Advances in the capabilities of contemporary oil production equipment have helped the United States reverse a decades-long trend of declining output and add considerably to its resource base by unlocking previously inaccessible reserves trapped in "tight" plays, such as shale formations.
The need for new technological solutions has expanded rapidly as companies have embraced the use of horizontal drilling, hydraulic fracturing and other advanced methods to develop these unconventional sources. This sentiment was on display in Houston last month at Decision Strategies' Oilfield Breakfast Forum.
Bill Herbert, managing director of Simmons & Company International, said that he believes it has been difficult for producers to realize the full value of newly discovered reserves, and that it will be essential for companies to invest in technology that improves recovery rates because "the reservoirs demand it."
Apache's executive vice president and chief technology officer, Mike Bahorich, asserted that the industry's interest in new technologies is often "driven by need." He pointed specifically to the early days of shale exploration, when only a handful of fractures could be created off of individual oil and gas wells.
"Now, we're seeing 40 stages in a single well. And that is continuing to push the envelope," Bahorich said. "I think as long as we have challenges and problems, we're going to have solutions along with those."
A great example of what Bahorich is talking about is the development of modern hydraulic jet pumps.
This powerful solution – which can be used to quickly complete well tests and start production at new wells or improve the recovery rates of established wells – is valued for its versatility. Unlike other artificial lift equipment, jet pumps can be used to initiate or maintain production at sites in which there are problems related to the completion of well casing.