By Daniel Canty

The wells community in Maersk Oil has been able to deliver top quartile performance across the board. Here we take a look at how teams in Qatar and the Denmark have improved delivery through planning and execution by underpinning their operations with better planning and safety performance, and how the Culzean team in the UK is giving itself the best chance of success through rigorous planning.

“As a discipline, across Maersk Oil we have seen a marked improvement in the safe delivery of wells,” explains Steve Haden, Vice President, Corporate Wells. “In the Danish Business Unit I would say by any metric you choose to measure, performance has been significantly improved, and in Qatar, by focusing on and maintaining an outstanding safety performance we have also seen consistently high performance.”


Haden says the quality of technical work and preparation across the wells community has gone up several gears, epitomised by the detailed planning and engineering that is currently going into the preparation work for Culzean.


“With high pressure, high temperature (HPHT) reservoirs, there is a special emphasis on detailed planning to a more sophisticated level is required because with HPHT you are operating close to the maximum tolerances of many specifications. Our teams have been through very specific HPHT well-control training and and team building and we look forward to the programme commencing imminently.”


Denmark delivers

Derek Charlton, Head of Wells, Drilling and Well Services in the Danish Business Unit attributes some of the success experienced to a combination of improvements, which have a knock-on impact to improved safety, better delivery, and in turn, a much lower cost per well.


“By delivering top quartile drilling performance, combined with the cost reductions that have come about in a lower price environment, we are actually delivering wells for around 60% of what they were costing a few years back. So really we’re creating the company’s future by being a lot more competitive now.”


Charlton concedes that some – but not all - of that saving has come from lower drilling rig rates available in the market, but adds that while those rates are unlikely to fall much further, the team has been able to continually bring down the drilling cost per well continuously.


“The preparation work has been a key enabler for that, but when you look at the whole package we’ve raised our quality of delivery. Of course, the teams offshore have been working better than ever, so credit is absolutely due there too. In the most recent drilling campaign we have delivered two top-quartile wells, and that’s down to a combination of better scheduling and drilling wells in succession, which enables better learning, development and continuous improvement.”

Qatar’s safety success

Johan Flikkema, Head of Drilling and Well Services, Maersk Oil Qatar, has been in county for ten of the 24 years Maersk Oil has been in Qatar, and says there is an inextricable link between the Incident Free safety culture and successfu l delivery performance. The last development project in Qatar is a striking example.


“We have Incident Free training for all the crews and contractors ahead of the rig arriving onsite. That way, expectations are always known before day one. That gives our safety messages a massive impact, and that is borne out by our historical safety data, comparing pre and post-Incident Free launch,” says Flikkema.


“In Global Wells and Maersk Oil Qatar we have instituted perfect HSE days. As a department we have completed more than one year of perfect HSE days, and one rig working for us has done more than two years with no incidents at all. It’s a good motivator because when your recordable incident rate is zero it’s a good way of tracking, and rewarding good safety performance.”


Historically in an oil company, the drilling department would have a safety performance more challenging than other departments, essentially a negative drag on the company’s overall safety score. “However, today in Maersk Oil we are having a positive impact on the company-wide figures. How we have achieved that has generated a lot of interest – and it boiled down to Incident Free, continuous engagement and maintaining a rigorous focus,” he concludes.


Culzean Planning & Preparation

The Maersk Oil-operated Culzean field was discovered in 2008, with further appraisal work carried out between 2009 and 2011. As an HPHT field, the Culzean reservoir has pressures of up to 13,500 PSI alongside temperatures of around 175 degrees centigrade. Because of these factors HPHT wells take significantly longer to drill than those in conventional reservoirs, and the planning has to be even more rigorous.


Each of the wells required to access the Culzean reservoir have a vertical depth of more than 15,000ft, and very soon a five year drilling campaign will kick off.


Andrew Lough, Culzean Well Delivery Manager explains that issues encountered in the initial exploration well were learned from and influenced the well design and architecture for the appraisal wells. “That was a successful learning experience and we’ve built on the appraisal well design, because that overcame a lot of the challenges that had been encountered with the discovery wells."


High pressures and temperatures mean that the wells will be constructed with materials operating close to the limits of available equipment, which leaves little margin for error. This can be seen in nearby producing HPHT fields which suffered early mechanical failures and have significant well integrity challenges in later field life. For this reason rigorous attention to detail and meticulous planning are vital to ensure every aspect of the well is fit for purpose.


“This makes the selection and procurement of equipment, materials, people and products demanding, and extends lead and planning times,” says Lough.


While there is a collaborative nature within the HPHT sector of the industry, and a body of shared lessons learned, a lot of the field-specific lessons can only be learnt from Culzean, as each field has its own varied and unique characteristics.


“We now know the well architecture, the strength of the casings they need, the depth they need to go to – all of this has been self-learnt by drilling in the field. We’ve also learned what we can from the combined experiences of other major HPHT operators – that includes failure of materials, failures in the supply chain to manufacture high-grade precision specification equipment, which may have not been picked up in standard quality checks. That’s really valuable too.”

The regulator in the UK encourages collaboration and industry forums with working groups, and Maersk Oil has taken advantage of those opportunities to engage and learn from the experiences - good and bad - of others.


“In addition, we have a very comprehensive training programme in place and when the rig was in transit from Singapore we took advantage of the access we had to the crew to train with them. We used a simulator at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen which replicates the rig's drill floor and control systems to practice our procedures, and undertook active crew resource management – which involves stress testing the rig team with various events and then coaching them through how to deal with those scenarios.”


Lough continues: "The programme objective was to build a "one team" culture between Maersk Oil, the drilling contractor, Maersk Drilling, and our service companies, and kicked off with Incident Free and the Life Saving Rules, and a focus on process safety.


“It’s a five year drilling programme – and first gas happens after the third year. The wells are big, they’re deep and there are a number of additional steps we need to take, but our preparation has been excellent, and the whole project team is now excited to get started,” he says.