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Downhole tools are valued for their ability to lower costs and decrease the time it takes to get to first production.
From the bit to the top drive and the fluids circulating through the annulus, each component shares the stake in both outperforming past results and overall failure. Today's drilling technology market is strong, and it boasts a wide variety of processes and tool suites that give operators more confidence. Work is done safely, with more efficiency, and everyone benefits when a job comes in under budget.
But the question remains, "Who takes credit for improvements in efficiency?"
As youths, my father and his younger brother used to pick cotton for extra money. He once told me that his brother had a knack for the activity. At the end of the day, no matter how hard he tried to out-pick him, my uncle always came to the scales with more cotton to trade. "I never could figure out how he did it, but he always beat me," he said.
It's true that at the end of the day, some people always end up with more cotton in the sack than their competitors. This analogy is simplistic when compared to tools supplied for well construction, but it still makes sense.
With each new benchmark, performance results are verified and published. Each stakeholder supplies its various clients with the story of saving days and trips in an otherwise difficult drilling scenario. Operators cite mobilization strategies; drilling contractors cite experienced crews and engineering design; and tool companies make claims based on advanced, propriety technology. The savings are apparent, and performance gains provide confidence within all facets of the drilling market.
Case studies for a particular tool or process can identify the specific drilling problem or challenge, the solution applied, and the end results. Highly engineered solutions deserve recognition when it is due, and the most advantageous means of drilling in troublesome environments soon becomes the new standard practice. In the meantime, engineers and technology providers continue to scramble to innovate further. Benchmarks continue to become more impressive. Lessons learned become the foundation of new research.
The real answer is that everyone participates in the success of improved well construction methodologies. This is evidenced by the wide range of papers published by a variety of trade organizations and other institutions.
The nature of competition contends that companies must garner improvements in well construction to validate their internal research and subsequent lab work. Putting a new tool in the field is no small feat as virtually no operating company wants to be the "first" one to deploy an untested technology. Once this trial period is accomplished, the results are then quantified into how much it saved either by cost of investment or in time/day rates. This information is then pushed out to encourage repeat business and to bring on new clients.
Thinking back on my father's analogy, I've often wondered if he would have had a different experience had he taken a different tack. Rather than focusing on "picking more cotton than his brother," what would have resulted had they formed a joint effort? Most likely they would have shared an overall gain.