Changing the way we think about wells

The fundamentals of how we drill and deliver a well have remained the same for the past 50 years.




Since first gas at West Sole in 1967 and first oil at Argyll & Duncan in 1975, a lot has changed in the North Sea over the past 50 years. During this time, the region has been a technology pioneer with innovations in seismic surveying, subsea developments and directional drilling.

But throughout this, the fundamentals of how we drill and deliver a well has remained the same. There have been incremental changes and some adaptive technology introduced, however, the cost of wells can still be around 30-50% of total field development costs.

Industry data suggests that a 50% reduction in well costs could unlock up to 5 billion barrels of reserves, bringing significant value to the industry. At the Technology Centre, our role is to make wells less costly to install, maintain and ultimately abandon.

Our Call for Ideas is looking for revolutionary ideas to build a well in a different way, bring down the time taken to deliver the well, significantly reduce the cost of the components of the well and achieve a step change in the lifetime integrity of the well to ensure we maximize its value.

We’re looking at well systems, which is the fundamental mechanical construct of the well. For example, how do we improve the way that we establish the pressure envelope of the well? This is currently done through running multiple casing strings and then cementing them in place. We’re looking for different, 21st century opportunities to create pressure isolation, hold back wellbores and give better stability in the wells as we drill them.


Another area is seabed pressure isolation which really focuses on Xmas trees and BOPs (blowout preventers) that manage pressure and flow with equipment at the seabed while we are drilling, and then producing, the wells. If we look at the way these systems have evolved, we have a situation whereby valving technology around in the 1950’s has been adapted to be controlled subsea. This has resulted in around 100 tons of steel and associated piping and control mechanisms on the seabed to control the flow from the production tubing and direct the flow to the flowline. We believe there are transformational ideas out there for how to manage pressure and flow in a different way.

The third area is about getting better value out of the wells through improving their productivity. The theme is called ‘new ways to stimulate well flow’ and it focuses on how we optimise connection to the reservoir. We are looking for ideas that can improve recovery from wells, enhance connectivity to increase the flow and deliver better overall production and value.

For all these themes, we are hoping to connect with other industries to try and identify transformational ideas for the way we design and construct wells, rather than incremental progression.

We are reaching out to the technology community in the oil and gas industry, other industries, academic institutions and research institutions to try and bring in different ways of thinking, see how they do things and identify if technology can be adapted and developed for our own industry.

Technology has a significant part to play in reducing well costs and improving value through being able to access more reserves within individual wells.

There is an opportunity for the industry to create a prosperous long-term future and the OGTC is keen to play a significant role in driving delivery of this.

The Well Construction Call for Ideas is open until 28 February. Click here to find out more.