Knowing the drill

31st July 2017

Posted By Paul Boughton

Tristam Horn Tristam Horn
Horn assesses whether engineers can benefit from his solution by looking at their well design Horn assesses whether engineers can benefit from his solution by looking at their well design
The SeaCure solution went from concept to end product in just 12 months The SeaCure solution went from concept to end product in just 12 months
SeaCure reduces the risk of developing micro-annuli in the cement SeaCure reduces the risk of developing micro-annuli in the cement

Louise Smyth meets a former drilling engineer who is encouraging the sector to embrace innovative – and far more efficient – new technology

When Tristam Horn encounters an engineering problem, he goes further than most to solve it. In fact, he’s gone as far as giving up his day job to create a company that manufactures products to solve said engineering problem.

Aberdeen-based Deepwater Oil Tools was set up as a direct result of Horn observing age-old technology-related problems in the drilling sector and not being content with the dubious workarounds commonly used to solve them. Its first product, the SeaCure Cementing system, was launched in 2016 and Horn has several other products in the pipeline.

He details the scenario that led to the birth of this first product by recalling that, “It was a major frustration as a drilling engineer and as an offshore drilling supervisor when on drilling rigs, having to perform additional cemented shoe-track clean-out runs, having to pressure test casing strings after having allowed cement to cure when using inner strings, and most frustratingly, when trying to cut out these inefficiencies without SeaCure Cementing technology, ending up in dangerous stuck pipe situations.

“What I set out to do was develop a simple technique for cementing casings, that made use of existing proven technologies, but in a novel way that allowed for a relatively short product development journey, and to provide a solution to the market in the most efficient time frame possible.”

Man on a mission

With the idea in place, Horn commercialised it at a staggering pace (from idea to final product in just 12 months).

But how does the technology actually work?

“SeaCure Cementing uses standard ‘off-the-shelf’ cementing float equipment with the appropriate latch-in adaptors, to temporarily connect the float equipment to an inner string,” explains Horn. “We source this equipment from any number of world-class providers to our customer’s request. The float equipment is all qualified to the highest standards of API cementing equipment, and has many hundreds of field runs to prove reliability. When the latch-in float equipment is used in tandem with our SeaCure Cementing tool, which is a modified bumper sub, we enable a stabbed-in inner string cement job to be performed for casing strings that would typically be cemented by a conventional inner string technique, which requires leaving cement in a shoe-track at the bottom of the casing.”

Horn says that this approach has a number of advantages over conventional inner string cementing techniques. “Firstly, there is no remaining cement left in the shoe-track of the casing with SeaCure, which means no cement to drill out on the next drilling run. If under-reamer runs or slimhole runs are planned, an operator will often conduct a dedicated shoe-track clean out run to properly clean out the cement in the shoe-track before drilling ahead, which is no longer necessary if SeaCure Cementing is done.

“In tandem with this benefit, because a drill pipe wiper dart is used with the system – which lands and locks into the float shoe at the end of the cement job – an immediate casing pressure test can be performed at the end of the cement job, exactly like a classic plug cementing job, except with all of the efficiency benefits of doing an inner string cement job. This reduces the risk of developing micro-annuli in the cement, which is well understood to cause long term integrity concerns for the well, therefore by doing a SeaCure Cement job versus a conventional cement job, the drilling operator recognises immediate efficiency optimisations to its operation, as well as delivering a safer and more reliable well design to minimise the requirement for future interventions to maintain integrity.”

Happy customers

One of the criticisms levelled at the oil & gas sector is that it can be quite conservative when it comes to technology, preferring to stick with established solutions – whose downsides are at least a known quantity – than invest in newer, less proven ideas.

Horn is therefore becoming quite the expert in presenting at conferences and conducting online marketing to carefully introduce his new concept.

However, as with most new products that do exactly what they claim, once people can actually see them in the field, any initial scepticism soon fades. Horn reveals that his company has recently worked with a major oil & gas operator in the Gulf of Guinea in over 2,800m of water, cementing West Africa’s deepest surface casing string below mudline. “Through the use of Deepwater Oil Tools’ service, a new ‘best in basin’ drilling record was set for the region for that well,” he says, proudly.

What’s next?

As well as more work on the SeaCure front, Horn is also focusing on his next launch, a product that he says is well ahead of the expected timeline of its development.

“The ArticuLock product opens up weather windows for installing subsea equipment in harsh environments such as the North Sea, Canada or South Africa. ArticuLock is a joint industry project between Scottish Enterprise, the newly formed Oil & Gas Technology Centre and Deepwater Oil Tools. The prototype that will be used to qualify the design to rigorous industry standards has been manufactured and is currently undergoing extensive testing,” Horn reveals. “We are in discussions with a number of major oil & gas operators that have applications throughout the rest of 2017 and into 2018 where we hope to help them install subsea equipment more efficiently.”

Deepwater Oil Tools’ tagline is “Optimising drilling rig efficiency through intelligent well design”.

As well as adopting solutions such as SeaCure and ArticuLock, what else does Horn believe the drilling industry should be doing to create truly intelligent well designs?

“We are seeing more and more operators opening up to new technology, and there is so much amazing development going on in our industry that will contribute to intelligent well design,” he states. “What we now need is to maintain a broad and open mind toward new technology, perform conscientious risk assessment of new applications, and try to avoid the blinkered view that new technology is a race of the operators to become the second users.”

Engineering expertise

When it comes to deploying the SeacCure Cementing system, Horn’s business model is to firstly identify whether drilling engineers would benefit from the system by looking at their well design with them, and if benefits can be delivered, his firm then provides all of the hardware to them as well as an offshore operator to run the system. He says: “The offshore operator confirms measurements and calculations with the drilling engineer’s offshore supervision team. The system has no hydraulics, no electronics and is basic dumb steel, so it is as simple as a system possibly can be and very straightforward for the offshore and onshore team to get to grips with.”

Funding innovation

Proof that others regard Horn’s ideas as sound can be found in the fact his company was awarded £40,000 of funding at a live business pitching event held by ScottishEDGE, a £1.27million fund that aims to support and encourage entrepreneurial activity within Scotland. Deepwater Oil Tools was one of 15 start-ups that were chosen to receive funding from an original list of 239. Horn applied for the ScottishEDGE funding to help build a business development team to assist with client engagement and support the numerous service enquiries he is receiving from drilling operators.


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