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Directional drillers are now part of CAODC

Seeking to broaden its membership and voice, the Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors (CAODC) announced Tuesday the introduction of a new directional drilling division.
No, your eyes aren’t fooling you; that pipe in the middle does have a bend in it. That’s a directional drilling tool whose very purposeful bend has revolutionized the oil and gas industry in recent decades, making horizontal wells the standard. Seven companies who specialize in directional drilling have now joined the Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors (CAODC). File photo by Brian Zinchuk

Seeking to broaden its membership and voice, the Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors (CAODC) announced Tuesday the introduction of a new directional drilling division.

There are seven directional drilling companies who have signed up for the new division. They include Cathedral Energy Services, Clear Directional Drilling Solutions Ltd., Compass Directional Services Ltd., Ensign Directional, Millennium Directional Drilling Services Ltd., Optimax Drilling Solutions Inc. and Precision Directional Services.

Directional drilling provided a step-change in the oil and gas industry, allowing those companies to adopt what is known as “horizontal drilling,” as opposed to vertical drilling. Since the advent of the petroleum industry, wells were drilled straight down, but that meant that the well itself could only reach a small portion of the typically flat, pancake-like reservoir deep underground.

Directional drilling turns the drillbit in a targeted manner so that a well that starts vertically will make a 90-degree turn and then run horizontally, sometimes for several kilometres, greatly increasing contact with the producing formation.

The horizontal drilling revolution, which took hold in the 1990s, has become so commonplace that nearly all wells drilled today are directionally drilled horizontal wells. 

For the CAODC, the new directional drilling division is the first new division for the association since offshore members were introduced in 1980.

This addition is part of a plan to expand the CAODC to represent a broader portion of the industry, beyond its traditional membership of drilling rig, service rig and offshore rig operators. The organization said in a release the directional division “is the first of several anticipated new divisions comprised of leaders in energy services; companies and people who understand the importance of addressing the challenges facing the Canadian oil and gas industry in the most effective way possible.”

Speaking from Calgary by video conference, CAODC president and CEO Mark Scholz was joined by Optimax Drilling Solutions president and CEO Danny Sullivan, chief financial officer Peggy Sullivan and chief operating officer Jas Pawa. Optimax has a base in Estevan and is currently doing extensive work in southeast Saskatchewan. They’ve also worked on the western side of the province in the past.

Scholz said, “We've seen the ups and downs of the industry, and we've been there for our members to help them navigate through the good times and the bad. 2020 was an incredibly unusual year, and our association saw this as an opportunity to really give back to the industry and create other opportunities of collaboration outside of the land drilling or the drilling and service rig space.”

They conducted a campaign called Leadership for Energy, designed to talk to elements of the oilfield service sector which are complementary to drilling and service rigs. In December, it became clear that a number of directional drillers were interested.

There are three key pieces, he said. The first is to establish greater collaboration. The second is to expand the CAODC’s influence with key stakeholders, not only in industry, but within government, to raise issues of importance.

“Thirdly, we really see this as the beginning of many new divisions within CAODC, and over the coming months, we’re going to be engaging other sectors, but also clearly ensuring our directional drilling industry continues to attract more players to the space, particularly from Saskatchewan,” Scholz said.

The association will still be disciplined and focused on specific sectors, and add meaningful value to them.

Pawa said, “We’re looking at it as more of our segment, not necessarily the drilling rigs or service side participation.”

He noted there will be a separate secretarial board for directional drilling issues.

“The directional drilling industry as a whole has not really participated in a sort of a collective voice on the issues that it faces,” Pawa said.

As directional drilling has become the norm over his 35 years in the business, Pawa said, “People have not seen, or recognize the efficiency that directional drilling is brought to the market.”

He added: “When you look at the amount of production that comes out of one horizontal well, versus having to drill 20 or 30 directional wells or vertical wells in the path, that efficiency has not really been at the forefront of how Canadians have advanced the oil and gas production side of it.”

“When you look at Canadians, and Saskatchewan, with the work we're doing down there., we are probably the one of the best, if not the best environmentally socially responsible oil industries in the world. And I think that, to have a collective voice under a larger umbrella like the CAODC goes a long way to getting that message out there,” Pawa said.

Peggy Sullivan said, “We all know that foreign media, over the last few years, has really given us a hard time, with respect to our industry. So, I think it’s time for all of us to come together and bring this forward, in the good light, that we do shine in our industry.

“We do some really good things here.”

Danny Sullivan said, “Silence is consent, from our perspective, if we’re not fighting back and saying, ‘Okay, that’s not accurate. Let’s dispel the rumor and deal in facts.’

“We’ve probably done a substandard job, as an industry, of telling, of celebrating our accolades as an industry.”

He pointed out that we are now doing 10- to 20-well pads (wells drilled side-by-side on a single location), whereas even 15 years ago, that might have required 60 or 70 drill locations. The result is dramatically less land disturbed to get the same volume of hydrocarbons. That means much less disruption of habitat.

Danny Sullivan said, “We're not doing a great job as an industry, of celebrating the fact that we've actually gone and done this, with technology, because years ago you would have to drill all vertical wells to access those pools of gas or oil. Now with directional drilling and extended reach drilling technologies, we can do that from a single location and avoid having to disrupt five or six dozen other locations that would otherwise would have been necessary, if technology has evolved to the where it is today.”

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