Neil O’Sphere on-site during a Marcellus fracing operation. The wellhead (red) is beneath the yellow arrow.
What a great time several of us had in the Greater Pittsburgh area last week (and no, it wasn’t to celebrate the first playoff appearance by the Pirates after twenty consecutive losing seasons)!
After two solid days of collaborative brainstorming in an unconventional shale workshop hosted by our largest customer, a dozen of us – NEOS and client personnel alike – took to the road for a field trip in northern Pennsylvania. After two stops to see the powers of hyperspectral imaging in action, we visited an ongoing frac job of a Marcellus well (see the photo above – our group showed up circa Stage 15).
It was a real treat to get an in-depth, onsite briefing on the design of this multi-stage horizontal well; to see all the logistics required to coordinate numerous vendors who manage proppant and water delivery, pressure pumping, and well control and monitoring; and to learn about the microseismic frac monitoring scheme being tested to optimize completion practices and production (a design involving nearly 12 miles of surface seismic arrays radiating out from the well, supported by a downhole seismic system used to capture microseismic events in the ‘Z direction’).
But what really blew all of us away was this E&P operator’s attention to safety. Even before we climbed into the bus in the morning and the morning caffeine had yet taken effect, we were being provided with a comprehensive safety briefing outlining all aspects of journey management and the potential hazards we might encounter during the drive or at any of the sites we would be stopping at. Truly every possible hazard – from bee stings to roadside safety procedures – was anticipated and planned for. At the well site itself, we received a second in-depth safety briefing on the potential hazards we might encounter before any of us were allowed to step off our bus.
Throughout the day, we got to see real and poignant examples of how this operator was going above and beyond to deal with safety of its personnel and its extended vendor base, including their efforts to prepare and maintain roadways on private and public lands to ensure safe transit both to and from, and within, the drilling site. This E&P company was cleary spending big money to do all of this and what I observed going on above the ground gave me great confidence that what was happening beneath the surface from an HSE perspective was being managed to an equivalent – or higher – standard.
I think all of us – whether in the industry or not – can take great comfort (and pride) in what E&P operators are doing to drill and complete wells with the utmost regard for the environment and the health and safety of all constituencies involved. I’ve been in the industry for more than 30 years and never saw anything like this, anywhere, ever!
Prior to getting to the well site, we got to see what’s involved in hyperspectral ground truthing when NEOS technicians go out in the field to validate the hyperspectral measurements that are taken by our aircraft and to calibrate the sensors that are used. We visited an old wellhead that had been drilled more than sixty years ago to analyze trace hydrocarbons in the vicinity and also stopped to assess the lithology and Total Organic Carbon (TOC) content of a Devonian shale outcrop (Venango Formation) in which the Chief Geoscientist of our client was delighted to find some imbedded fossils (discovered with a good old rock hammer and his eagle eye – no hyperspectral needed on this one!).
Oh, and the two-day workshop itself? That was just us at little ol’ NEOS working side-by-side with the Chief Geophysicist and a highly successful asset team from one of the world’s largest energy companies to chart out a new, cost effective, HSE-friendly methodology for unconventional shale exploration, appraisal, and development using a mix of seismic and non-seismic methods.
The workshop was their idea, not ours – though, as you can imagine, we were all too happy to participate! During our time together, NEOS showcased some of the multi-measurement interpretation results we’ve already delivered for this and other clients and developed a joint technology roadmap to take our airborne, multi-physics approach to higher heights on a global basis moving forward.
We asked Neil what he thought of the experience. And all we got was a big “oo-rah!” I have to agree…