In oil drilling, science replaces art

January 15, 2018

The days of poking a hole in the ground and hoping to strike oil are largely gone, thanks to geologic surveying and 3-D seismic imaging.

Exceptions remain, but that thrill of striking a gusher is fading as the oil sector transforms from a roving gambler to a manufacturer that runs night and day - including weekends - to churn out petroleum as quickly and profitably as possible.
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"It's not a function of 'Will this well pay out?' It's 'How can I pay out faster and more efficiently within cash flow?' " said Dale Redman, co-founder and CEO of Midland-based ProPetro.

The 12-year-old company went public last year while growing faster than any other Texas fracker or, more formally, hydraulic fracturing company.

As the head of a public company, Redman is well aware that shareholders, particularly after the two-year oil bust, demand profits and free cash flow, not freewheeling spending for the sake of just increasing production.

Everything is becoming more efficient. Fewer rigs are required because modern drilling rigs can drill more wells faster and longer. The increasing automation and use of robotics mean fewer people in the oil fields.

With a shortage of experienced and skilled workers to fill out fracking crews, companies increasingly want to lean on new technologies. They're using U.S. shale fields...

Read entire article at Houston Chronicle (tiered subscription).


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