Imagine, how hard is it to drill around a corner a mile or two under the earthâ€™s surface, then run and land steel casing in the proper place?Â Itâ€™s pretty hard, as it turns out, which created the opportunity for Fill Movers Inc. to develop new down-hole tools that are simple, cost-effective and successfully land casing close to one hundred per cent of the time.
The Calgary-based company was founded in 2010 by managing director randy Gosselin, an oil patch veteran who knew about the problems associated with casing horizontal wells, and had a few ideas about how to fix them. The spring of that year was spent developing and testing a prototype of the first casing landing tool, which was ready for down-hole work by mid-year.
â€œThe challenge that we had to address is that you canâ€™t typically rotate the casing string because of torque issues commonly associated with horizontal well bores.Â If youâ€™re rotating at surface, you create torque build-up in the build section of the horizontal, and that can cause casing thread damage, potentially causing the casing string to separate,â€ said Trevor Montgomery, VP Administration at Fill Movers Inc.
Damaging or separating casing strings can be a very expensive problem.Â Fishing casing strings can take a rig and crew days or weeks to retrieve a string. In some instances they have to plug back and re-drill the section of the wellbore, which is called side-tracking, where the crew drills out around the problem area. Furthermore, if you canâ€™t get casing strings to the targeted depth, you may have to pull it back out of the hole, incurring thread damage, inspection charges, and potential safety issues for personnel.
â€œJust by being able to induce rotation at the leading end of the casing string, by creating rotation through reciprocation of the casing string, instead of at surface at the rig, our tool cuts down time spent dealing with problems or eliminate them altogether,â€ Montgomery said. â€œAnd lost time on the rigs is very expensive.â€ The push-pull mechanical action of the Fill Drill combined with internal hydraulic pressure from the rigâ€™s mud pumps causes the casing bit to rotate to the right on the down-stroke and to the left on the up-stroke, which also helps keep cuttings suspended.
Montgomery says the geology of the area where the wellbore is being drilled is an important factor in determining if the drilling rig will run into problems. Coal seams, for instance, can be a real problem because theyâ€™re fragile, and once drilled through with a drill bit, continuously shift and fall in, causing bridges, regardless of the number of wiper or reamer trips the rig runs. These bridges can slow or stop a casing run from reaching the target depth.
Shale plays like the Bakken formation in southeast Saskatchewan are where the action is these days, but shale is porous and can be difficult to drill. Sometimes the drilling fluid causes the formation to swell, restricting or closing the wellbore. The Fill Movers lines of products are designed to ream these swelling formations on the way in, allowing the casing string to advance unimpeded. In fact, itâ€™s likely the casing tool is working the whole way in, without the operator ever knowing it.
Prolonged pumping of the drilling fluid can cause washouts in the wellbore that can increase the outside diameter of the hole, and create ledges that cause issues when the crew tries to advance the string.Â Doglegs, or extreme changes in the direction of the well bore, create similar issues.Â By using circulation, rotation, and bit shape, the casing landing tools can help overcome these obstacles. â€œCombined with tapered and eccentric bit profiles, the rotation from our equipment can help deal with ledges, washouts and doglegs by orienting the profile of the bit toward the open hole, acting as a guide to help the casing string pass the obstruction,â€ said Montgomery.
â€œIn some areas it may not be likely to happen (to have a problem drilling or landing casing), but in other areas it may be quite likely,â€ said Montgomery.Â â€œOne of our customers had just a 60 per cent success rate landing their casing in specific areas.â€
Montgomery says that the majority of customers use his companyâ€™s tools on wells they expect to be difficult. â€œRecently, we are starting to see a shift in this way of thinking, though. Customers are starting to see our equipment as an affordable insurance, with savings and benefits when applied on a larger scale. As one customer put it, they felt that if they ran the tool on 10 wells, and it saved them from pulling the casing string just once, it would pay for all of the tool costs and save them money, headaches, and lost time.â€
Fill Moversâ€™ first tool was the Fill Drill, developed as a prototype in June 2010, with the first trial run with Encana on august 17. Since then the company has undertaken over 200 runs in Canada and abroad, achieving an impressive 98% success rate landing casing at the desired depth.
FMI offers a wide range of tools and bits all casing landing applications. In fact, FMI will work with the customer to develop custom solutions not addressed by their current selection.
The Stubby PDC drillable version for surface and intermediate casing strings has rapidly become FMIâ€™s most popular tool, with more than 140 runs and a 98 per cent success rate in sand, swelling shales, coal seams, ledges and washouts in difficult environments all over the world. When the concept was developed, there was a lot of research and Development applied to making the concept sound. â€œIt was never a question of being able to get the casing string to the target depth; the initial issues we had centred around drilling out the tool. Initially, around 1 in 15 runs experienced issues with drill out; for example, chipped cutters on the PDC drill bit, nominal material left in hole after drillout, or binding the drill string while pulling out of hole. While issues were rare, the initial design needed to be refined. â€œThe problem with product and concept testing is that you canâ€™t accurately simulate downhole conditions at surface; changes had to be addressed when issues were experienced, and a proper post run analysis could be made. In the first 6 months of development and production, we had made minor modifications to the original design several times in order to make the drill outs more reliable. Since January 2012, we have run in excess of 70 drillable tools in Canada, and are proud to report no drill out issues have been experienced in that time.â€
The Auto-Set was designed for SAG-D, where slotted liners make it impossible to use hydraulic pressure to open the tool. The solution?Â Incorporate a high tensile steel spring to reset the tool by simply removing weight from the bit, which causes the tool to rotate backward into the open position. The Auto-set also works particularly well when running finicky multi-stage packer assemblies, which can be prematurely set due to internal pressure spikes. Once set, these expensive assemblies are immovable. with the Autoset tool, low volume circulation can be used intermittently to remove cuttings away from Â Â the bit, but is not necessary to operate the tool.
And in the Saskatchewan Bakken, where wells are drilled quickly and less expensively, the industry needed a really cost-effective version of the tool. The Ledgemaster, which is a shorter PDC drillable version of the Stubby, uses an eccentric bit which allows the tool to roll off washouts, doglegs, and ledges. Using rotation provided by the tool, it becomes basically a self-aligning guide shoe.
For producing wells, the Sandworm is designed to clean out sand and paraffins. It can be used on a service rig by reciprocating the tubing, or with coil tubing to take advantage of the increased hydraulic pressure to auger into the fill. Due to its mechanical action, the tool doesnâ€™t stall or lose power like other equipment on the market, often cleaning deeper and quicker.
Company representatives recently returned from the American side of the Bakken, which is producing around 750,000 barrels a day of light oil, compared to 60,000 for Saskatchewan. North Dakota and Montana are experiencing an oil boom the likes of which the United States hasnâ€™t seen for decades.
â€œAt operatorâ€™s requests, we are currently moving men and equipment to facilitate the US market. Over the past few months, we have been canvasing oil and gas operators to get a feel for the casing landing issues they have been experiencing. We have had an overwhelming reception so far, and initial runs with several companies are imminent,â€ Montgomery said.
The International Energy Agency recently released their world Energy Outlook forecasts, and oil output in the Continental US is expected to surpass that of Saudi Arabia by 2020, peaking at 11.1 million barrels a day. Traditional producing areas like the Permian Basin and California heavy oil are running flat out, and new plays like the Eagleford shale in Texas are coming on strong. With that kind of opportunity right in the Calgary-based companyâ€™s backyard, it only makes sense to market aggressively to American producers, says Montgomery.
Like many Alberta service companies, though, FMI got its start at home.
â€œWe made a name for ourselves around the Edson area. Thatâ€™s where they have a lot of coal seams and other tough geology for drilling. Thatâ€™s where we were able to prove the value of our tools in some extremely challenging conditions,â€ he said.
But the majority of the companyâ€™s foreign sales to date have come from overseas markets like Colombia, Azerbaijan, Libya, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia.Â Montgomery says sales outside Canada developed organically by word of mouth.
â€œThe opportunities came to us when we were just beginning to look at working overseas. A lot of the international jobs are called out of Calgary, where the customers have head offices. Because weâ€™ve been growing our reputation here, these opportunities presented themselves to us,â€ explains Montgomery, who notes that FMI plans to develop more focused marketing efforts in the near future and to introduce the companyâ€™s technology to new markets.
When it launched in 2010, FMI ran into a familiar problem for start-ups in the oil patch: no one wants to be the guinea pig for new technology. Fortunately for the home-grown entrepreneurs, energy giants Encana and Conoco Phillips stepped up to the plate early.
As Montgomery says, â€œit started with a drop and ended in a flood,â€ for the local market. But the international sales cycle can be much longer. In the Middle East and North Africa, Fill Movers has teamed up with wildcat OS, a well-respected distributor and agent of oilfield technology in the MENA
market. Wildcat is currently talking to Saudi Aramco and other Oil Majors in 16 countries, and have been able to fast track the initial trials for the casing landing tool overseas.
FMIâ€™s tools have accumulated more than 200 runs in a wide variety of conditions and formations. To stay on top of the challenges specific to certain geographical areas, the company maintains a database that tracks problem areas, problem zones and issues that customers run into regularly.
â€œThis data is shared with clients, assisting in tool and bit selection to build a customized solution with the best chance for successful operations,â€ said Montgomery.
FMI is providing an alternative to the way oil companies think about casing their wellbores. FMI employs a team of experienced technical field personnel to conduct training at the field level. After a couple of runs, the rig crew and consultant have a good understanding of operating procedures and are able to run future jobs themselves if they desire.
Innovative mechanical technology that is simple to use, saves customers a lot of money, and is backed up by a solid service program has turned out to be a winning formula for the Alberta company. Montgomery says he and his colleagues know they have a good thing and they plan to make as much hay as possible while the sun is shining. Barring a meltdown of the global economy, oil prices are forecast to remain high, well over the $100 a barrel, and energy demand is expected to rise by 35 per cent over the next two to three decades.
If they can help a customer successfully land casing two miles underground, 98 per cent of the time, cracking new markets and growing a world class company seems like an easy thing to do for the solution-oriented folks at Fill Movers Inc.