The Well Data Labs ‘Spotlight On’ Series takes a look at the technology being deployed on pads across US shale plays. Whether it’s a new service being rolled out by Big Blue or Big Red, or a largely untested solution from a startup – we highlight interesting tech and give you the resources you need to evaluate its usefulness for your own operation. Have something you want highlighted? Shoot us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Engineers were born to tinker
No matter the current trading price of WTI crude, one constant in our industry is that there will always be smart people in cubicles, laboratories, and frac vans across the country working tirelessly to find more efficient and effective ways of getting oil out of the ground. One reason to pursue efficiency is the undoubtedly increasing pressure from whomever is paying the bills, but another likely reason is that the people working in this industry are tinkerers and testers; people who say, “there is a better way to do this.” More than just a title, they are in their very nature, engineers.
As someone who talks to petroleum engineers from a variety of operators and service companies every day, many of my favorite conversations begin with a passionate recommendation from an engineer to check out a new solution to a problem. So that is what we are setting out to do with our ‘Spotlight On’ blog series: investigate different company’s ways of solving oilfield problems.
NCS Multistage, an independent services and technology company, is a pioneer in coiled tubing frac-isolation solutions for unconventional oil and gas completions. Entering the space in 2006 with a line of coiled-tubing fracturing tools for coalbed methane extraction, NCS now provides a range of tools and services for multistage completions and is the world leader in coiled-tubing-deployed frac-isolation technology. They have completed over 121,000 stages to date, including a world-record 93-stage well in the Bakken in a single, continuous operation.
Historically used for workovers on live producing wells when downhole problems appeared, coiled tubing is a continuous length of flexible steel pipe spooled on a large reel at the wellsite surface. Its single-strand nature, as opposed to conventional straight tubing, allows for faster tripping in and out of the hole and for the circulation of fluids when needed; fluid is pumped through the coiled tubing and returns via the annulus between the tubing and the casing (or uncemented wellbore). It has commonly been used to deploy logging tools, fish for lost equipment, and drill through plugs and other restrictions, particularly in highly deviated wellbores.
Problem wells – not for NCS
Speaking with one local engineer, she remarked that when one of her wells was not able to be cemented properly, she called on NCS to utilize coil to isolate stages and monitor the frac. “We were able to pump the frac, which we may not have been able to do otherwise,” she said.
Proficient and intelligent, NCS has developed a strong reputation among operators for their help on troubled wells; but it is their ingenuity as engineers that is going to keep them on the cutting edge of innovation. Over the past few years, the NCS team has taken the benefits of coil-tubing to a new level with their MultiCycle Frac sleeves – giving operators unprecedented flexibility to experiment with frac design, including the ability to frac stages in any order, selectively shut off water and unwanted gas, and even re-frac under-performing zones within the wellbore.
Without question, the benefits of coil-tubing come at a cost. And in our current quest to dramatically reduce per-stage and per-foot costs of completions, coil could be a hard sell to bosses and board members. Realistically though, costs are not just the dollars spent on tools and labor-hours. They are also the dollars lost by inefficient completion designs and under-performing wells. Playing it safe with cookie-cutter designs and methodology could end up being far more costly than taking a risk and improving on past design. As Gustavo Ugueto from Shell said at a recent SPE General Meeting in Denver, “Our job as engineers is to balance the operational constraints with effective stimulation distribution for the best economic solution.”
Interested in learning more about NCS? Mark Gwaltney is the guy to talk to here in Denver, or you can find their full list of contacts here.
We want to hear your thoughts! Comment below and let us know what your experience has been with NCS or other coil-tubing deployed frac solutions.