Unlocking oil and gas
We develop advanced technologies to drill for new resources of oil and gas then produce them safely and efficiently – in places ranging from land to challenging environments thousands of metres beneath the seas.
As global demand for energy rises, the number of wells drilled in the coming decades is likely to exceed the number drilled in the last century.
Shell has been drilling for energy resources for more than 100 years. We produce oil and gas from more than 25,000 wells worldwide. Each year we drill almost a thousand wells to find and produce more resources to meet the world’s growing need for energy.
Increasingly these wells are located in challenging and complex environments, trapped thousands of metres underground in unusual rock formations or deep beneath the ocean under thick beds of salt.
Our task is to locate the fields, drill the wells and produce the energy safely and efficiently, with minimum impact on the environment.
To achieve these goals we continually develop new technologies and refine our safety processes, and apply the same global standards to all our well designs and operating procedures.
We deliver a four-year wells training programme and special mandatory advanced well control courses at four state-of-the-art centres around the world. They equip all of our wells engineers with the knowledge and experience to drill, complete and maintain wells in the safest possible way, in environments ranging from land to waters thousands of metres deep.
More energy from greater depths
During drilling, tubes, called casings and liners, are inserted into the hole to prevent it from collapsing and isolate the well. Traditionally, as the drilling goes deeper, each liner has to be narrower than the previous one. The more liners are inserted, the narrower the well becomes, reducing the amount of oil and gas that can flow in.
In 2001 Shell drilled the world’s first mono-diameter well comprising multiple consecutive liners, which we expanded to the same final diameter once lowered in the hole. Since then we have worked on a range of variations to the technology to overcome a decades-long dilemma – allowing more oil or gas flow through the well while reducing its cost and environmental footprint by using less steel and cement.
This is currently the only expandable technology able to maintain the well diameter over several drilling sections.
In 2015 we successfully completed our sixth installation of mono-diameter technology, at our deep-water well operations in the Gulf of Mexico. This lets us tap into resources below other reservoirs that could otherwise not be economically produced.
Monodiameter well technology
Revolutionary drilling technology with the potential to significantly enhance recovery from existing fields
[Background music plays]
[Female voice over]
“Just 130 miles south east of New Orleans…”
Innovation Worth Replicating
Aerial shot of offshore platform, partial circle R to L, smaller platform in background
“…lies one of the most prolific oil and gas development areas in the Gulf of Mexico.”
Google Map style graphic map of part of Western Hemisphere, zoom in on Gulf of Mexico
“The Ursa-Princess field is indeed a rewarding basin, but it’s also a challenging one.”
White dot pinpointing Ursa-Princess field appears on map, pulsates, circle effect revolves around the point
“The oil is trapped in several layers under the ocean floor.”
Pipeline through centre of geological layers, oil flowing up pipeline
“Since the upper layers are quickly depleted, Shell was determined to find a way to
reach the deeper reservoir sections.”
Dissolve into closer view of geological layers, pan down to end of pipeline and beyond to layers not yet reached
“It's a task that typically requires many sections to be drilled and isolated, which reduces the diameter of the wells from section to section.”
Dissolve out to wider view of geological layers, pan down pipeline showing its varying widths as it goes deeper
“With such traditional tapered well design…”
Static wider view of geological layers
“…the borehole gets so narrow in the new reservoir layer, that production amounts become too small to be commercially viable.”
Outline of tapered borehole design dissolves onto graphic of geological layers
“Shell developed a different solution: MonoDiameter well technology.”
Pan down horizontal flow pipe infrastructure on offshore platform to team of engineers on deck bringing into place a vertical pipe
“In the P8 well in the Princess field, the company has delivered the first well in deep water, where depleted formations were penetrated and isolated while maximizing the diameter.”
Wide shot of engineers lowering unit into flow pipe
Medium shot of engineers lowering unit further onto flow pipe
Medium shot of pipe at horizontal slant being manoeuvred across deck
Engineers on deck moving pipe into position
Slight zoom in of pipe revolving
“Maintaining one hole size over several drilling sections marks a breakthrough in the ability to reach production zones that until now have been considered too difficult to access.”
Long pan down from structure at top of pipe through pipe sections to boring element at end of pipe
Shell's unique MonoDiameter well construction technique uses a top anchor and pull system
to expand steel pipe down hole.
Boring device sliding down pipeline, zoom out
Slight zoom of graphic on abstract background showing: top anchor; pull system; close up of drill head
“It's the first system of its kind to install multiple liners with minimal or no reduction in the hole size.”
Liner inserts down drill in centre of graphic, with outline comparison on either side: Conventional Telescoping Well Design; and 100% MonoDiameter Expandable Well Production Design – text labels
“Here's how it works: after a section of the well is drilled, a specially designed liner is inserted. Once this liner is at target depth in the well, the top anchor is activated, and an expansion assembly
is pulled up to widen the pipe to match the size of the previous liner.”
Close up of liner fluid streaming out of end of drill, pan up drill hole as liner fluid fills up it will lining until it reaches top anchor, top anchor moves into activation
Close up of expansion assembly being pulled up
Wider view of expansion assembly as it continues upward
“This process can then be repeated in the next hole section, to maintain the hole size.”
Pan down sections of the drill hole, each moves from empty dark to filled with grey liner
[Ambient voice over]
“It's quite hard work, you know, and you see it's working.”
Wide interior of cabin on platform, gage, screens and partial view of face of engineer speaking
The revolutionary technique enables greater recovery rates, not only in the Princess field, but other basins in the deepwater portfolio.
Engineers monitoring large piece of machinery being moved into place
Engineer moves around drill pipe, washing it
It is a testament to Shell's continued commitment to optimize results and stands out as innovation worth replicating.
Aerial shot of offshore platform, partially circling platform R to L
Aerial shot of platform from lower down nearer sea level
Shell pecten on white background
© Shell International Limited 2015
Ends on sting
The digital oil field
Shell was one of the first companies to use Smart Fields, or Digital Fields, technology. Thousands of sensors built into equipment in the field, such as valves and pumps, send data about temperature, pressure and other field conditions to control centres on land. There, teams of specialist engineers monitor production in real-time and work with colleagues in the field to optimise it.
“Smart Fields is about integrating people, processes and technology,” said Joseph Low, a senior engineer based at Shell’s Kuala Lumpur centre. “You can make decisions or solve problems in a day whereas before they might have taken a week and have slowed production down.”
Smart Fields is the result of dedicated research and development, and collaboration with partners. Its integrated solutions – such as collaborative work environments that use high-quality videoconferencing, smart wells, reservoir surveillance solutions, fibre optics and real-time production monitoring – have become standard oil field practices.
The technology has enabled projects to increase production, reduce downtime and improve the overall recovery of oil and gas while reducing costs and minimising safety risks.
A drilling production line
Wells represent the biggest single expenditure in the development of onshore tight and shale gas resources, which is natural gas held in rock pores up to 20,000 times narrower than a human hair.
Developing a tight or shale gas field can require hundreds or even thousands of wells in order to access resources spread over a large area that are trapped inside tiny rock pores. To drill the wells faster and more efficiently, Shell and China National Petroleum Corporation have developed a system to mass-produce wells using a standard design and standard components.
The joint venture turns the traditional approach to drilling on its head: it moves away from rigs designed to perform multiple tasks to more specialised equipment better able to deliver the best performance on a given task. This is supported by a range of services tailored to meet the projects’ needs, such as technology to ensure the drilling trajectory of wells stays inside gas-producing zones, and allowing teams to monitor and maximise production in real-time.
The rigs can be moved easily from one well to another and are supervised from a central control room. The combination of speed, automation and standardised tasks reduces the cost and duration of drilling projects.
Smaller, leaner drillships
Reducing the cost and environmental impact of drilling is a constant target. Working with drilling contractor Noble Corporation we developed a new deep-water drill ship design and deployed the Bully and Globetrotter floating drilling rigs to reduce the cost and environmental impact of deep-water drilling.
The four rigs are smaller, lighter and more fuel-efficient than traditional drillships of comparable capacity while being packed with innovative technology that drives efficiency.
The Bully class, for instance, uses 30% less fuel than similar-capacity drillships. Using the Bully 2 helped us finish the drilling campaign for the third phase of our Parque das Conchas deep-water project off the coast of Brazil more than 130 days – about 40% – ahead of an ambitious schedule.
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We are developing advanced techniques to recover up to 30% more energy resources from existing oil fields.