Drilling For A Better Future

Drilling for oil and gas has occurred in one way or another for hundreds of years. The Chinese, for instance, invented a bamboo rig to obtain oil and gas, but only in the last 40 years has humankind been able to efficiently extract petroleum from beneath the seas – an achievement to rank with this century’s mightiest technological triumphs

Locating an oil and gas “trap” – as it is known – and extracting the oil and gas is difficult enough on land. But offshore, in deep and often stormy waters, it becomes an awesome undertaking.

Potential traps are identified by analyzing seismic survey data, but whether they contain oil or gas will not be known until a drill bit penetrates the structure. Directing the drill bit to a precise location – perhaps several kilometers away – requires sophisticated technology. A navigation device, installed above the drill bit feeds back information, enables the exact position of the well to be measured and monitored. A steerable motor within the drill pipe can be remotely controlled to adjust the direction of the drill.

Drilling through our Egyptian fields, we will find too many changes occurred to the drilling industry. Eng. Osama Ismail, Senior Drilling Engineer at The Gulf of Suez Petroleum Company (GUPCO) told Egypt Oil & Gas newspaper (EOG) in exclusive statements that his company used a new rig “Ben Nives” in the October field, at the end of last year. This 2000-hp rig, owned by Pyramid Drilling International (PDI), was used to drill and develop the wells in the October block, located in the Gulf of Suez.
Ismail added that GUPCO drilled three wells in the area of Sinai, operating with the Nafta-1 rig.

The company is also planning to rent the Super Rig to drill in its acreage in NS377 in Gulf of Suez, which is operating for the first time as a land rig and will expand into the Gulf to a three and a half meter length, having the tankers placed in the Gulf waters. The daily rent of this 3000-hp rig is estimated by $150,000.

“GUPCO is operating with the latest drilling technologies, represented in the successful implementation of the “Stress Cage” mechanism,” said Ismail. Stress Cage is dependent upon the use of appropriate constructive drilling practices and avoidance of detrimental practices, which may destabilize the stress cages, and help in reducing mud loss. The company has been maneuvering with that system for nearly two years now, through the companies like MISWACO and AMEC.

GUPCO, which is a joint venture owned by BP and The Egyptian General Petroleum Company (EGPC) and responsible for Oil and Gas production in the Gulf of Suez, the Western Desert and the Nile Delta, also implements the “Rotary Steerable” system, a new form of drilling technology used in directional drilling and employs the use of specialized down-hole equipment to replace conventional directional tools such as mud motors. The drilling system designed to drill directionally with continuous rotation from the surface, eliminating the need to slide a steerable motor. The advantages of this technology are many for both main groups of users: geoscientists and drillers. Continuous rotation of the drill string allows for improved transportation of drilled cuttings to the surface resulting in better hydraulic performance, better weight transfer for the same reason allows a more complex bore to be drilled, and reduced well bore tortuosity due to the utilization of a steadier steering model. The well geometry therefore is less aggressive and the wellbore (wall of the well) is smoother than those drilled with motor. This last benefit concerns to geoscientists because the measurements taken of the properties of the formation can be obtained with a higher quality.

Targeting best qualities, GUPCO deals with major companies for rig renting. Its current fleet consists of four 2000-hp rigs owned by Transocean, another two 2000-hp rigs and one 1500-hp rig owned by the Egyptian Drilling Company (EDC) and another 200-hp one owned by Pyramid Drilling International (PDI).

Besides, GUPCO selects different service companies for specific services, such as the logging services provided by Schlumberger, direction-drilling technique by Baker Hughes, fishing service offered by Premier Oilfield Services, while Halliburton provides Salt Cribbing (cement for avoiding drilling loss), Lightweight Cement service (implemented in depleted reservoirs) and the SP1 HW System (enables the drilling of two wells in the same conductor).

The year of 2009 symbolized best drilling results for GUPCO in the Western Desert. A total of 10,000 feet were drilled in 12 days only, which was nine days ahead of the usual 21-days of drilling. Such speedy improvements is one of the main factors that contributed to the quick placement of the placing the well on production line and led to the increase of daily output from the Western Desert to 15,000 barrels per day (bpd).

“GUPCO is planning to drill 27 new wells, of which five are exploratory and 22 development,” added Ismail. In addition, it will operate a Fix Well operation on nine wells.
It is worth mentioning that GUPCO’s investments reached up to $130 million for the current fiscal year, as the financial year for BP starts from January 1st and ends on December 31.

Another success story goes to the Belayim Petroleum Company (Petrobel). Mohamed Alshabrawy, Drilling Operation Manager, highlighted that drilling is the mandatory base for any petroleum sector and through which, companies work hard to maintain their daily production.
“Petrobel is ranked first in Egypt in terms of the daily oil and gas production volume… a total of 500,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boed),” clarified Alshabrawy.
“Petrobel’s main goal for the upcoming period is to expand its drilling activities, trying to catch up with the same rate of 2009. This plan comes with certain time table and rules, aiming to reach the best fiscal results,” Alshabrawy told EOG. He pointed to the fact that his company is planning to drill 35 development wells during the current fiscal year of 2010–2011, in addition to the drilling of nine exploratory wells; four in the Delta, two in the Mediterranean, and the remaining three wells in the Gulf of Suez.

He emphasized on Petrobel’s drilling plan, that it drilled wells in the Deep Water after founding platforms with the length of 360 meters off the surface. Also, the company will be producing large amount of gas from those areas, as the test results showed positive existence of natural gas.

Alshabrawy said that his company operates with the latest drilling technologies, whether drilling or service tools. The company is looking into service companies that offer new methods of drilling, which helps to drill 15 wells at the same moment instead of just one, and being drilled from a stable point as an alternative of moving the rig from time to time. These types of technologies enable the horizontal drilling (90 degree) of wells are drilled with 90 degree horizontal.

He pointed to another technology that Petrobel utilizes in drilling, the Echo Scope, which provides instant and updated information about the oil and gas in the well. This technology is considered one of the latest in the drilling industry, characterized by its effective cost reduction by an average of 30-40%.
Alshabrawy also pointed out that Petrobel deals with international service firms, signified by Schlumberger, Halliburton, and Baker Hughes.

The number of the working rigs in the Petrobel’s concessions areas counts for 14 rigs, divided as the following:

  • EDC comes on the top of the list with four operating rigs; one in the Mediterranean (a 3000-hp Maersk Endurer rig with a daily rent of $115 thousand), another in the Gulf of Suez (Zoser rig of 2000 hp comes second in the list with a daily cost of $52 thousand), EDC RIG 5 (a 3000-hp land rig and a daily rent of $13.500), EDC Rig 2 (a 900-hp workover rig and a daily cost of $5 thousand).
  • Transocean the world’s largest offshore drilling company offers four rigs to Petrobel, two of them operate in the Mediterranean with a daily rent of $ 97,000 and $ 120,000, though both operate with the same horse power of 3000. The other two rigs operate in Gulf of Suez in Abu Redis filed, one is a “Jackup” with a daily rent of $ 55,000 and 2000 hp, the 4rth is 2000 hp and rented by $112,000.
  • Petrobel is also in business with Sino-Tharwa Drilling Company, which offers three of its rigs for Petrobel’s concessions in the Gulf of Suez. Two of which are a 2000-hp land rigs, with daily rental cost of $13.500. The third is a 600-hp Workover rig, operating in the Balayim filed with a daily rent of $4800.
  • Weatherford Drilling International Company offered two of its rigs to Petrobel. WDI 94 rig operates in the Delta area with a 2000 hp and daily rent of $10,500. The second is WDI 147, a Workover rig operating with a 550 hp and daily rent of $4500.
  • Atlantic Drilling Company, the final firm in the list to offer one of its rigs to Petrobel. Medstar Jackup rig operates in the Gulf of Suez with a daily rent of $88,000 and 2000 hp.

Petrobel’s budget of the fiscal year of 2010-2011 is estimated at $300 million. The company still in the process of coming up with plans to cut down costs through the usage of latest technologies, as it announced during the 2010 Mediterranean Offshore Conference & Exhibition (MOC).

It is worth mentioning that Petrobel was able to save up to $50 million from the drilling bill of the current year, due to the decrease of rigs prices resulted from the global economic crisis.

Eng. Taher Abdul Rehim, Operation Manager at Rashid Petroleum Company (Rashpetco), said that his company is preparing to drill in the Deep Water of the Mediterranean with investments reached up to $3 billion. The company’s drilling plan is scheduled to start by next month and would last for four years.
“We are preparing to implement our drilling plan in the deep water in the Mediterranean,” Abdul Rehim told EOG.

Abdul Rihim added that this plan includes the drilling of 24 exploratory wells in the period of time that ends by 2014, in the area of the Mediterranean. Besides, he pointed that Rashpetco raised the investment volume to reach up to $3 billion from $700 million last year.

He also added that Rashpetco, a joint venture company between EGPC along with BG, and the Malaysian Petronas, would start the phase of development operations in the West Delta concession to develop three wells (D1, D4, and D5) in the West Delta Deep Marine (WDDM), which were discovered this year, after concluding the current 3-D seismic research. This $120-million development phase is scheduled to start b y the beginning of this month and end by the end of this year. The company will also drill eight wells in the Deep Water of West Delta.

Looking back at the past two years, the number of wells drilled was reduced due to the global economic crisis, in the fiscal year of 2007-2008, which saw 562 wells drilled, and 642 wells drilled in 2008-2009.
At the beginning of this year, the Ministry of Petroleum announced that it is going to drill 520 new oil wells, and 36 new gas wells.

Drilling Schedule

Exploratory Wells
Development Wells
Water InjectionWells
Total drilled
The Year
The new plan forthe current year

EOG also learned that the Ministry is planning to drill 86 wells with investments reached up to $5 billion, each well drilling costs around $6.5 million. As for the joint venture companies, they are planning to drill 434 wells with investments reached up to $2 billion.
EGPC is concentrating this year on the Eastern Desert, Gulf of Suez, the Mediterranean, and the Sinai area comes last.

The drilling companies in Egypt are divided into two types depending on the type of rigs it supplies, whether land or marine. These companies are represented in Transocean, Pyramid Drilling International (PDI), Diamond Offshore Drilling, Atwood Oceanics, Somaser, Weatherford, Sino-Tharwa, and the Egyptian Drilling Company.
As a matter of fact, the daily rental cost differs depending on the type of rig. For instance, the rental cost of offshore rigs counts for an average of 50 to 373 thousand per day, while the average for land rigs is 9-15 thousand per day.

Installed technology is another main factor in selecting the appropriate rig for each drilling operation, for instance, offshore drilling requires high techniques necessary to avoid the threats of this type of drilling. For instance, due to high waves and wind conditions, a marine rig owned by GlobalSantaFe Corporation, years before it was acquired by Transocean, was swept away to the Israeli’s shore, and after it was safely returned to the Egyptian shores, the Ministry suspended all operations held by this rig.

This is the reason behind the continuous efforts made by the Ministry to work closely with companies that supply the latest technologies, whether in the onshore or the offshore drilling.

By Tamer Abdel Aziz
Sama Ezz Eldin


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