Mariya Kucherenko, P.Eng, MWDPlanet’s Vice-President and co-founder, sat down with The Hitch to discuss the oil and gas innovations her company has been working on.
Hitch: Can you tell us a bit more about the custom solutions your company provides and what makes them so innovative and unique?
MK: The biggest technological challenges in our industry demand a flexible approach with custom solutions. Attempts to apply general templates that worked yesterday to a quickly-changing landscape of oil and gas drilling are now expensive mistakes that could break the bottom line. As drilling environments become more difficult, drilling expeditions need to be shorter and more accurate. The most cost-effective solution is highly-specialized, adaptive and durable technology that will be an insurance policy against costly failures.
We focus on developing strategies that drastically improve drilling experiences, by reducing the frequency and length of stop-downs and increasing accuracy. We know that the best tool for the job is not necessarily the most expensive one. It’
s the one that will perform the best in a given project’s drilling conditions.
Our policy is to make sure our clients have a clear understanding of how each specification is beneficial to them in the long-run. We are interested in your repeated success, which is why we offer strong, ongoing support and easily-accessible parts.
When drilling conditions match the difficulties of the economic environment, each equipment purchase becomes an investment. The market demands versatile and proven technology; something you can always depend on.
With our combined years of engineering and field experience, we understand how expensive problems can be in the field. We also know how to eliminate these costly issues.
For example, we have perfected the design of the conventional mud pulse technology by improving the connectivity between segments, increasing the efficiency of the power consumption, and making the tool easy to integrate into existing workflows. This effectively allows our clients to drill longer, stop-down less, and get more accurate results. We focused on making our Terre-LP mud pulser a versatile tool.
Our electro-magnetic (EM) line of tools was designed foremost with the needs of the client in mind. EM technology allows for faster data rates, independence from the quality of the mud mix which is difficult to control, and it is much more cost effective in terms of service than a mud pulse system because there are no mechanical parts involved. Going further than just the technology, we considered how to make it possible for our clients to update their entire fleet, which can be financially daunting. We made a budget-friendly EM converter that converts existing hydraulic-pulser based systems.
Hitch: MWDPlanet is one of the companies supported by the GCCIR’s funding program and recently conducted a collaboration project with a German partner. Can you tell us a bit about the project’s aim and the impact it will have in the O&G industry?
MK: This project’s aim has been to address the limitations inherent in EM telemetry by developing the three following components: EM Noise Spectrum Analyzer, Proactive Rx-Tx Feedback System, and Signal-Propagation Simulator.
The EM Noise Spectrum Analyzer would allow us to fully evaluate the EM noise conditions at the rig before directional drilling is commenced. The analyzer would provide an EM spectrum graph, and using this graph we can: 1) Study patterns/correlations in EM noise; identify noise sources on the drilling rig. Using this information, we can predict EM noise signatures based on equipment present at the site. 2) Determine the viability of utilizing EM tele- metry at the site. If the frequency range for EM
telemetry is completely populated by EM noise, then EM telemetry is not viable. 3) Determine the optimal transmission frequency for EM telemetry. 4) Determine the optimal receiver connection locations. 5) Make safety recommendations regarding equipment and proper electrical grounding
of EM noise sources.
This information is valuable to have before the drilling operation is initiated; it can save time and money that would otherwise be wasted and avert any potential incidents/accidents.
The Proactive Rx-Tx Feedback System has four main components: the downhole transmitter, downhole receiver, surface transmitter, and surface receiver. During a drilling operation, the downhole transmitter will send EM signals to the surface receiver. If the EM signal does not reach the surface receiver due to attenuation, or cannot be successfully extracted and decoded, the surface transmitter will send feedback to the downhole receiver. Based on this feedback, the downhole transmitter will adjust the transmission configuration to ensure successful signal reception and decoding. This will ensure the reliability of EM telemetry, and increase data transmission rate and transmitter power efficiency when the environment allows.
The Signal-Propagation Simulator will provide a predictive estimation of the required transmission power and frequency for successful signal reception. For this purpose, a special-purpose EM wave-propagation simulator based on a finite element discretization of the Maxwell equations will be developed. Using this simulator, the Maxwell equations will be solved in the domain of interest, that is, the drilling environment, which requires a proper definition of the domain, the boundary conditions, and the material properties. A major challenge will be a realistic specification of the material properties of the underground formations. As the result of each simulation, a computational approximation of the electric and magnetic field in the geological formation will be obtained. These fields will vary in space and time and can be evaluated at any location of interest. An initial simulation will be run based on a given drilling-site profile, which is typically provided by the client. This will be useful in generally determining the feasibility of utilizing EM telemetry at a certain drilling rig, optimal transmission power, transmission frequency, and location of the surface electrode. The simulation can be repeated as often as desired, with the opportunity to modify any parameter for each new run.
A key feature of the simulator will be the fact that it is not constrained to be run on local hardware. In fact, it can also be run on remote servers of a cloud-based computing facility to which access will be enabled via a web interface. This has two important implications: 1) clients who want to use the Signal-Propagation Simulator do not have to purchase their own high-performance computing (HPC) hardware to run simulations. Secondly, the applicants can offer the Signal-Propagation Simulator as an on-demand computing service. In this case, clients are merely charged when indeed using the simulator, instead of having to pay licensing fees upfront. However, a traditional licensing option will also be available for clients.
This project meets the direct demands of MWDPlanet’s MWD systems and tools that have been in operation for the last three years. The company’s current clients expressed strong interest in the development and release of a new version of the MWD tool.
Hitch: Innovation and O&G are often seen in contradiction to each other. However, MWDPlanet is one of the companies challenging that belief and moving the industry into the future. Where do you see the biggest innovation potential in the industry and how do you see the industry changing over the next decades?
MK: We believe this industry has no choice but to innovate because the drilling conditions demand it. The wells that are being explored now are much more complex than what they were a decade ago, and they will only increase in complexity. At the same time, operating costs are being aggressively cut-down. Whichever way engineering companies decide to move forward with their technologies, efficiency that reduces wasted time, wasted resources, and reduces human cost will be key.
Hitch: What do you see as the role of international collaboration in innovation in O&G? Which regions are most interesting for you for potential for future cooperative initiatives?
MK: Particularly for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) it can be isolating when you are surrounded by large corporations. Innovation and creativity thrive on being able to brainstorm with others, so being able to collaborate at all, let alone on an international level is crucial. The world is full of niche experts, the ability to collaborate with those who are best-suited for your project without the restraints of location elevates the potential heights your project can reach.
Further steps in our EM project will require an independent study of EM noise and signal propagation based on formation properties, as well as the development of working models. This presents a significant amount of scientific groundwork that the company is not experienced with and only be completed by forging research-based alliances with companies as well as research institutes in the field of Computer-Aided Engineering (CAE). This program would allow MWDPlanet to connect with such professionals across multiple jurisdictions.
Hitch: O&G is a field that is often seen as being dominated by large multinational corporations. What role do you see SMEs playing in this sector, in particular with respect to innovation?
MK: SMEs are the leaders in innovation because that is what they have to be good at. You don’t decide to take on large international competitors unless you have a great idea. Unlike large corporations, SMEs have the freedom to quickly steer their teams to what they see as the next best technology because they don’t have as many stakeholders and they are not ruled by the need to show consistent quarterly returns to their shareholders. We have the opportunity to explore and play. Having the opportunity to collaborate with specialists from all over the world makes it so much more available to us. We have access to all of this incredible expertise that allows us to foster mutually beneficial relationships, there was never a better time to dare to innovate.
Hitch: What else are you working on?
As much as we have focused on directional drilling tools and applications, we are looking to diversify with new wireless communication tools for production wells. MWD’s R&D department is continuously working on new innovative technologies that will address the demands of tomorrow. Our international client base for custom built tools can be found in Canada, USA, China, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, and Ukraine.