Drones in Shale Oil and Gas

Shell is working with Avitas Systems to develop and integrate drones into surveillance activities in our shale operations.

Drones in Shale Oil and Gas

Innovating Safety – Shell Drone Program

In an area as vast as the Permian Basin in West Texas, reviewing and inspecting field operations can be time consuming and put drivers on the road for hours unnecessarily.

In September 2018, the FAA granted Shell’s partner Avitas Systems first approval to fly drones for civil use Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) with the assistance of radar in Loving County.

The shale industry has mostly focused on incremental improvements to reduce costs. In late 2016, Shell began exploring a vision for the shale field of the future with several suppliers and partners. This “Asset of the Future” would increase production while delivering significant decreases in costs and safety risks. The Asset of the Future would enable quicker decision making and more efficient asset operations. It would also offer environmental benefits in the form of greater energy efficiency and reduced operational footprint

 Technology Integration

Shell integrates advanced analytics and automation to reduce the industrial and human intensity of shale development. In short, we identify ways to deliver a technological advancement by harnessing innovation and synergies across the field life cycle. This includes:

  • Increasing automation in drilling and frac operations to keep people safer,
  • Building fit-for-purpose facilities that can be scaled with production needs,
  • Constructing “Smart” wells (wells that are wirelessly interconnected and capable of operating interactively and somewhat autonomously) with onsite wireless instruments for better monitoring,
  • Implementing surveillance that is driven by “exception” to standard conditions for efficient operations,
  • Monitoring production data analysis and sharing cross-portfolio learnings from central operating centers in Houston and Calgary, and
  • Building a fluid “organisation of the future” enabled by a digitally connected and broadly skilled workforce.

This work also signals a shift toward more data analysis across our workforce, from headquarters to operations.

In December 2019, we introduced hydrocarbons to start up the first integrated production facility. The facility was installed 20% cheaper; 50% faster; 60% cleaner, and - above all - intrinsically safer - than traditional shale facilities.

Our Journey

We are conducting both desktop and field trials to test our development concepts across our shale assets in the United States, Canada, and Argentina. When we identify winning solutions, we aim to integrate them into our assets and operations. For example, in the Permian Basin in November 2019, Shell completed construction of the first integrated, automated multi-well pad and production facility system. The suite of technology used underpins our vision for a potential “Asset of the Future.” It integrates surface and subsurface technologies, leveraging advances in automation, digitalisation, and advanced analytics to reduce the industrial intensity of shale development and implement more efficient ways of working.

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Shale Oil and Gas Locations

Shell is involved in several shale projects in North America. We are also active in the Neuquén Basin in Argentina.

Putting Safety First in Shale Oil and Gas

Safety drives our actions in our daily activities from exploration through production.