URTeC: High-Tech Meets Low-Tech To Boost Well Efficiency

The chief operating officer of Chesapeake Energy tells the Unconventional Resources Technology Conference that small wins can pave the path to big achievements.

Josh J. Viets, executive vice president and chief operating officer at Chesapeake Energy, addresses a lunch crowd during URTeC 2024.
Source: Jennifer Pallanich/JPT

Chesapeake Energy is combining high-tech and low-tech methods to drive down drilling and completion times and costs.

Josh J. Viets, Chesapeake’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, said on 18 June at the Unconventional Resources Technology Conference (URTeC) in Houston that the operator aims to turn lots of small time and money savings into a meaningful impact on the bottom line and drilling time.

“You have to really methodically chip away, and, ultimately, what you hope is a lot of really small wins will ultimately add up and translate into something bigger,” he said.

Since 2007, Chesapeake has improved its Haynesville shale drilling capital efficiency by about 85%, Viets said. Then, early wells would break even when natural gas prices were around $10, while now, that threshold is about $2, he said. A lot of the early savings came from low-hanging fruit such as going after the best rock, he added.

But advances in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data analytics are helping Chesapeake drill better wells and avoid unnecessarily tripping out of the well.

Historical drilling parameter data from more than 1,000 wells is informing a predictive tool called Forerunner that Chesapeake drilling engineers are using to achieve optimal drilling results.

“Forerunner is able to provide predictions and rate of penetration at any point in the lateral,” Viets said. “If you think about me being out on the rig, having that guidance, am I ahead of or behind where I should be … [knowing that] would be incredibly helpful for the driller.”

A second high-tech tool, Seer, is helping Chesapeake avoid bottomhole assembly (BHA) failure. Seer makes predictions in real time about the condition of the BHA, he said.

For example, if a drilling engineer is unhappy with the rate of penetration but Seer indicates the BHA is in good condition, the engineer can continue drilling slowly rather than spending hours tripping out of hole, he said. At the same time, it is “incredibly beneficial” to be able to pull tools out of the hole preemptively ahead of a failure.

Advanced analytics have helped guide Chesapeake in development decision making.

Cluster spacing, stage lengths, drawdowns, and other elements can be assessed quickly and optimized for every well, rather than using a one-size-fits-all strategy, he said.

“We continue to see the use of advanced analytics making its way throughout our business,” Viets said.

Chesapeake is also using edge computing to process data on site, he said.

“These tools are changing the way we work,” he said.

Low-Tech Savings
“Oftentimes, when we talk about innovation, you know, it needs to be high-tech. We need to be shiny, to be exciting,” Viets said. “Sometimes, low-tech solutions can actually really benefit us as well.”

Improvements such as continuous pumping made it possible to complete wells more quickly but also revealed bottlenecks in the supply chain that led Chesapeake to use a low-tech solution.

“We simply could not logistically get enough sand to the locations to keep up with how fast we were pumping,” he said. “Simply piling sand on occasion is the better option.”

Piling sand on location is saving between $100,000 and $200,000 per well in addition to eliminating 360 truck trips per two-well pad when compared with using a sand box system, he said.