The second annual Horizontal Drilling USA Extended Laterals Congress 2014, set for Feb. 26-27, is scheduled to bring together oil and gas professionals to discuss tool reliability, tool selection and other industry topics. Jeremy Compton, a senior drilling engineer with Houston’s Oak Valley Operating, was on the agenda to talk about the art and science of steering long laterals. He answered a few questions before the event about the challenges of longer laterals for oil and gas professionals.

Q. Drilling these longer laterals does not come without its challenges. What is the biggest question operators are currently asking themselves?

A. One of the largest unknowns right now is how crucial is the wellbore placement in the target zone. Is cutting your window from 20 feet to 10 feet going to increase the estimated ultimate recovery (EUR) enough to offset the extra time it takes to stay in that window? I think people who are tying their geosteering directly into production are seeing that the ability to stay in a tight section of the target has significant results. It is allowing completions to perform higher quality stages and get more proppant into the ground with better wells being produced than previously drilled wells in the same field.

Q. How are other operators working a low-margin business and able to save time and cost, and how is that translated back to the value of the well?

A. Operators who are devoted to drilling the highest quality of well with the lowest drilling cost are starting to see the effects of putting some of their cost savings of drilling into completions. A total well cost that gets 100,000 pounds more of proppant per stage for the same previous cost that it took is shifting the economics in a good direction by increasing the EUR and not just cutting drilling cost. Bottomhole assembly (BHA) optimization is allowing operators to drill laterals in faster times and stay in the sweet spot a higher percentage of the lateral. Cost savings as an industry has also really come from the time it takes to get to kick-off point (KOP) and spudding multiple wells off one pad, before drilling the production section of wells. As a whole, operators have significantly cut the time from spud to KOP and lower flat times from multi-well pads.

Q. Operators want to build the best well for the most efficient cost. What are the drivers of these companies—is it cost, production, estimated ultimate recovery? And what is it that they are doing in their operations to maximize that factor?

A. The real driver is cutting the drilling cost but still turning over the most productive well to completions. Drilling optimization and multi-well pads are the biggest factor in cutting cost across the board for both drilling and completions. The cost savings we are seeing on the drilling side from multi-well pads are also directly translating to cost on completions. Determining if the EUR is shifted high enough by using cost savings in drilling to conduct better frack jobs is a focus point right now.

Q. Can lower cost of rotary steerable assemblies enable operators to increase rates of penetration and maintain your directional plans more reliably?

A. Right now as an industry, the cost of using a rotary steerable system versus a motor is not there. When you are able to cut your slide times down to 15 percent of the lateral drilling time, the motors’ higher rate of penetration (ROP) while rotating is still winning the economic battle. We are starting to see rotary steerable systems paired with motors give higher average ROPs for the entire lateral, but the cost to run that system is still substantially higher than what conventional systems are. In time, we will see motors paired with rotary steerable systems cost start to come down and operators will be switching to them. As of right now, though, the costs aren’t justified for most circumstances.

Q. How important is it to ensure directional control when steering bits into desired sweet spot windows?

A. Operators who are focusing on studying completions versus geosteering are noticing trends through their target sections. Staying in certain sections of the target interval is proving to allow completions to get higher densities of larger proppant than other sections of the target interval. Optimizing drilling to stay in these intervals is not only producing better wells, but usually yielding better wellbore stability than the softer, more ductile sections of the formation.

Q. For drillers like yourself, it’s very important to successfully direct and keep directional drilling tools in the target panel. But, to do this, what are the details that need to be examined closely?

A. BHA and bit design. Simply changing stabilizer outside diameters and motor speeds matched with the correct bit can cut slide percentage in half in directly offsetting wells. Having the ability to rotate and stay in the desired sweet spot of the section without having to do a lot of directional work is not only cutting cost on the drilling side, but also producing smoother wellbores that are easier to run casing in and pump frack plugs down.

Q. Discuss the professional insights you planned to bring to last month’s Horizontal Drilling USA Extended Laterals Congress 2014?

A. I will be discussing the importance of directional control and staying in target intervals and how this affects your well’s performance. I also will discuss issues on landing multiple wells off one pad in the desired target section and procedures to ensure we are hitting the center of the target at landing.

Q. What solutions are you looking to take away from presenters of competitor operating companies?

A. I am hoping to take away some best practices that other operators are doing that could not only improve our performance, but also possibly spur some new thoughts on how to improve the industry’s overall performance.

Q. How important is it for the drilling community to attend an event specifically designed to improve drilling efficiencies and reduce non-productive time and cost?

A. I think it is very important for our community to constantly stay in touch with what others are doing. There are new ideas being implemented after every well within companies that could assist the entire industry and help others become more efficient.