Whether it involves exploration, appraisal or development, our teams boast long-standing, industry-recognized expertise in well drilling and construction, spanning every stage of a field’s life and every type of play and geological environment. They’re motivated by one driving ambition: to consolidate that technological leadership so as to develop the resources of the future. We aim for maximum operating efficiency, productivity and profitability throughout each well’s life cycle — all safely, in keeping with our core value.

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Eric Daflon

Drilling & Wells

Always on the Cutting Edge in New Reservoir Development

Resources That Are Increasingly Difficult to Reach

The era of easily extractable conventional resources is over. For both exploration and development, the oil and gas industry is now faced with a growing challenge in reaching the targets to be drilled. Wells are becoming deeper, longer and more complex all the time. Our processes and technology need to evolve so as to handle extended-reach, horizontal and multilateral wells; reservoirs that are deeply buried or lying in ultra-deep water; high-pressure/high-temperature environments; and more.

These pose a financial challenge as well, since drilling accounts for nearly a quarter of all exploration and production spending. Hence our constant search for ways to simplify and standardize drilling and completion processes, made all the more urgent by volatile crude oil prices and their drastic effects on the oil and gas industry.

 

A Past and Future Drilling Pioneer

We can take credit for several major technological breakthroughs in the field of drilling, such as Measurement While Drilling (MWD), which opened the door to commercial-scale horizontal drilling. And we intend to remain at the technological forefront to ensure we can seize new development opportunities in any geological formation. We take a practical, proactive approach, incorporating new drilling technology to operate in even the most complex environments, always with the same objective: to drill productive wells faster and more cost-effectively, without compromising safety.

Our world firsts — including Raya-1 in Uruguay, an ultra-deep offshore exploration well with a record depth of 3,400 meters; the commissioning in the North Sea of the first all-electric subsea well; and the introduction of the first integrated compact motor-compressor, on Bolivia’s Incahuasi field — are all a testament to that overriding ambition.

 

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Capitalizing on Our Assets to Stay Ahead of Competitors

A Fully Integrated Process

Our expertise is rooted in an integrated chain of skilled professionals who have thoroughly mastered every aspect of drilling and completion, including geology, reservoirs, architecture, stimulation, geomechanics, the reservoir/borehole interface, fluids and cement. Their skills encompass every geological environment and every type of well and drilling rig. They work in close cooperation every day with specialists in related fields.

Thanks to that integrated team, we can draw on state-of-the-art technology for critical tasks such as maintaining wall stability, estimating pressure profiles, optimizing drilling trajectories and formulating drilling fluids.

 

Exhaustive and Flexible Guidance

We adhere to the many technical drilling standards and guidelines that govern our design and engineering at every stage of a project. They include mandatory principles, baseline rules for design and execution, technical specifications for contractors and information manuals. This guidance, appropriate to the wide-ranging scope of our work, applies to all of our operations, from well construction (casing type, cementing method, etc.) to maintenance and abandonment.

Reflecting more than half a century of drilling experience, this standards base ensures the quality of our well drilling procedures under optimal safety conditions. An exemption procedure is available for modifying certain rules to reflect specific operations, when a risk analysis shows that alternative measures can appropriately meet the design and safety requirements.

 

Dedicated Laboratories

We are one of the few oil companies to maintain our own high-performance R&D laboratories. Those facilities — all ISO 9001 and 14001 certified — are equipped to handle even the most advanced experiments. Our engineers are broadening our expertise in four major areas:

  • Drilling fluids and cements.
  • Rock mechanics.
  • The reservoir/borehole interface.
  • Well productivity.

These teams collaborate closely with frontline personnel to conduct experiments, model, analyze and validate well viability, testing drilling mud and cement rheology and reproducing actual conditions in the field, before we carry out complex operations.

 

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Boosting Our Operational Excellence Without Sacrificing Safety or Cost

Operating in Every Type of Play

Over the past decade, Total has drilled more than 3,000 wells across some 30 countries, in geological environments of all kinds, including foothills, abrupt margins, pre-salt basins, carbonate reservoirs and unconventional resources.

As the operator of over 400 subsea wells, Total is also a pioneer and leader in deepwater drilling techniques. Whether that means lighter-weight risers, more robust connections, cement temperature control, simplified architectures and maintenance or all-electric equipment, we partner with multiple manufacturers to develop technology that is tailored to subsea pressure conditions and severe mechanical stress.

We are acknowledged experts in designing and drilling wells in high-pressure/high-temperature environments, for example in the North Sea and Borneo. In those settings, high temperatures have a critical impact on well architecture. Monitoring the differential between the pore pressure and the fracture gradient is essential, with a very narrow window of drilling mud weight. In addition to our know-how for monitoring wall stability during drilling and drilling infill wells in significantly depleted reservoirs, we command special expertise in cement rheology, pore pressure prediction, managed pressure drilling and the use of stress caging for well reinforcement.

Through our operations in Gabon, the Republic of the Congo, the Netherlands and the North Sea, we are also taking steps to maximize our recovery rate from mature fields using infill drilling, offset wells and other techniques.

Most recently we have been focusing on foothills, a play that is as promising as it is demanding. Foothills are very complex fold-and-thrust belts, often located in unusually inhospitable and inaccessible environments. In Bolivia and Papua New Guinea, for example, we deployed the necessary logistics and drew on seismic data to help us guide the drilling operations in real time, partnered with our geoscientists.

 

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Preventing Blowouts

Our operational excellence is founded on one core value: safety. We use a variety of cutting-edge methods and tools to manage the most significant drilling hazards:

  • A continuous improvement process that draws on lessons learned from previous incidents related to well control.
  • A safety audit before beginning any operation on a drilling rig. A quality control procedure is also established to ensure that both downhole and surface equipment and programs comply with the necessary specifications.
  • A short decision chain that ensures clear, consistent instructions: no more than three specially trained and certified team members can make decisions regarding the performance of drilling operations within the affiliate.
  • The Slurry To Cement Analyzer (STCA) unit, unique in the industry. This laboratory-based well integrity resource measures the cement’s mechanical properties as it solidifies under bottom-hole conditions.
  • The Real Time Support Center (RTSC). Located in France, this shared smart room monitors drilling parameters remotely and can detect any abnormalities in real time. Rig performance can be compared and corrected instantly to ensure optimal drilling conditions. Total is one of the few companies that adjusts its use of drilling fluids in real time for maximum effectiveness, thanks to the quick decision-making of our fluid experts.

 

Reducing Our Costs Long Term

Our teams are constantly striving to improve the profitability of our drilling and operations. That includes:

  • Reducing our day-to-day operating costs by streamlining and shortening service contracts through our Drilling and Wells Improvement Process, based on feedback and lessons learned.
  • Measuring and analyzing well performance and taking corrective action. This comparison monitoring, conducted on Egina in Nigeria, Kaombo in Angola, Moho Nord in the Republic of the Congo and other fields, is a means of identifying best practices.
  • Standardizing our drilling methods, rigs and programs on similar developments and gradually simplifying our well architecture, by capitalizing on the knowledge gained from a field’s initial wells. That standardization yields significant economies of scale and makes developments more cost-competitive. It also simplifies logistics flows and can help shorten time frames.
  • Standardizing drilling programs for deepwater exploration wells.
  • Deploying unconventional drilling on a commercial scale through extensive standardization, in particular the use of identical drilling and completion solutions (casings, packers) on multiple wells and broader adoption of slimhole drilling.

 

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Increasing Well Productivity

Our drilling expertise also extends to making wells more productive. We are developing advanced stimulation techniques based on fracturing, injection or acid well treatment, all with the aim of improving inflow rates, flow fluidity and productivity in every type of formation. In particular, our Reservoir/Borehole Interface Laboratory has devised innovative systems and treatments for gravel packing, sand consolidation, scale prevention and more. These solutions, when tailored to reservoir conditions and production targets and coupled with advanced simulation and monitoring software, provide for improved sand control at the reservoir/borehole interface.

We also use enhanced activation techniques, working hand in hand with the multidisciplinary Well Performance teams. We’ve developed several tools in-house, including our Full Control of Wells (FCW) solution for improved automated management of gas-lift pumped or activated wells, as well as our Overall Control of Well and Riser (OCWR) system, which automates recurring operational procedures on our subsea networks.

Preparing for the Future of Drilling

Promising R&D Areas

Consistent with our policy of anticipating change in our industry, our Drilling & Completion R&D program has defined four primary objectives:

  • Enhance operational safety and maintain well integrity.
  • Improve drilling profitability.
  • Increase well productivity.
  • Develop frontier architectures adapted to extreme environments.

Among our latest works in progress: new software that can model the integrity of a cement sheath (T-Cemint); more robust power supply cables for use with electric submersible pumps (ESPs); and innovative well abandonment techniques — not to mention the robotic drilling systems on the horizon, which will help us further automate our operations.

 

Drilling in the Digital Era

The digital technology of the future offers the potential for vast improvements in well drilling performance. So to ensure we’re prepared for the age of digital drilling, we’re readying new applications that rely on big data, i.e., the transfer, processing and analysis of massive volumes of data. We’re also making the move to cloud computing, promoting collaborative platforms that encompass every area of expertise, automating drilling procedures and managing operations from a Real Time Operations Center (RTOC). All of these innovations will lead to increasingly agile drilling operations, with advanced predictive analytics, enhanced design, more effective monitoring and real-time support for operational decision-making.

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