Drilling automation

AI, Influencers, and Grit: How Apache’s 8-Year Quest To Build Its Own Drilling Adviser Achieved Full Adoption

Few oil and gas companies give data science projects the better part of a decade to prove out, but that’s just what this one did.

A white safety hardhat with blurred background of drilling rig derrick structure.
Source: Getty Images.

When oil prices tumble, upstream research and development projects are among the first casualties. Many are put on the shelf. Few are ever taken off.

Then there’s what happened at Apache Corp.

More than a decade ago, the Houston-based independent oil and gas producer, which following a restructuring is now a subsidiary of APA Corp., was among a small cadre of operators working at the fore of automated drilling technology.

As a first adopter, Apache had gone so far as to develop a newbuild automated rig design for its onshore shale fields in Texas.

Then in mid-2014, crude prices plummeted nearly 60% over a 7-month period. The heady days of $100/bbl oil were replaced by the era of “lower for longer,” derailing Apache’s ambitious plan to build its pioneering prototype.

That could have been the end of the story.

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