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Looking after well integrity data

Thursday, June 19, 2014

It is dangerously common in oil companies for well integrity data to be very poorly looked after, says Wipro's Ian McRobbie - but there are plenty of advantages to doing it right

When an oilfield changes hands, the actual information about the company's wells is always passed over completely, but what is lost is people's understanding of it, as they import it into the new systems.

'I would normally expect for every transaction we lose half the value, or understanding, of the data,' said Ian McRobbie, consulting solution lead with Wipro Technologies, speaking at the Digital Energy Journal conference in Aberdeen on Feb 20th, 'Using Data to Improve Well Integrity'.

So if a well changes hands several times, and half the data is lost every time, you can end up with nearly no understanding at all.

Typically during a transaction, data is handed over on a function to function basis, so for example the drilling team at the acquiring company receive drilling data from the divesting company, and the data is uploaded into the company's drilling systems.

But companies often do not have a data system (and data management staff) specifically for well integrity. 'Any well integrity experience, if it's not held explicitly in a system and is part of people's knowledge, is lost at this point,' he said. 'What we've seen is, the exchange of the USB stick is taken as job done.'

The company might keep records of purchasing, maintenance and completion designs in various systems, which all touch on well integrity, but can find that the records in these systems doesn't match.

For example, there could be a record that an item was purchased for a well by the maintenance team, but the completion schematic was not updated to show any change. So you have no idea if it was never purchased, or if it was installed and then later removed, or if it is currently in the well.

Oil companies frequently forget about physical items when an oilfield changes hands, including printed documents and cores, he said. In one example, an operator only realised it did not have the cores from wells it had acquired 9 months after the transaction.

The issue is made trickier by the fact that engineers are typically not informed that the asset they are working on is being sold, until the deal is completed or well in advance, so they do not have time to get the information organised.

Even if your oilwells are never sold, at some stage they will be decommissioned, and then all the data will be critical, he said.

Sometimes personnel transition to the new company, along with the physical assets, which means that the employees with expertise on the wells continue working with the same wells.

But it is also common for older employees to see a change of company ownership as a good time to retire, rather than go through the effort of getting comfortable with the new employer.

Mr McRobbie was asked if companies might get a better price for their assets if they had data kept in better condition. 'I'm a little more cynical - it might not drive the price up but it will make it more likely that you'll get the sale,' he said.

Similarly, if you are buying a car with a more comprehensive service history, 'it doesn't make the car a better investment; it makes it a safer one,' he said.

One comprehensive record

Currently, well integrity data is held in many different systems, including the engineers' data model (covering well construction), production technology systems and maintenance systems.

People's idea of what is important in well integrity depends on what their priorities are. 'If it's decommissioning the operator wants it done as quickly as possible. If it's a transfer, the new operator wants it operating as quickly as possible, the old operator wants to walk away from liability as quickly as possible.'

This holistic approach to record keeping would include the comprehensive picture of the downhole reservoir conditions, the schematics and engineering of the well, production data, maintenance records and inspection records.

The chances of the industry reaching consensus on data standards, on a global basis, for multiple disciplines (subsurface, drilling, operations, production, maintenance etc) is remote, however agreement in a few key areas would be greatly beneficial to those concerned with the business outcomes associated with Well integrity.

Some people have called for more data standards for well integrity data. But plenty of standards already exist, they are not being used, he said. 'I found a list of international data standards and process standards - the list of standards ran to 3 sides of A4.'

'Every one of these areas has multiple standards in it- and every software developer can interpret what those standards mean.'

What's needed is a different approach to divestment. Rather than the functional data transfer model currently prevalent, which is strong in ensuring that data makes it from A to B. An outcome focused approach, strong in supporting business goals, such as well integrity, will minimise the 50% data value attrition, and help new operators maintain wells with confidence in the conditions they have inherited.

I'd challenge the industry to get together and discuss this issue. It's a consideration every operator will face in time, and reaching an accord on the key expectations for data transfers as part of an acquisition can't happen too soon.

You can watch Ian McRobbie's talk on video and download slides at

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» Wipro Limited


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