Technology hasn’t only helped companies grow the core of the Bakken out and extend its lifespan, it’s also helping them cope better with challenges like the recent three-day blizzard here in North Dakota.
“With lessons learned in the last two years, we are now fully set up to work operations remotely with our office staff working from home,” Kathy Neset with NESET Consulting told the Williston Herald.
Field operations throughout the basin were obviously dramatically affected by the blizzard, but technology is helping there, too.
“With the very good weather modeling that our meteorologists use, we are able to plan ahead and stage service sand people to many of the remote operations,” Neset said. “Some operations such as drilling rigs and other 24-hour operations, are able to plan slow downs or work stoppage to keep crews safe and minimize or eliminate crews needing to drive in this weather.”
Many oilfield service companies, including NESET Consulting, did advance work to get crews in place ahead of the storm.
“Our ability to monitor many of the remote sites remotely is a huge improvement of field work of years ago,” she said. “I like to think that our technological advancements — even those in general communications — have worked to keep our oil and gas industry and our workers safer. There are still some operations that need to be manned and kept active during storms, but we are able to do this in a safer and more efficient manner. Thanks to good weather forecasting and a healthy appreciation of the severe weather, companies can keep operations going and keep crews safe.”
Monte Besler, meanwhile, said attitudes have been changing in the oilfield over the years as well.
“(Decades ago) we did whatever we could do to get to locations and perform service work, etc., no matter how bad the storm,” he said. “Fortunately, sanity has finally found its way into the oilfield, in that regard, and safety and environmental concerns have replaced the old ‘Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!’ policies of the past.”
Technology is helping, there, too.
“Remote monitoring, electronic tank level controls, automatic well shut-in equipment, etc., reduce the need for a well pumper to have to get to location every day, no matter what, preventing spills from overflowing tanks, etc.,” he explained. “Better weather forecasting has allowed operators to more reliably pre-empt many of the problems by shutting down the well in advance, without incurring unnecessary lost production or costs.”
Sometimes, of course, a human presence is required, and that’s where GPS comes in handy.
“GPS technology (fixes) locations of facilities reliably, even in less than perfect visibility conditions,” Besler said. “Drone technology will soon allow visual pipeline and well location checks, in difficult weather and travel conditions without the physical presence of a human on site. Employee safety is paramount today, as well as environmental concerns.”