. But where completion engineering has coalesced as a specialism, most early-stage drilling activities are managed in a piecemeal manner.

‘Smart drilling’ brings the finish line closer

The key to efficiently accelerating operations is ensuring that design, analysis, equipment selection and implementation are aligned and reinforced by operational expertise. Where companies lack the expertise, initiation specialists will fill the void, just as completion engineers did years ago.

‘Smart drilling’ is built on efficiency. Initiation specialists will be able to source and supply major equipment for projects, from centralisers to complete riser and conductor systems. For example, our Well Start solution eliminates the need for drilling engineers to interface with a multitude of companies and centralises ownership of equipment sourcing – streamlining the supply chain and reducing opex and risk.

Sprinting out the gates, fearlessly

There’s a reason why elite runners have experts behind them. If a runner spent their time having to learn every tactic, they’d have no time to get out on the track.

So, while some companies may have the resources to develop skills behind a tighter early-stage well construction process, their resources are best spent on what they excel at: drilling the well once the BOP is locked on.

As drilling projects grow in ambition, smarter equals faster. By combining integration and intelligence in the initiation phase with best-in-class technology, ‘smart drilling’ promises to give projects the solid footing needed to keep running for decades to come.

Want to know how we can help you win the race to first oil? Get in touch.