STEP-IQ™ gains traction in the industry
There is the famous saying in the oil patch, “no one wants to be the first, but everyone wants to be the first second.” It’s what makes introducing new technology tough in any market but especially so in the close-knit Calgary community.
“As the head of engineering at STEP, I have been focused on introducing new technologies into a business that’s been around for years and years, said Baily Epp, VP of Corporate Engineering and New Technology at STEP Energy Services. “Challenging the status quo is why we do what we do.”
So Epp, along with Team Lead of Technology Development, Matt Steen, sat down with me to share how they are rolling out real-time data monitoring for milling and, in the future, for fracturing operations through fibre optics and e-coil.
“Real-time data services is something that I’ve been heavily involved with. STEP-IQ is a solution to get data faster and use it as a real-time tool to make immediate decisions on the job site,” said Epp. “Rather than downloading data, analysing it, making decisions and doing the job differently the next time. Real-time data is the future of our operations and the industry.”
Over the past year, STEP has invested significant time, money and energy into both fibre optic and e-coil technology because Epp says people need real-time information to make better, faster decisions.
With the e-coil branch of the STEP-IQ product offering, the adoption rate is growing. The team has reduced costs and is focused on wide-spread commercialization of the product.
With over a dozen runs in 2018, the product offering is gaining traction.
“It is becoming a part of our standard operations,” said Steen “We’ve made it so simple.”
“That was the reluctance of many of the operators in the past. It was expensive, and they had to plan months in advance,” added Epp.
Steen shared a recent story where they were milling with e-coil, and the client saw something that they wanted to get a look at with a camera.
“In a conventional operation – it would be costly to do. You would have to bring in a different coiled tubing reel, which adds substantial cost to the project,” said Steen. “In this case, we already had the technology out there. We tooled up the camera and ran it in hole right away. It was unbelievably efficient. We believe more clients will incorporate this technology because we’ve made it simple, cost effective, and there is zero extra time to integrate it.”
The concept of real-time data isn’t new but Epp says that it is compelling to the operator when they can make it a reality.
“Instead of looking at the surface data acquisition screen to determine what is happening downhole, the operators can monitor exactly what is going on at the tool face by utilizing the real-time downhole data transmitted through the e-coil and to a screen in a coil cab or a laptop anywhere in the world,” said Epp.
“That’s what creates the efficiencies. You may sit there for 30 minutes or an hour thinking that something is happening, and you don’t see it until the fluid comes to surface. Seeing what happens immediately downhole through instant data like circulation pressure, torque, weight on bit, etc., you can make adjustments and knock hours and potentially days off the project.”
With this early success for e-coil, Epp and the team want to mimic that success for the fibre optic offering but it will take a little more time.
“In our case, fibre optics have gotten to the place where it can withstand the conditions of a downhole well. While fibre has been used in permanent installations for years, we took it step further and use coiled tubing to convey the fiber optic cable. Not only does this protect the fiber, it also allows us to perform well intervention operations at the same time as gathering real-time downhole data. The added benefit is that it is much less expensive than a permanent install,” said Epp.
The first trials started in Q4 2017 and since then, Steen shared, the STEP team has invested in the best that the industry has to offer.
“There is tremendous opportunity with this technology, so we went out and built a much more robust asset, the only one of its kind in Canada,” said Steen.
STEP built a 7100 meters 2-3/8” fiber coil asset, which is a coiled tubing string with a fiber optic line protected inside. “We built it specifically for HPHT environments. A lot of these new well sets are in excess of 7000 meters deep for our regular coil tubing operations in the Duvernay and the Montney,” said Epp.
While there have been competitors in specific applications, Epp and Steen shared that no other company is gathering downhole data while milling or has coiled tubing deployed fibre optic capabilities to service extended reach wells in Canada. They can foresee that the next step is deploying real-time data monitoring on fracturing treatments – annular fracturing, shifting sleeve completions – with the goal of monitoring zones and ideally identifying frac screen outs before they happen.
While they shared with me that this new technology is focused on the Canadian market for now, there is great potential throughout North America.
“With surface data, we are correlating kilometers away and guessing what is happening downhole. With STEP-IQ, we are providing accurate, real-time downhole data,” said Steen.
Epp finished, “We aren’t guessing.”
And that is what they are hoping operators will want to do as well.