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The Pros & Cons of Shallow Oil Wells

Col. Edwin Drake drilled the world’s first oil well near Titusville, Pennsylvania in 1859. This started a revolution in energy production, providing millions of jobs and billions of dollars to local economies in the subsequent years. Over those years, the industry has evolved and advanced, adopting various technologies and techniques to make the most of our natural gas and oil resources. One of these techniques is the use of shallow oil wells.

Shallow wells provide many benefits to drilling operations. From cost benefits to surprising legal advantages, shallow wells are a reliable source of natural resources for many drilling companies. However, the definition of a shallow well is hardly consistent. From a legal standpoint, differences in definition have led to regulatory and legal battles for the drilling industry. For this reason, it's crucial to be aware of the differences between shallow and deep wells from a legal standpoint and carefully consider which would be most advantageous for your operation.


What Is a Shallow Well?

What constitutes a shallow oil well differs depending on the organization referenced and the purpose of the definition. From a scientific and practical standpoint, a shallow oil well is often defined as any oil well drilled to a depth of 10,000 feet or less. However, this definition does not suit all purposes and regions.

Many states and counties have differing definitions for what constitutes as a shallow well. These different definitions serve to help enforce drilling practices and prevent over-drilling. For example, states and counties located along the Marcellus shale of the Northeastern United States have widely differing definitions and regulations concerning what constitutes a shallow well and how these wells should be drilled. Kentucky law defines a shallow well as any well drilled and completed at a depth of less than 4,000 feet or above the base of the lowest member of the Devonian Brown Shale. Pennsylvania defines shallow wells as any wells that do not penetrate the Onondaga horizon or are otherwise shallower than 3800 feet. A "deep well" for any of these states is any well that does not meet these specifications.

Counties and states will often define shallow wells differently based on local geography and drilling practices. To avoid any issues with regulatory agencies, it is essential to consult with a local expert and a legal team. Doing so will allow your organization to understand the local laws and create a plan that addresses all of them appropriately.


Shallow Well Regulations

While the definitions discussed above may seem superficial, they are essential to understand. The local definition of a shallow oil well is integral to understanding local regulations and provides a guide for how to plan a drilling operation.

Most states regulate shallow wells differently than deep wells. Some states even have different regulatory agencies for each type. Most of these regulations have to do with the legal considerations for the landowner and how closely oil wells can be drilled in proximity to one another. Unfortunately, when drilling companies don't pay attention to these local laws and definitions, they can get into trouble.

As an example, we will look at the definitions, regulatory organizations and regulations of West Virginia and how they affect shallow oil well drilling practices.

  • Shallow Well Definitions: West Virginia law can be particularly confusing for drilling companies due to the fact that the law does not provide a hard number for what constitutes a shallow oil well versus a deep oil well. Instead, the definition is dependent on how deep the drilling company goes into the Onondaga group. Shallow wells can penetrate up to 20 feet into the Onondaga group, but any more than that will cause the well to be defined as a deep well.

  • Regulatory Agencies: In West Virginia, the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, or OGCC, regulates the drilling of deep wells, while the West Virginia Shallow Gas Well Review Board or SGWRB, regulates and resolves issues with shallow wells. While the SGWRB can establish specific considerations and distances for shallow oil and gas wells on a case-by-case basis, the OGCC enforces strict rules based on the depth and location of the proposed drilling site in relation to established wells.

  • Regulations: The SGWRB generally enforces the rule that shallow wells under 3,000 feet in depth must be 1,000 feet from an existing well, while shallow wells over 3,000 feet in depth must be at least 1,500 feet from the nearest existing well. If the owner of the coal seam contests this, the drill operator must observe a 2,000-foot drilling distance from the nearest well unless they can prove a need for a shorter distance. Deep wells, on the other hand, must be at least 3,000 feet from another permitted well.


These factors came into play in the 2008 case Blue Eagle Land, LLC v. The West Virginia Oil & Gas Conservation Commission, in which a group of coal owners and operators claimed that several wells should have been defined as shallow wells and fallen under the jurisdiction of the SGWRB rather than the OGCC. The crux of their argument focused on the definition of a shallow well versus a deep well — they had drilled over 20 feet into the Onondaga group but finished the wells at shallower depths. The court ruled against the petitioners, stating that the accepted interpretation of the law favored the OGCC and that the petitioners had insufficient evidence that their oil wells fit the accepted definition. As a result, the drilling companies were responsible for fines and legal fees associated with insufficient permissions and litigation.

This is just one example, but these types of problems arise frequently. Between the production delays and the legal and civil fines incurred, it's essential to a company's bottom line to understand the definitions, regulations and regulatory agencies overseeing any particular drill site. When in doubt, it's best to consult with the local Department of Environmental Protection Office of Oil and Gas. They, combined with your legal counsel, can help determine any required permits or adjustments in your drilling plan. This simple step can prevent massive costs from being incurred over a simple misunderstanding.


The Pros of Shallow Wells

What makes shallow wells so advantageous as to risk litigation over them? There are several reasons that companies may seek to drill a shallow well over a deep well, including the following:

  • Pooling: In the oil and gas industry, pooling refers to the combining of small tracts of land to obtain sufficient acreage to get a well-drilling permit. Pooling is a legal way to get around state spacing laws while also enabling interest owners to share production profits. The pooling process usually starts by defining the drilling area, then determining who the interest owners are. The company then reaches out to the owners, gets permission to drill and, when drilling is complete, provides a proportionate share of the profits from the well. This allows every shareholder to get a fair share of the profits while allowing the drilling company to access valuable resources. In some cases, one of the landowners may not consent to any drilling on their land. While many states provide legal ways to get around this lack of consent, some, like West Virginia, prohibit drilling if even one shareholder withholds consent. Generally speaking, however, it is much easier to pool for a smaller well because fewer shareholders are involved, making it less likely that someone will refuse to give consent.

  • Availability: Despite rumors, evidence suggests that there's still plenty of undiscovered shallow oil left on earth. The Yates oil field of western Texas, for example, currently features wells at depths ranging from 900 feet to 10,000-14,000 feet. In fact, the Energy Information Administration ranked Yates field 43rd in the U.S. in proved reserves as of 2009. In the opinion of many professionals in the oil industry, Yates is just one of many resources with plenty left to give. According to some, most of the undiscovered oil is 1,500 and 3,200 feet below the surface.

  • Productivity: While most expect shallow wells to dry up sooner than deeper ones, this isn't always the case. Some shallow wells last 50 years or more, though most of this functional life is spent as a stripper well. This does not mean shallow wells are any less important to the overall economy, however. Stripper wells accounted for 10% of overall U.S. oil production in 2015.

  • Cost Efficient: In terms of overall cost, shallow oil wells are less expensive to drill, maintain and produce from. They also tend to come with fewer complications at every stage — pooling is easier and less costly, permits are cheaper and easier to get and equipment is easier to maintain and replace. In total, the oil well drilling cost breakdown comes out in favor of shallow wells. One drilling specialist estimated that the average cost for a shallow well was around $200,000, while a deep well's cost totaled in the millions. This is especially true when comparing shallow oil wells to offshore platforms, which require even more money annually to maintain. The key to keeping costs low, however, is ensuring that the shallow well meets local regulations in order to avoid fines and litigation costs.


These advantages make shallow wells a worthwhile investment, especially for smaller oil companies looking to maximize their profits without much input.


The Cons of Shallow Wells

While shallow wells are very advantageous for drilling companies in terms of productivity and cost, there are several drawbacks to these types of wells. These disadvantages include the following:

  • Concentration on Deep Drilling: The widespread perception, both inside and outside the industry, is that shallow reservoirs are no longer a viable source of production, and that deep wells are where the focus should be. Over the last six decades, average well depths have steadily increased, starting at an average of 3635 feet in 1949 and jumping to 6064 feet in 2007. Some of this can be attributed to improved drilling technology and depleted resources in some areas, but negative perceptions of shallow wells also play a role.

  • Well Spacing: Part of the challenge facing shallow oil well producers is that deep and shallow reservoirs are often in the same place under the same surface. This combined with the industry-wide preference for deep drilling means that shallow reservoirs are often drilled through to reach the deeper ones. This makes shallow reservoirs significantly more difficult to produce later on. Companies often can't sublease shallow formations, either, due to both practical problems and local drilling regulations.

  • Delay Expenses: One of the most significant factors influencing oil producers' decisions is how heavily their expenses depend on production. Any delays in production and delivery can significantly affect a producer's bottom line. For example, extended equipment rentals, increased employee overtime costs and negatively affected client relationships have both short and long term implications for an oil company's profits. For this reason, many oil companies choose to drill deep to get larger reserves and ideally get more stable production numbers.

  • Legal Considerations: This brings us back to the issue of local regulations. While all oil production companies must consider local laws when setting up a drill site, sifting through the local laws is enough of a challenge without getting into whether a project is a deep well or a shallow well. Even operators pursuing shallow oil well projects have run into complications — more than one operator has erroneously pursued a permit for a shallow well when, legally, they were drilling a deep well. The subsequent civil penalties and litigation costs incurred can discourage producers from pursuing shallow oil well drilling entirely, despite the many benefits of the practice.


Because of the in-depth planning and other challenges involved in shallow oil well drilling, many companies choose not to pursue it. However, this prevents them from taking advantage of a valuable resource. Just because a company primarily works in deep drilling doesn't mean that they can't do some shallow oil well drilling as well.


High-Quality Rubber Products From Global Elastomeric Products

Despite the drawbacks of shallow oil wells in the current economy, it's important to remember that shallow oil well drilling costs are exceptionally low compared to the industry standard and especially low compared to offshore drilling. Combined with the availability and productivity benefits, this makes shallow wells a viable source of income for drilling companies of all sizes.

To make it work, however, you need parts that are reliable and replaceable from a high-quality supplier. Global Elastomeric Products can help.

Global Elastomeric Products has been producing reliable rubber products for the oil and gas industry since 1963. We offer a wide range of high-quality elastomeric products including valve seals, packer cups and shear out joints, all produced to last. We even produce custom rubber molded products for specialized applications, so you can trust Global Elastomeric Products for even your most unique design needs.

Contact Global Elastomeric Products today for more information about how our equipment can supply your next shallow oil well project, boosting your revenue and improving your delivery processes.

Elastomers Applications

Every day, we depend on a wide variety of products and materials to go about our daily lives, many of which we barely notice. One example is the elastomer — this material has become essential in numerous industries and applications. From the tires on our cars and the containers for our food to the seals and parts used in industrial equipment, elastomers are an essential part of daily life in the modern world. Despite this, many people are unaware of what elastomers are, what makes them important and how extensively they are used throughout multiple industries.


What Are Elastomers?

Most people are familiar with elastomers under the name "rubber," though this conjures a very loose idea of elastomers' properties and applications. At a chemical level, elastomers are long-chain polymers of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and silicon whose chemical structures have intermolecular crosslinks. These chemical properties result in materials that are both viscous and elastic.

A simple way to visualize this is as a ball of knotted strings. Each string represents a polymer chain, and the knots tying the strings together represent the crosslinks. When pulled under stress, the strings will easily stretch out in the direction of applied force, but the crosslinks will keep them together. When the stress is removed, the crosslinks ensure that the elastomer returns to its original configuration. Without the long strings or crosslinks, applied stress would result in a permanent deformation in the material.

The exact properties of elastomeric materials depend on how many polymeric crosslinks there are, how strong they are and how they're distributed in the material. Depending on their specific chemical structure, elastomers fall into two primary classifications:

  • Thermoset elastomers are elastomeric materials that do not melt when heated. These are the most common type of elastomer. Thermoset elastomers usually require vulcanization, which is a chemical curing process that forms crosslinks in a polymer chain to increase the rigidity and durability of rubber products.
  • Thermoplastic elastomers are elastomers that melt when heated because their crosslinks are significantly weaker, allowing the material to melt and reform without losing its elastomeric properties at operating temperature. These elastomers are generally easier to use in manufacturing, are more easily recycled and exhibit a greater ability to stretch than thermoset elastomers.


Some examples of elastomers include natural rubber, polyurethane, polybutadiene, neoprene and silicone, among others.


Properties of Elastomers

Though many people think of rubber as a bouncy, flexible material, rubber materials vary in physical properties depending on their specific type and chemical makeup. The two most essential features of elastomers, however, are viscosity and elasticity, described in more detail below:

  • Viscosity is the ability of a substance to flow. The level of viscosity of a liquid determines how quickly or slowly it flows under force. For example, when pouring oil versus water from a glass, oil has a noticeably slower flow than water, meaning that it is more viscous. Elastomers are generally very viscous, making them slow-flowing under force.
  • Elasticity is the ability of an object to return to its original shape after stretching or compressing it under force. A simple example is a rubber band — if you stretch a rubber band, it snaps back to its original form. Elastomeric polymers tend to exhibit a high level of elasticity, making them more resistant to breaking or cracking. In fact, elastomers can reversibly extend up to 700% depending on the specific material.

On top of these properties, elastomeric materials are also generally insoluble, can swell in the presence of certain solvents and have a low creep resistance. Some elastomers are resistant to heat and environmental conditions like humidity and steam. Thermosetting elastomers also can not melt but instead pass into a gaseous state.


Applications of Elastomers

Because of their unique properties, elastomers are used in a huge range of industries in a variety of applications. The following are just a few types of elastomers and how they are used in various industries:

  • Natural rubber: Consisting of the organic compound isoprene derived from the rubber plant, natural rubber is highly elastic and strong, but is susceptible to aging and swelling in the presence of oil, making it less ideal in the production of seals. Natural rubber is most commonly used to produce automotive products, wearable items like footwear and rubberized fabrics, latex products and anti-vibration materials.
  • Polyurethanes: Polyurethanes are extremely versatile in manufacturing, able to provide tough, reliable results. Generally, polyurethanes are used extensively in the textile industry to produce elastic clothing like spandex. However, thermoplastic polyurethanes are also used to manufacture shoes, cushions, cables, seals and technical parts.
  • Polybutadiene: In combination with other rubbers, namely natural rubber or styrene, polybutadiene is an essential elastomer, especially in the production of automotive tires.
  • Neoprene: This synthetic rubber is highly resistant to degradation, and is very well suited in the production of corrosion-resistant gaskets, hoses and coatings. Most famously, however, neoprene is used in wetsuits.
  • Silicone rubber: Silicone is different from other elastomers, consisting of primarily silicon and oxygen rather than carbon and hydrogen atoms. More resistant to extreme temperatures, aging and environmental factors, silicone is a great general-purpose elastomer that is commonly used in automotive, aerospace, medical, food production and consumer product applications.


These elastomers and more are used across several industries in various applications.


1. Oil and Gas Applications

Synthetic elastomers made from petroleum products are used throughout the oil and gas industry in a variety of essential applications. Some examples include:

  • Seals: Hydraulic seals are commonly used in the petroleum industry to prevent leaks, making them essential to petroleum plant functionality. Some examples include rubber seals for storage tanks and gate seals for hydroelectric dams.
  • Hoses: Hoses move oil from one place to another, and are commonly made of elastomers for maximum flexibility.

A large variety of other petroleum plant parts are also made with rubber parts. A few examples include packer cups, stripper rubbers, pipe wipers, gaskets and bladders, as well as custom rubber products. For a better idea of what's available, visit the Global Elastomeric Products products page to see our high-quality products for the oilfield industry.


2. Automotive Applications

Elastomers are used in the production of many of automotive products, including the following:

  • Tires: Tires are made with a variety of synthetic and natural elastomeric materials, which help give them excellent flexibility and durability on the road.
  • Seals and gaskets: Automotive gaskets and seals, including radiator seals, are commonly made of elastomers for their ability to effectively seal and protect parts regardless of environmental factors.
  • Vibration dampening: Elastomer materials are used to reduce vibration and noise in many applications, including the automotive industry. For example, elastomer mounts are used to prevent fans from transferring vibrations to the surrounding structure.
  • Windshield wipers: Wipers are made of elastomers, which can effectively mold to the curvature of the windshield to remove water and debris.


Elastomers are also commonly used as adhesives and mounts in vehicles, sealing and securing windshields, mirrors and other vehicle features. They're also essential in suspension systems, engine mounts, belts and hoses.


3. Industrial Applications

Depending on the specific plant, elastomers are used in a wide range of industrial applications, including:

  • Seals: Sealing rings are used in a vast range of industrial applications, and are typically made of elastomers. Thermoset rubber seals are more traditional, but thermoplastic elastomers are becoming more common because they can be produced faster.
  • Conveyor belts: Belts and belt parts are commonly made of elastomers for their ability to resist deformation over long periods of applied stress.
  • Insulation: Electrical insulation is an important part of any manufacturing operation and is usually made of high-quality elastomers.


Elastomers are also used for floor coverings, hoses, tubes and drive belts. On top of all this, elastomers are commonly produced as industrial and engineering goods, making them even more ubiquitous in the industrial sector.


4. Agricultural Applications

The agricultural industry uses elastomers at every step, from herd management to food production. Some common applications include:

  • Animal tags: Animal tags are often made of high-quality elastomers that are resistant to wear and weather damage. This is essential for herd identification and management.
  • Conveyor belts: Belts are often used to move food through production, and the belts and associated parts are primarily made of durable elastomers.


Elastomers are also used in agricultural equipment. For example, elastomers make up the gaskets, seals, hoses and dampeners that are used in tractors and other agricultural vehicles.


5. Medical Applications

Healthcare facilities use a huge variety of elastomers at every level. Elastomers are often chosen for sterility, biocompatibility and low leaching levels. Some common examples include:

  • Gloves: Latex is made of natural rubber, and these gloves are extremely common in the medical field, able to provide a barrier between caregiver and patient to maintain sterile conditions. Non-latex gloves are also made of elastomeric materials.
  • Implants and prosthetics: Implants and prosthetics are often made of medical-grade elastomers, making use of the material's flexibility to achieve specific results. For example, certain implants require some amount of flexibility for comfort, while prostheses often need soft-touch elements to improve results in daily use.


Other examples of elastomers in the medical field include catheters, diaphragms and tubing.


6. Printing Applications

3D printing is often based around thermoplastic elastomers. Many 3D printers use thermoplastic elastomers as the substrate material for printed products, and other elastomers are being explored as possibilities for future applications.

The important part about this application is that it can be used for practically any of the industries previously mentioned. 3D printing can make custom parts for industrial, medical, agricultural and consumer applications with the right material and design.


7. Other Applications

The industries listed above describe only a few of the potential applications for elastomers. These materials are also commonly found in products people use in their daily lives. Here are some examples:

  • Consumer products: Many consumer items are made with elastomeric materials, including raincoats, sponges and even pencil erasers. Many durable yet stretchy materials are also made with some type of elastomer-based textile.
  • Footwear: Elastomers are extensively used in footwear applications. Polyurethanes and natural rubbers allow for excellent flexibility, allowing footwear to move with the wearer, while also cushioning the feet and joints from impact. Additionally, some elastomers can be manipulated more freely, allowing for greater design freedom for footwear companies to keep up with current trends.
  • Sporting goods: Many sports items, including golf balls, bowling balls, footballs and protective equipment, are made of elastomers. Much of this has to do with the flexibility and shock absorbing capabilities of elastomeric materials.
  • Food storage and delivery: Various food storage and delivery systems are made of elastomers. For example, bottle cap liners, liquid delivery tubes and baby bottle nipples are all made of elastomers. Bottle cap liners are often made of thermoplastic elastomers and serve as seals to protect the contents of the bottle from the outside world. Liquid delivery tubes and baby bottle nipples, on the other hand, are commonly made of silicone for its resistance to wear and its ability to be easily sanitized. Food-grade elastomers are also widely used to produce plates, storage containers and soft grips for baby utensils, among other food-related items.
  • Housing: Many elastomers are used in the production of various construction components. For example, coolant and air conditioning hoses are commonly made from elastomeric polymers, as are certain types of insulation, roofing sheets and window profiles. In areas with seismic activity, elastomers are also used to create bearings to help buildings survive earthquakes.
  • Adhesives: Elastomer adhesives are used in a huge range of industries for their efficacy, flexibility and resistance to wear.


The key to achieving the capabilities of elastomers, however, is choosing to work with a company that can provide high-quality elastomeric products. This is where Global Elastomeric Products can help.


Get Quality Elastomers With Global Elastomeric Products

There are plenty of oilfield equipment suppliers available who can provide elastomeric products, but you need the right one to provide consistent quality every time. Working with multiple suppliers may cost you time and money figuring out which product or service is most reliable, and choosing a poor-quality supplier can cost you dearly in productivity. Global Elastomeric Products is here to help.

When you select Global Elastomeric Products, you choose a company with over 50 years of experience in the industry. We provide packer cups, oil well casings, drilling machine parts and other critical items for your business, along with custom rubber products for your unique needs. No matter what your company requires, Global Elastomeric Products can provide it all.

Contact Global Elastomeric Products today for a free quote on rubber products. Discover how Global Elastomeric Products can be the only oilfield equipment supplier you'll ever need. Get a free quote on packer cups, oil well casings or any other product in our extensive industry. We can even provide information about our custom rubber products. Learn more about elastomers and the elastomeric products Global Elastomeric Products provides by contacting us today.

Common Causes of Well Delivery Delay

 

Oil & Gas Journal predicts that total spending for exploration, drilling and production will reach nearly $152 billion in 2019. While this 2 percent increase shows a significant deceleration from the 23 percent increase in 2018, oil companies are still seeking ways to reduce spending and create more efficient processes. Delays in oil well delivery are a major factor in excess upstream spending for oil suppliers. Oil well delivery delays can disrupt revenue flow and necessitate additional spending for resources, equipment and labor.

As oil companies target new assets and plan for future oil wells, they must take steps to eliminate inefficiencies and optimize the oil well delivery process. In this article, we will examine the common causes of oil well delivery delays and explore solutions for minimizing or eliminating costly stalls in oil well planning, execution and completion.

 

What Is the Well Delivery Process?

The oil well delivery process outlines the series of activities that are necessary to plan and execute the drilling and completion of an oil well. An effective oil well delivery process accounts for the multitude of factors involved in oil well delivery to plan for any risks and uncertainties that may arise. By relying on a well-defined and efficient process, oil suppliers can avoid delays and increase their revenue return through timely well completion.

Oil well delivery begins with comprehensive planning and ends with thorough analysis to further improve the well delivery process for future drilling projects. These are the basic steps of oil well delivery:

 

  1. Goal identification: Oil well delivery starts with a clear understanding of the objectives of the well, whether it is for production or exploration. Oil suppliers set goals for the asset and a proposed timeline for oil well completion.

  2. Well planning: During the planning stage, the geologic target and surface drilling point are determined and engineers plan the best trajectory between these points based on nearby wells and geological formations. A step-by-step plan for well execution is created, detailing all essential elements of well delivery — including personnel, equipment, design creation, resource allocation and more.

  3. Drilling: After extensive planning, the well is drilled using a drilling rig and steel casing is placed into the hole.

  4. Completion: Oil well completion involves preparing the well to produce oil by drilling small holes in the casing to allow oil to flow into the tubing or installing sand screens in open hole production. In wells that do not have sufficient subsurface pressure to push oil and gas to the surface naturally, an artificial lift method may also be installed as part of the well completion process.

  5. Production: Once the oil well is completed, production begins. Drilling equipment is removed from the wellbore, and the top of the well is fitted with valves to regulate the pressure and flow. The outlet valve allows oil to be distributed through pipelines to refineries, oil export terminals and other destinations.

  6. Process improvement: After oil well delivery is complete, the final step is to analyze the well execution and production to identify areas for process improvement in the future. Careful analysis allows oil suppliers to develop leaner manufacturing processes to deliver wells faster and more cost-effectively.

 

 

Oil well delivery delays are possible at any step of this process, from planning to extraction. Delays can be caused by everything from poor communication between stakeholders during planning to equipment failure or malfunction during drilling.

Any delay in oil well delivery can be a serious hit to an oil supplier's bottom line. In addition to delaying revenue, stalls in oil well delivery can create additional expenses, such as if equipment rentals must be extended to make up for a delay or employees must be paid overtime to finish a well on schedule. Well delivery delays can also damage relationships with stakeholders and clients who depend on oil suppliers for timely delivery of product.

 

Causes of Oil Well Delivery Delay

Understanding the common causes of oil well delivery delay allows oil suppliers to anticipate potential problems and take actions to prevent them. Here are a few of the primary factors that can cause stalls in oil well delivery:

1. Human Error

Human error can occur at nearly any stage of oil well delivery and at every level of personnel — from expert geoscientists to workers out on the rig. Mistakes can occur during drilling execution if staff are not properly trained to operate equipment or during oil well planning, such as mistakes in data entry or errors in calculations. One small incorrect number can cause a serious mistake and result in a long delay of well delivery.

Many oil suppliers still depend on manual systems that increase the risk of human error during data entry and transfer. Personnel must transfer data from one application to another as they progress through different stages of the well delivery process. When managing huge volumes of data and calculations in a manual system, human errors are bound to occur. To prevent human errors in data entry, oil suppliers can employ automated systems that streamline data transfer and protect against costly mistakes. Automated data management systems can detect errors and ensure data is more secure and more accurate.

Oil suppliers can also protect against human error during well delivery by investing in effective onboarding and training programs. Over the past several years, the oil and gas industry has experienced a shift in the workforce as older, skilled workers retire and new employees enter the field. Research by the American Petroleum Institute (API) projects that Millennials will make up 41 percent of the workforce in oil and natural gas and petrochemical industries by 2025.

Although this younger workforce boasts higher education levels and greater diversity than previous generations, effective training is essential to account for less on-the-job experience. Oil companies must employ comprehensive on-boarding and training programs that stress the importance of preventing errors in oil well planning, drilling and completion. With the potential for more than 1.9 million new jobs in the oil and natural gas industry by 2035, oil suppliers must seek skilled and dependable workers to reduce human mistakes in oil well delivery.

 

2. Data Accessibility

The oil well delivery process depends on a series of tasks that build upon one another. In many instances, one team cannot complete a step in the process until they receive data or calculations from another department. Oil well delivery delays can occur when team members must wait for data to be transferred or must track down the data they need from other departments. When data is not readily accessible, this can create bottlenecks in the oil well delivery process and prevent employees from managing their time effectively.

Oil well planning involves coordination and communication between various stakeholders and suppliers. To complete an oil well on schedule, all relevant parties must be able to access data for review, analysis and approval. Lack of data visibility can significantly delay the oil well delivery process and impair effective decision-making. During the production stage, data visibility and accessibility are even more important to manage assets effectively.

 

 

Data accessibility in the field is also a critical component of successful oil well delivery. Engineers and workers must be able to confirm calculations and plans while on-site to execute drilling and completion tasks correctly. Many oil suppliers still rely on paper-based systems that may not always reflect the most up-to-date data and figures. Outdated or incomplete data can result in mistakes in oil well delivery or put work on hold until data can be verified.

Oil suppliers can achieve greater data accessibility through cloud-based data management systems that allow streamlined information transfer and complete data visibility. Data management systems for oil well delivery allow stakeholders in remote locations to collaborate effectively and workers to access crucial data from mobile devices while on job sites. Figures and calculations can be updated in real-time to prevent costly mistakes or delays during oil well planning and execution.

For companies that are drilling hundreds or thousands of wells each year, effective data management becomes even more crucial. Companies must employ effective methods to track and exchange data between various entities to advance the well delivery process through its many development stages.

 

3. Lack of Planning

Effective oil well delivery requires extensive planning that includes risk assessment and anticipates any potential challenges. Because oil well delivery involves many interconnected steps, any small error or change in one area can have a large ripple effect on numerous others. Making a small adjustment during the drilling or completion stage can cause lengthy delays as calculations must be reworked or equipment changed.

For example, when planning the trajectory for an oil well, engineers and geoscientists must consider clearance to any surrounding wells and faults, plan for possible interference with future wells, determine the ideal angle for drilling and work around any geological formations that may be more difficult to drill through. Scientists then predict the properties of the subsurface to select the correct drill bits and drilling fluid and to design the casing and bottom hole assembly. Trajectory plans and designs often go through several revisions before they are finalized.

Rushing through the planning stages for oil well delivery can cause costly problems during well execution and completion. If drilling teams encounter a different substrate material than anticipated, they may need to change the trajectory of the well or use different drilling equipment. If casing design is flawed, well completion may be delayed until an effective casing can be installed. However, by anticipating potential problems up front and planning ahead, oil suppliers can have the right equipment available to keep oil well delivery on track.

Another effective strategy to reduce delays due to ineffective planning is to establish a standardized well delivery process. Although each project will have unique requirements, oil suppliers can strive to create more stable processes for long-term planning. By solidifying well designs and drilling plans in advance rather than making adjustments last-minute, companies can manage their supply chain more effectively and enjoy greater predictability in production. Stable well delivery plans allow oil companies to optimize logistics for specialized equipment and better plan for rig allocation.

Companies drilling a series of wells can also reduce oil well delivery delays by planning for similar projects to be executed consecutively. When workers are engaged in repetitive jobs, they require less learning for each new project and can complete drilling tasks more efficiently. By grouping similar jobs, companies also reduce the likelihood of human error.

 

4. Lack of Analysis

Post-process analysis is a crucial step in effective well delivery and can significantly reduce oil well delivery delays in the future. After each well completion, teams should perform a complete analysis to identify process inefficiencies and areas for improvement. Without analysis, teams are likely to repeat the same mistakes or continue to operate with the same inefficient processes. However, by tracking performance metrics across all areas of oil well delivery, oil suppliers can gain insights that better inform decision-making in the future.

By analyzing data from previous oil well projects, teams may even be able to predict when an incident is imminent and intervene to prevent it. Past project data may reveal patterns of processes or actions that resulted in delays or downtime. By identifying data connected to mistakes or delays, teams can actively avoid these scenarios in the future.

 

 

Modern technology can support predictive analytics for oil well delivery through intelligent data collection and analysis. Technology can be used to collect real-time data during drilling and identify patterns that lead to failures. Advances in artificial intelligence for drilling data analysis have also produced technology that can interpret unstructured well planning data to provide valuable insights into potential risks.

 

5. Product Failure

During the oil well delivery process, workers rely on specialized tools and equipment to get the job done. When executing well drilling and completion tasks, product failure or malfunction can cause significant stalls in oil well delivery — and may even result in fatal accidents. Product failure can occur due to defects, poor product design or low-quality equipment. Product failure may also result from the misuse of equipment by under-trained workers.

For oil well projects that require custom equipment or products, companies must choose a trustworthy supplier to engineer components that meet their precise specifications. Because custom equipment generally has longer lead times than standard parts, it is essential that specialized parts are engineered correctly the first time to prevent significant delays in oil well delivery.

Product defects can also cause unnecessary delays and waste valuable resources and time. Workers must expend time to dispose of defective products and wait for new products to arrive before work can continue. By choosing a high-quality supplier from the start, oil companies can avoid costly delays due to product failure. Well-designed and defect-free equipment will result in a more efficient oil well delivery process and faster well completion.

Oil companies can also face challenges when coordinating with multiple suppliers for products they need to complete oil well drilling projects. If one supplier is not reliable and does not deliver products on time, the entire process will be delayed. However, by working with a single supplier for all oil well drilling products, companies can streamline their supply chain and rely on high-quality products to complete oil well delivery without costly delays.

 

High-Quality Rubber Products From Global Elastomeric Products

Oil well delivery delays can be caused by a range of issues — from human errors to problems in data management. Insufficient planning can put projects behind schedule and low-quality products can lead to project stalls that waste time and resources. If you are seeking to improve your oil well delivery process, consider starting with high-quality and dependable oilfield packer products from Global Elastomeric Products.

 

 

Global Elastomeric Products has produced reliable rubber products for the oil and gas industry since 1963 and offers a wide assortment of elastomeric products including packer cups, valve seals and shear out joints. For specialized oil well projects, Global Elastomeric Products can provide custom rubber molded products to match your unique design needs. Contact Global Elastomeric Products for more information about how our rubber oilfield equipment can reduce oil well delivery days to boost your revenue and improve your well delivery process.

The Nut Harvesting Industry & Harvesting Equipment Guide

Whether you're currently in the nut harvesting industry or want to try your hand at harvesting for the first time, there's no better time than now to start your nut harvesting journey.

A recent trend in health and dieting has boosted the popularity of nut eating. Consumers, growing increasingly conscious of their health and wellness, have noted the nutritional value nuts provide as a rich source of protein, fiber and fatty acids such as palmitoleic acids and omega-3. Medical studies have praised nuts' ability in reducing the risks of cancer and heart disease, and wellness magazines and blogs continue to promote the benefits of eating them. And the success of nut spreads such as Nutella and the rapid boom of the nut butter craze, at an 80 percent rise from 2011, steadily builds demand for nut products.

Overall, nut harvesting is a rewarding choice.

Tree nuts, in particular, remain high in popularity and earnings. With demand tree nuts projected to reach 15,856,000 tons by 2022, it's both useful and profitable to enter into the tree nut harvesting industry.

 

tree nut industry projection

 

But the proper equipment is necessary to make the most out of your tree nut crop. There are several types of machinery you'll need for the highest efficiency of your harvest, and you'll need to care for each machine responsibly. Various rubber parts on the harvesting machinery need to be continually monitored and, if needed, replaced.

Read on to learn more about the nut harvesting industry, the equipment you'll need to harvest your crop, the most common rubber parts of nut harvesting equipment and the signs you'll need to look for to make sure that all your machines' parts are working correctly.

 

About the Nut Harvesting Industry

The United States fruit and tree nut industry generates $25 million of farm cash receipts per year, accounting for 13 percent of cash receipts for all crops.

With the national health trends that were popularized in the last 10 years, tree nut production rose significantly. In 2012, the year of the most recent agricultural census, production totaled 2.7 million tons.8

California harvests 90 percent of this tree nut crop. The state's orchards account for nearly all almond, pistachio and walnut production. Its almond crop is expected to produce a record harvest during the 2017 to 2018 season.

Georgia, New Mexico and Texas now produce most of the country's pecan crop, which is also expected to rise.

 

Types of Nuts Harvested

Different kinds of nuts have different ideal climates and typical harvest times. Four types of tree nuts — almonds, pecans, walnuts and pistachios — account for nearly all tree nut acreage in the U.S.

 

almond crop production US

 

1. Almonds

Almonds compose the largest acreage of all tree nuts planted in America today. The U.S. leads the world in almond production, harvesting 80 percent of the world's almond crops.

These tree nuts require a growth period of winter chilling but can't handle heavy frosts, so California's moderate climate provides the crop an ideal location. California grows nearly all of the country's almond crops.

Almonds continue to grow in per-person consumption, making them the number one type of tree nut. A popular choice for health enthusiasts, they provide a strong source of calcium and magnesium. Their massive success stems from their use in granola bars, cereals, chocolate snacks and baking goods.

A leathery green hull encases the almond and splits open when the almond is ripe. A crop is ready for harvest when most of the hulls have split and the almonds start falling to the ground, typically between August and October.

2. Walnuts

Both black and English walnuts are grown in the United States. They require a moderate climate with mild summers and little to no night frost. While generally found in California, they are also produced in Midwestern states such as Indiana, Illinois, Missouri and Iowa.

Walnuts are surrounded by a tough, round outer hull that turns from a bright green to a yellowish green as the nut ripens. Like almond harvesting, the walnut harvest begins when most of the hulls have split and the nuts start falling from the trees. Walnuts ripen between mid-September and early November.

3. Pistachios

Pistachios saw a 51 percent increase in acreage between 2007 and 2012, the most significant growth of all the top tree nuts. This increase is possibly due to heightened demand. Although tree nuts as a whole experienced a recent popularity boost, pistachios particularly enjoyed the increased attention of celebrity endorsements and worldwide trade.

Pistachios thrive in areas with hot summers and cool winters, with California again providing an ideal climate. Outside the U.S., they are primarily grown in the Middle East and Central Asia, where experts believe they originated.

These tree nuts typically grow in early summer and ripen for harvest between late August and September. When they're nearly ready for harvest, the small green hull begins to turn reddish-yellow. It then turns red and starts to separate from the inner shell when fully ripe. Because the shell splits open before harvest, pistachios cannot be harvested off the ground like other nuts, as this would run the risk of soil contamination.

4. Pecans

The only top four tree nut in America that isn't primarily grown in California, pecans thrive in the warm summers of Southern and Southwestern states. They predominately grow in Texas, Georgia, New Mexico, Arizona and Oklahoma, requiring short winters and long, hot summer climates.

Pecans grow inside a thin green husk that browns as the nut matures. The husk cracks open when ready for harvest, typically between late September and November.

 

how nuts are harvested

 

How Nuts Are Harvested

When the nuts have matured and most of their hulls have cracked open, the nuts are ready for harvest.

While people owning only a few nut trees can simply pick nuts off the ground by hand, farmers with commercial nut crops have neither the time nor the manpower to pick up the nuts themselves. Harvesting equipment is used as a more efficient method of dropping the nuts from the trees and gathering them off the ground.

First, a mechanical shaker — a tractor-like vehicle with a big mechanical arm that holds a large claw — is driven up to a tree. The arm reaches out, and the claw grabs around the tree's trunk using a hydraulic cylinder. Then, at the press of a button, the machine begins to rapidly shake the tree using small vibrations. The vibrations loosen the remaining nuts, which causes them to fall to the ground.

 

how nut harvesting machines work

 

After falling to the ground, the nuts are swept into rows using large sweepers and quickly sucked up with harvesting machinery. They are taken to a hulling facility, where the nuts are separated from the hulls and are then dried and prepared for storage or processing.

When harvesting pistachios, a catch frame is used to keep the nuts from hitting the ground. The nuts fall directly onto a conveyor, so there's no need to use a sweeper.

 

Types of Machines Used in Nut Harvesting

Three machines make up the majority of the nut harvesting process.

1. Tree Shakers

A tree shaker rocks the nuts off the tree and onto the ground with soft, rapid vibrations. Its creation marked a vital step in the ease and efficiency of nut harvesting, allowing farmers the speed to finish multiple trees in under a minute.

There are two main types of tree shakers available for farmers today:

  • Tractor-mounted shakers are budget-friendly arm attachments that mount to an existing tractor's three-point linkage. The arm is then attached to the front or side of the tractor.
  • Self-propelled shakers are the most popular option of tree shakers. These vehicles come equipped with their own motors and maneuvering systems that don't have to be hooked up to any other machine. The arm and claw come pre-attached either to the front or side of the shaker.

If you're growing pistachios or other nuts that cannot be shaken to the ground, you'll need a shaker with a collector — the large, flatbed that catches the nuts as they are shaken from the tree and drops them into a conveyor.

2. Nut Sweepers

Aside from pistachios, most nuts lay on the ground after being shaken off the tree. These nuts should be collected as soon as possible. For added efficiency, sweepers push the nuts into rows that make it easier for the harvesters to pick up as many of them as possible.

The sweepers are large, tractor-like vehicles with circular teeth and "sweepers" that collect the nuts while a fan blows them into piles.

3. Nut Harvesters

Once the nuts are collected into rows, they need to be picked up and taken to the hulling facility. Harvesters act as large vacuum cleaners, suctioning the nuts from the ground and filtering out dirt, sand and pebbles through a dirt chain. They empty the nuts into a cart, which connects to the harvester via a hydraulic hitch.

When the harvester is run, rubber fingers on the inside lift the nuts off the ground and towards a metal drum, which rotates in the machine. A fan then blows the leaves and other debris out the back, while a conveyor belt processes the nuts through the harvester.

You can buy either a self-propelled harvester or one that connects to a tractor for the right blend of power, control and efficiency.

 

Most Common Rubber Parts on Nut Harvesting Machines

While nut harvesting equipment is built to last for years, there are several rubber parts on tree shakers, sweepers and harvesters that need to be continually monitored for wear and tear. Some of these rubber parts include:

  • Shaker pads: Attached to the shaker head you'll find oval or square pads. These pads grip the trunk and provide the stability and support necessary to vibrate the tree, as well as the cushioning needed to avoid hurting it.
  • Harvester fingers: The fingers are the pieces of rubber inside the nut harvester that pick the nuts up off the ground and into the machine. Each harvester has hundreds of fingers that work together to pick up all the nuts.
  • Sweeper paddles: The outside front of many nut sweepers features rubber paddle wheels. They prevent leaf and debris pile-up.
  • Conveyor belt: The conveyor belt moves the nuts through the harvester and filters out dirt and pebbles from the nuts.
  • Sweeper and harvester flaps: The fronts of most nut sweepers and harvesters have large rubber flaps that guide the nuts into the machine.
  • Rubber hosing: Located throughout the machines, rubber hosing connects various parts of the engine.

nut harvesting equipment checklist 

 

How to Spot Faulty Rubber Parts on Your Machines

Your equipment goes through a lot. It's designed to handle outdoor elements and excessive vibrations. It protects your trees from harm while forcibly shaking the crop off of them. Your machines are a vital part of the nut harvesting process.

Because they're central to the success of your crop, it's essential that you monitor your machines for faulty parts. Particularly, the rubber parts that compose the shaker head and the inner parts of the harvester need to stay in top condition. If you see any signs of wear, contact your local rubber parts company to replace the old parts.

Here are some things you should look for when checking your machines:

  • Missing pieces: There are hundreds of fingers in a harvester. These allow it to do its job at peak efficiency, but older parts can sometimes loosen when they can no longer handle heavy loads. Check the fingers after every harvest to ensure that none have broken off.
  • Thinning pads: Like tires, other rubber parts will start to thin after years of wear. The large pads of the shaker heads are especially susceptible to deterioration, and worn-out pads could harm the trunks of your trees or provide less effective vibrations.
  • Worn hoses: Sometimes rubber hoses can get worn away by debris or heavy use. Check the tubing throughout your machines and replace as necessary.

Smaller rubber parts may often go unnoticed. Check your owner's manual for service points that you should look at after using your machinery.

 

Contact Global EEE for Your Rubber Part Replacement Needs

At Global EEE, we have over 50 years of customized rubber experience. Our expertise in crafting custom parts in the oil and agricultural industries makes us a brand you can trust. You can always count on Global EEE for quick turnaround and excellent customer care.

Our in-house design and engineering team is trained to provide quality custom agricultural products, so each rubber part is made to your machine's specific needs. We'll work with you to replace the worn-out rubber parts of your tree shakers, sweepers and harvesters including shaker head pads, conveyor belts, paddles and more.

Our team's ability to create high-quality rubber replacement parts for any agricultural equipment makes us a trusted provider to farming professionals in Bakersfield and the surrounding communities. We help people just like you find the right parts to make their harvesting equipment run smoothly. We promise to provide you with the parts you need for any new or used nut harvesting equipment at a reasonable price and with no defects.

When you order from Global EEE, you can be confident that you'll receive excellent service with results you can trust. We don't believe in outsourcing our products, because we value putting you first. We proudly offer replacement parts made in the U.S.

Contact us today for more information about how we can help you improve the quality of your nut harvesting equipment by updating its rubber parts. Tell us about your replacement part needs, and we'll give you a custom quote on our top-of-the-line rubber products.

The Current State of Oil Prices

Oil is in the news, and everyone is talking about the impact of lower oil prices on our economy in the USA as well as around the world. Within the past year, oil prices have been as high as $100 per barrel, but are now fluctuating to about $45 per barrel. That’s a significant drop in price, so it’s important to consider why that reduction has occurred and also learn where oil prices are going.

Read more...

Lean Manufacturing Processes in the Oil and Gas Industry: What You Need to Know

 

Lean Manufacturing


Production systems develop items that the population demands with speed and accuracy. However, the way items are formed and placed in front of consumers is an involved function that has not always been efficient or pleased customers to the greatest extent possible. Lean manufacturing was developed when time and materials were not being used to their highest potential.

The basic concept of lean manufacturing has to do with how an entity can cut out unnecessary steps or hindrances to achieve the best selection for all customers. The oil and gas industry has begun to adopt lean principles in order to effectively compete using an increasingly called-for material with a changing market cost.

 

What Is "Lean"?


The place of "lean" in lean manufacturing is to describe a business, method or procedure as creating the highest value for a consumer with eliminated waste from the producer. Lean can be used as a shortened version of "lean manufacturing" or as a description of any system that runs with exact productivity to deliver prime quality and zero waste.

 

 

With lean processes, any source that expends useless energy, material or capital is shaved off until the waste level vanishes. The waste per unit of production must be instituted company-wide, and the flow of production should be stretched to an overarching angle.

Converting a system to lean will save employees extra effort and additional time spent on projects. Workers will then use their time to the full capacity for the essential tasks rather than laboring long hours over convoluted assignments.

 

Lean Manufacturing History & Beginnings


The Industrial Revolution is largely viewed as taking place in the 18th and 19th centuries. While it started in Britain in the late 1700s, it quickly spread into other areas of Europe and America as society transitioned from agrarian and rural to industrial and urban.

Over the next hundred years, inventors and engineers developed revolutionary products. Many of these products still impact us today:

  • the coffee pot (1806)
  • Robert Fulton's steamboat (1807)
  • the electromagnetic motor (1830)
  • the first power tools (1837)su
  • the first oil well (1857)
  • the first oil pipeline (1864)


However, in the late 1890s, industrial engineers began considering questions about the combination of manufacturing processes and mass production. This is when the birth of lean manufacturing occurred.

 

The Birth of Lean Manufacturing


While the concepts of lean manufacturing are much different today than in the early 1900s, there is no doubt that the seed for today’s lean manufacturing processes was planted by the early industrial engineers. Many consider the most influential of these engineers to be Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company.

At the time of its founding in 1903, the Ford Motor Company was just 1 of 88 car companies in the United States. While all of the other companies viewed automobiles as luxury items, Henry Ford had a different perspective. Ford’s true stroke of genius was in realizing that cars could be produced more efficiently, making them more affordable for the general public.

Ford implemented a system in which the critical elements of manufacturing — including the people, machines, tooling and products — were arranged in a continuous assembly line. This system enabled the Ford Motor Company to deliver over fifteen million Model T cars during a 19-year production run. Due to these accomplishments, many people consider Henry Ford the first to implement lean manufacturing principles.

 

Overcoming Weaknesses and Establishing Lean Manufacturing


Despite all his successes, Ford’s system also had several notable weaknesses. For one, the system was designed to produce a single end product with no variability. As a result, the Ford manufacturing system did not easily allow for the ability to change models or customize a car with options as simple as color. Alfred Sloan of General Motors recognized this weakness and made modifications to Ford’s system to allow for larger scale manufacturing and variety.

The Toyota Motor Company also studied the Ford production methods and identified areas of improvement. Toyota combined Ford’s production methods with the practices of Statistical Quality Control to develop the Just In Time production system, later called the Toyota Production System (TPS).

In particular, Toyota began looking at workers as more than just laborers and instead viewed them as integral parts of the process. Toyota began to incorporate aspects of team development and cellular manufacturing — arranging workstations and equipment in sequence to ensure a smooth flow through the production process. Making these changes allowed Toyota to start producing in small quantities and with much more variation.

The evolution of automobile production processes was chronicled in James Womack’s 1990 book “The Machine That Changed the World.” With little idea of his impact at the time, Womack christened these processes into a single term: “lean manufacturing.”

 

The Evolution of Lean Manufacturing Principles


From 1990 to today, the concepts of lean manufacturing have continued to develop. Specifically, lean manufacturing principles are those that seek to minimize waste during the manufacturing process. More broadly, lean manufacturing now encompasses any technique or process that enables a process to run more efficiently.

Much like the original statistical quality processes that formed the foundation for the Toyota Production System, today’s lean manufacturing processes often integrate current quality control principles such as Six Sigma. For this reason, eliminating waste and improving quality usually go hand-in-hand in lean manufacturing best practices.

As lean concepts continue to develop, lean tools and techniques are being extended beyond manufacturing. Managers and corporate leaders are applying lean concepts in healthcare, retail, logistics and distribution, construction and many other industries — including the government.

Lean tools and techniques take on many different forms, and they are partially dependent on the overall goals of the organization. While some organizations focus solely on reducing the cost of production and increasing profit, others take a more customer-centric approach.

In the latter case, lean manufacturing best practices are guided by the overarching objective that improvements are made for the sake of the customer. In a customer-centric lean system, any production step or end product that does not meet customer demand or specifications is considered waste. This notion of customer-based waste is considered to be the foundation on which the eight kinds of waste are built. Waste reduction continuously refers back to delivering quality products to the customer without complicating and impeding the regular flow of production and transaction. Let's take a look at the eight categories of waste.

 

Wastes in Lean Manufacturing


The primary goal of lean manufacturing is the elimination of waste. Waste can be defined in different ways and at different stages of the production process. In addition to customer-based waste, lean tools and techniques are typically used to eliminate eight types of waste. These eight types can be represented using the acronym D.O.W.N.T.I.M.E.

 

1. Defects


The waste associated with defects, including any extra efforts involved in finding and fixing product defects, is a direct example of labor, time and material misuse affecting the commodity and the consumer's reception of it. Disposing of faulty products dispenses the time involved in the first attempt and the follow-up reparation. Expenses for production, repairs and delivery take capital away from your operation.

 

2. Overproduction


When a company is generating more product than necessary, it shows that the customer needs are not being considered and factored into the specifications for optimum market value. The demands of the consumer are a driving force in lean manufacturing, so gauge the quantity of production on economic value.

 

3. Waiting


Any action or inaction that causes a delay in the production process can lead to fewer products for customers. This situation can create dissatisfied customers who expect the commodity to be made available to them and delivered promptly. Delays in production limit an entity's flow and diminish revenue that could have come from a steady exchange of goods. Minimizing the wait time in between processes will reduce overall wasted time and please the target market.

 

4. Not Utilizing Talent


Failing to recognize the proficiency, creativity and expertise of employees is the equivalent of neglecting valuable material resources. Workers who are properly trained and challenged enrich a process' productivity. Accepting feedback from employees is also a practical way to enhance a lean system. Improved delegation can segment tasks without roles overlapping or functions repeating.

 

5. Transportation

 

Transportation relates to the workflow and processes of a manufacturing facility. Any movement of products not actually required to perform the production process normally occurs when a commodity travels to several areas of a facility for simple tasks that can be combined.

The transportation of a product, depending on loading and unloading, may take up a significant period of time compared to the production time. Simplifying steps and ensuring less handling of the commodity improves transportation uses. Assign clear tasks that follow a smooth system to avoid extraneous handoffs of the commodity to distant regions of the facility.

 

6. Inventory


Closely tied to overproduction, inventory waste is when time, power and space must be invested in holding a commodity. Any component, subassembly, intermediate work or finished product that impedes the overall process detracts from moving desired goods at the right speed. The inventory may be in demand in this situation, but the buying rate doesn't match the production rate. Supplier issues, monitoring problems and customer disconnect can each be a reason inventory efforts harm a manufacturer.

 

7. Motion


The motion of people and equipment that aren't necessary in the production process requires restructuring workstations to eliminate congestion in workstation efficiency. Employees who don't have regular access to machines, have shared equipment or have isolated positions from routinely used items necessary in production are misusing motion. Using the movements of employees in the best way expedites the operation.

 

8. Excess Processing


The term "excess processing" entails recurring procedures that halt or slow down an operation. Wasteful steps in a production process result from poor tool, system or product design. Redundant documentation or avoidable meetings that do not improve communication or standards for advantageous commodities only increase expenses and decrease available time.

How a company chooses to address these wastes is what defines their own lean manufacturing process. Despite variations from one company to another, lean manufacturing applications in all industries are guided by nine core principles.

 

What Is Six Sigma?


Lean Six Sigma was formed by Motorola in 1986 when they shifted their management to focus on ways to analyze data and meet the highest standards possible. This mathematical objective is used in several lean systems to monitor the consistency and nature of their products.

Lean Six Sigma applies the strategy of reducing waste to protecting commodities against defects and limiting variation between products. It also solves problems that arise during production based on collected data and a mathematical solution technique. When Six Sigma was first established, the defect amount of parts per million (PPM) was 3.4 defects. Keeping this level low enhances customer experience and the reputability and quality of commodities coming from a company.

In the statistical sense, "sigma" is the standard deviation in this process. One specification limit in a company's production procedure has six standard deviations between the mean of the procedure and the consumer standard cap.

 

 

Lean Six Sigma Principles


Six Sigma operates in a cyclical way when identifying issues that can reduce quality and refinement. This data-focused approach includes participation from employees and keen observational skills. There are five Lean Six Sigma principles, or phases:

 

1. Define


The customer experience and satisfaction is a primary aim of Six Sigma. Consider the market and the reaction of the customer to different specifications. Define customer preferences and standards in order to identify further changes and improve the system.

 

2. Measure


To consistently isolate problems and solve them, collect data from the processes. Measuring is essential to determining quality and efficiency, and it doesn't detract from lean manufacturing but rather ensures the appropriate condition of the commodity.

 

3. Analyze


Once data has been gathered, review the information to establish the weak points of the operation. Analyze which segments are producing defects or hindrances to the production process.

 

4. Improve


Act on the evidence-based analysis made, and enhance the manufacturing flow by altering the faulty points. Improvements in employees, machinery, transportation and more will preserve capital and progress the system toward its goal.

 

5. Control


Now that Six Sigma principles are in place, continue to control the process by eliminating issues and fixing variations. Supervise the process in this cyclical method to manage the factors that produce variation.

An alternative set of phases — define, measure, analyze, design and verify — is used when working on a completely new or undeveloped project. For the purposes of general manufacturing, these five principles can significantly increase consistency and trim defective processes form a manufacturing system.

 

Lean Six Sigma for the Oil and Gas Industry


Lean Six Sigma can be applied to the lean oilfield industry, but it differs from general six sigma manufacturing in execution. Lean Six Sigma is most successful in manufacturing oil when three areas are emphasized— service quality drilling operations, supply chain and customer satisfaction.

 

9 Lean Manufacturing Principles


Lean manufacturing is not a specific set of steps to take or rules to follow. Instead, lean manufacturing provides a framework — your company can develop and customize your own production systems in order to minimize the seven sources of waste.

Nine guiding principles are often used to evaluate the potential applications of lean manufacturing and how they positively impact a production process. Used individually or collectively, the following principles help to address the sources of waste:

 

1. Continuous flow

 

strives to eliminate waste of movement and inventory by connecting sub-processes and ensuring a smooth production flow. The inventory enters as needed and leaves the line when completed.

 

2. Lean machines/simplicity

 

focuses on minimizing the design of machines and assembly workspaces in order to reduce space allocation and simplify the role of each machine or worker. This helps to eliminate waste of movement, inventory, motion and over-processing.

 

3. Workplace organization

 

places an emphasis on improving the organizational aspects of a worker’s station including accessibility to tools and information. Workplace organization is primarily focused on minimizing waste from unnecessary motion and waiting, but also has the benefit of improving quality and reducing defect waste.

 

4. Parts presentation

 

addresses the delivery and lean manufacturing of inventory to workstations as needed, reducing waste associated with transport, inventory, motion and waiting.

 

5. Reconfigurability

 

addresses the need to reconfigure a workstation quickly and efficiently to meet changing demands or to alleviate issues in the production process. The primary benefit of reconfigurability is the reduction of downtime and waste.

 

6. Product quality

 

covers any quality assurance step or process designed to reduce defects in both the production process and the final product.

 

7. Maintainability

 

focuses on keeping the entire production system and individual workstations operating smoothly and efficiently, minimizing downtime.

 

8. Ease of Access

 

see below

 

9. Ergonomics

 

these two processes work together in the design of the production system to place parts and tools where needed, minimizing motion and downtime. They also work together to ensure the worker is operating in an efficient and safe workplace.

With these guiding principles in mind, let’s take a look at how they could impact oil and gas industry trends.

 

The Role of Lean Manufacturing in the Oil and Gas Industry


Ever since the first oil well in 1857 and the first oil pipeline in 1864, the oil and gas industry has not only embraced innovation but has often led the way. Rapid technological advances have enabled both the discovery and extraction of oil and gas in difficult environments — from the deserts of the Middle East, to deep water oil fields around the globe and finally to the harsh Arctic region.

With the recent focus on energy independence in the United States, as well as the added scrutiny that comes with it, lean manufacturing in the oil and gas industry is quickly becoming a necessity.

 

Oil and Gas Industry Overview


Oil and natural gas are naturally occurring substances in the Earth’s crust — the results of centuries of decay of plants and animals trapped in the layers of the Earth over time. Because oil and gas are less dense than water, they gradually work their way through porous rocks and towards the Earth’s surface. They eventually collect into reservoirs.

Once these reservoirs are found, a hole must be bored through the Earth’s upper crust and into the reservoir, allowing the extraction of the oil or gas. This role of discovery and drilling is completed by the exploration and production (E&P) segment of the oil and gas industry. The drilling companies are supported by a large group of oil services and equipment providers.

Together, all of the companies that support the E&P segment play a critical role in providing oil in gas to the world in a safe and efficient manner — with minimal waste and impact on the environment.

 

Drilling and Its Effects on the Environment


The E&P process includes many different activities:

  • the construction of access roads and support facilities
  • ground clearing and grading
  • the drilling process
  • waste management
  • the downstream infrastructure necessary to get the extracted oil and gas into the energy system


All of these activities have the potential to impact the environment. As with any construction project, steps must be taken to avoid any adverse impact to both the natural environment and the surrounding communities.

In particular, processes should be followed to minimize ground erosion and runoff, and control dust and other airborne contaminates. It’s also important to minimize noise from operations and reduce the interference with the natural habitat including both plants and animals.

 

 

Types of Drilling


Drilling practices in the oil and gas industry start with measuring the area, determining the drill bit and evaluating the strength of the drill motor for the depth of the job. Once these factors are established, the oil or gas well area should also be reviewed for the kind of rock present and the tectonic plates around the reservoir.

Safety and machinery materials are essential in lean manufacturing to conserve time, effort and capital. Drilling includes the best practices of lean manufacturing techniques. Vertical, horizontal and offshore drilling continue to be the leading drilling methods, but deviated and multilateral drilling are also practiced.

 

Vertical


Since the early days of the oil and gas industry, vertical drilling was the dominant method for drilling a well. In vertical drilling, a drill head is attached to the end of a steel drill bit and additional drilling shafts are gradually added and fed down the wellbore. A rotating drilling rig is used to drive the full assembly from the surface.

Vertical drilling has become less popular and less productive, and in 2016, approximately 670,000 of the 977,000 producing wells were not vertical but horizontally drilled — and hydraulically fractured. Vertical drilling remains a cheaper option, but it often does not produce the optimum amount of gas and oil.

Hydraulic fracturing is the practice of pushing fluids through a wellbore to split the surrounding depths into fractures that produce more gas and oil. The fluid that's sent through the wellbore includes water and additional materials that keep the fractures open once fractured. An increase in natural resources is induced through this added measure. Horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing have opened more opportunities for offshore drilling, especially in the United States, steering the industry away from vertical drilling.

 

Horizontal


While vertical drilling is the simplest of the drilling methods, its simplicity also leads to a higher rate of dry wells — those that don’t successfully hit the reservoir. Directional drilling began in the 1950s, when John Zublin and H. John Eastman attempted to use existing wells to drill off from. Within the last couple decades, the development of directional and horizontal drilling techniques has enabled E&P companies to dramatically increase their success rate. As the name implies, directional drilling enables the operator to begin with a vertical well and then change directions to either an angled or horizontal bore in order to increase the chances of hitting the reservoir.

Deviation is a common horizontal drilling process in which a drill string and steering head create a deviation off a vertical well to transition to a horizontal direction. Deviating into a horizontal well brings more access to plentiful zones, fracturing and new structural options.

When wells gradually become less viable sources for oil and gas, they're termed marginal wells. Although they still have a limited amount of emissions, the wells are not profitable anymore. The cumulative number of marginal wells in 2016 added up to 10 percent of the United States' oil production in 2016. These smaller sources may not give off as much oil and gas as others, but they still contribute to the production of this industry over time.sus

 

Offshore


Both vertical and directional drilling techniques can be applied to offshore drilling operations. The primary difference with offshore drilling is the fact that the drilling rig is located on the surface of the water rather than on dry land. Offshore rigs can either be fixed rigs — mounted on to pilings or columns connected to the ocean floor — or floating rigs. Due to the uncertainty and occasional harshness of the ocean environment, offshore drilling adds a noticeable level of complexity and risk to the drilling operation.

Extended reach drilling or multilateral drilling is a directional drilling method for offshore locations where one point gives access to the entire reservoir. The main well acts as a base for branches of alternate wells. This form of horizontal directional drilling can be better for the environment through the diminished disturbance of natural habitats on dry land operations, although as previously stated, the offshore equivalents have more complex results.

 

Extraction Methods


Once the exploratory phase is over, and a wellbore has been successfully drilled to the reservoir, the process of extraction begins. The easiest extraction method occurs naturally. It takes advantage of the pressure in the well to drive the oil and gas to the surface. When the pressure is insufficient or dissipates over time, E&P companies may employ pumps to artificially lift the resources to the surface.

When pumping doesn’t work, other techniques may be applied. These techniques include pumping water down the well to force the oil up or using chemicals or pressurized fluids to fracture the rock formations. In particular, hydraulic fracturing has become the enabling technology behind the U.S. shale gas boom.

 

Applications of Lean Manufacturing to the Oil and Gas Industry


Due to the specialized nature of the oil and gas industry and the uniqueness of each individual drilling project, many suppliers develop engineer-to-order (ETO) products. E&P service providers often design products to unique specifications, with long delivery times and extended maintenance responsibilities for the life of the product. The non-repetitive nature of these services appears contrary to the fundamental objectives of lean manufacturing, but that’s not necessarily the case.

The oil and gas industry — and the E&P segment in particular — is ultimately a process involving a collection of many other processes that come together to take an E&P project from initial exploration to extraction. Every construction process, every ETO product and every E&P service has the potential to implement a lean manufacturing process.

E&P projects can benefit from the Lean and Six Sigma systems and stand up to scrutiny. Many oil and gas manufacturers have embraced lean manufacturing, and further involvement in the industry promotes customer satisfaction and quality practices and drilling operations.

These two lean manufacturing byproducts often complement the EPA objectives of environmental management and pollution prevention.

 

 

Benefits of Lean Manufacturing for the Oil and Gas Industry


The oil and gas industry has increased demands for environmentally friendly practices, which means change is inevitable for manufacturers. Automated equipment in the oil and gas industry is easing the process of lean manufacturing and Six Sigma, as error and waste have dwindled. Implementing lean manufacturing as a total system renovation will cause success and an increase in capital. Many gas and oil manufacturers have taken on this system and seen the benefits. Successful lean manufacturing examples include Exxon Mobil and Chevron.

 

Sustainability:

 

Sustainability, not only in environmental terms but also in a business sense, is a benefit of lean manufacturing. Reducing costs and waste and enhancing customer relations makes for a more concrete projected future. The model ensures long-term benefits and durability.

 

Employee satisfaction:

 

Customers are not the only ones left pleased by high-quality commodities either — employees and the company operation as a whole will improve due to clear expectations, utilized skills and productive projects. Effective workstations and reduced overlap in roles will enhance management and morale. Employee training for lean manufacturing prepares employees for the transition into the lean system and facilitates creative and productive team practices.

 

Product quality:

 

Pairing Six Sigma with lean principles also ensures reduced variation in the commodity and a higher-caliber product to extend to customers. Quality production generates further revenue and customer satisfaction. Lean principles enhance the production process and the end product for an overall lucrative and streamlined process.

 

Overall workflow:

 

Responses to market demand and customer feedback will reduce any idle inventory and help lead time. Overproduction will be in check, and a steadier flow of commodities from production to consumers will develop. Space will be reduced by the restructuring of workrooms and by freeing up storage space formerly reserved for inventory.

 

Customer satisfaction:

 

Pleased customers receiving quality resources in a timely manner will report well about your company, causing an influx in positive feedback and reduced negative responses or requests for refunds. Lean manufacturers will grow in response to the saved time, effort and positive reputation the streamlined system produces.


Improving margins is a goal for many in the oil refining industry. Lean manufacturing in oil refineries can improve equipment startups, maintenance and checkouts. Setup, organization and maintenance procedures can be greatly reduced, even altering the turnaround cycle of the compressor valve, in one case, to 75 percent. Analysis methods at lean refining facilities can benefit from Six Sigma's data-centric nature.

 

Integrate Lean Manufacturing Tools Into Your System


If you’re an E&P company looking to start or continue integrating lean tools and techniques into your system, there’s no better place to start than with service providers that have already made the leap.

Global Elastomeric Products, Inc. has been supplying the oil services industry with high-quality rubber products for over 50 years. As an ISO 9001:2008 registered company, Global Elastomeric Products has the distinction of having a streamlined customer-to-manufacturing-to-customer process. We continue to invest in state-of-the-art injection machines, paint robotics, and manufacturing and enterprise resource planning systems to efficiently complete and deliver projects of any size.

For more information on how Global Elastomeric Products can help make your next project leaner, take a look at our specialized rubber products.

Contact us to discuss your project today.

 

 

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