How to Prevent a Flat Tire on the Way to the Airport

Recently, I have been thinking about writing another article. It seems as though whenever I take a trip, it is my most productive time when it comes to writing. Trips lead to many occurrences, which are a good source for topics.

My journey to Abu Dhabi to attend ADIPEC (Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition and Conference) had just started, but it had already generated a couple of interesting ideas. On my way to the airport, I suddenly realized that I forgot to check if my passport was in my bag. I pulled my car to the shoulder of the highway. Before I stopped the car, I heard a loud noise coming from the front tire. I secretly wished that I had just hit an abandoned tennis ball. I stopped the car, opened my trunk, and checked my bag.

My passport was there, as it was supposed to be, but my right front tire was flat. Long story short, I spent the next hour driving my disabled car to a parking lot, calling AAA and my wife, who drove me to the airport. I caught my flight in time, leaving the whole ordeal to my wife. Even when looking at the photo I took of my car, I can still smell the burnt rubber.

I always thought that events like this were unlikely to happen. Or if it did happen, it would most likely happen to someone else.

I should have checked my travel essentials ahead of time. Or perhaps I should have picked a more secure place to stop, or even better, I should have a little bit of faith on myself in getting my travel documents in place. I just chose a wrong time to pull my car to a wrong place. “A little bit preparing saves lots of trouble. I could almost hear my flat tire complaining.

Incidentally, the book I read on my flight, called “The Power of Persuasion” by Robert Levine, talks about the illusion of invulnerability overoptimism. Here are some research examples from the book:

  • People who feel at risk for health problems are more likely to gather disease prevention information.
  • Smokers who minimize their own risk of disease are less likely to try quitting.
  • People in high earthquake risk areas who downplay danger are more likely to live in poor structures.

The book just listed a few.  Real world examples are everywhere. For instance, within our drilling community, if we use an analogy of the above sayings, it would go something like this:

  • Drilling engineers who feel the risk of drilling issues arising are more likely to prepare for potential problems.
  • Engineers who minimize potential problems are less likely to prepare for or identify them.

As the geneticist David Searls observed, “The tendency for an event to occur varies inversely with ones preparation for it.” I learned my lesson the hard way.

The Toughest Event on the Planet

I was very nervous when I signed up for the Tough Mudder race, especially for the electrodes and the ice baths, but I was ready for a new challenge and it turned out to be a lot of fun. In April 2012 a friend came up to me and asked me if I wanted to join his team for the Tough Mudder race, which is a 12 mile assault course that involves many obstacles and a lot of mud. I was a little hesitant at first because I didn’t want to commit to something so challenging but I succumbed to peer pressure too easily and I signed up.

I must admit the training was hardcore. It was a 5 hour nonstop workout, three times a week for 3 months, but not the regular workout most people are used to or know about. A regular workout consists of cardio, stretch and weights and the dirtiest you can get is with your own sweat, but the training for Tough Mudder goes far beyond that. The “cardio” is 5 hours long consisting of running, swimming and jumping. The “stretch”, well that one can be a regular stretch that one does before a normal workout, but the “weights” consists of lifting heavy logs while running and swimming, climbing high walls, cliff-hanging, and most of the time carrying one of your teammates because they are too weak to continue and all this while being all covered in mud from head to toe. I will admit that I found the training extremely challenging, but only because I was a little out of shape and I had a thing of being underwater for more than 10 seconds, and being in closed and small spaces, but despise these qualms, would I do it again? In a heartbeat.

Mud Toggler And Drilling Software

This race is considered the toughest event on the planet, but all those challenges can be overcome with the appropriate training and in the end even if you don’t win the race, you fill fulfilled when you see all those hundreds of people working together to reach their goal. The drilling of a well is undoubtedly the most recognizable process of the oil and gas industry, but while the purpose of a drilling rig is quite simple, the process, itself, is anything but. Many problems can arise when the drilling process begins. Some of these problems are:

Pipe sticking
Hole deviation
Lost circulation
Pipe failures
Borehole instability
Mud contamination
Formation damage
Hole cleaning

These are just a few of the many other problems we can encounter while performing a drilling operation.

How can we deal with these challenges before they turn to major problems? Well, just like a person that enters the Tough Mudder has to train hard in advance to be prepared for the race, a drilling engineer must prepare himself beforehand so that when he faces the challenges he’ll be able to make a smart move to avoid having bigger problems.

BigCube of Pegasus Vertex

Pegasus Vertex, Inc. offers a variety of software that are the latest in technical advances and they are excellent tools for both onshore and offshore operations, in other words PVI can “train” any drilling engineer to be able to anticipate and therefore prevent any problem that can occur during the drilling process, so they can be prepared to make one of the toughest events on the planet (drilling operations) be a successful one.

The Drilling Engineers’ Version of the Johari’s Window

Probably most of us have had the experience of dealing with difficult people or difficult situations at some point in our lives. I have been in situations where a person has been widely considered “difficult”. One time, I was so frustrated that I went to a bookstore trying to find a solution and I certainly found a few books that addressed the topic.

The first thing I learned from these books, which is something I should have known, is that I very likely have been a difficult person in many situations. While writing this, I am thinking of many of my friends, co-workers and clients. Their faces flash in front of my eyes as I realize that I probably have been the cause of some of their difficult situations. I am also certain that they are interested in knowing what is it that makes us tick.

Information sharing is one of the many advices that are found in these books. Sharing information is one way to strengthen relationships when dealing with perceived difficult people. The Johari’s Window is a communication tool that is used to improve understanding between individuals. This technique was created by American Psychologists Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham in 1955.

Johari Window

Johari Window

The four squares (windows) represent:

  1. Shared: known to both you and others.
  2. Hidden: Hidden information, known only to you.
  3. Blind: Known to others, but not known to you.
  4. Unknown: Not known to you or others.

The idea is to increase the size of the shared information window by sharing information that you previously keep to yourself and encouraging others to reciprocate. A team or group of friends that understands each other (that is, each person having a strong mutual understanding with the team) is far more effective than a team that does not understand each other (that is, a team whose members have large hidden, blind, and/or unknown areas).

Sharing information does not mean that we have to wash our dirty laundry in public. It means sharing ideas with one another about what’s important to you and them. I applied this idea to our drilling engineers and obtained this picture of a revised Johari’s Window for drilling engineering.

The Drilling Engineers' Version of Johari's Window

The Drilling Engineers' Version of Johari's Window

Through feedback, disclosure and other tools, we can develop more productive relationships and bridge the gap between the members of a drilling team. By sharing information, we get to deal with less difficult people and uncover more of our potential, which is unknown to us and others. For this reason a drilling software such as, TADPRO (Our torque and drag model) serves as a tool to enlarge the 1st window.

Software: Drilling Engineers’ Eyes

Oil well drilling is one of the most fascinating engineering collaborations I have ever come across. It requires efforts from drill bits, tubulars, motors, mud and the list goes on. Most impressively, all of the drilling processes take place under the ground, probably tens of thousand of feet, maybe horizontally, away from the rig.

To keep drilling operations under control, people have developed many technologies that incorporate electronic, magnetic, and radioactive methods in order to understand the formation and downhole conditions.

The following picture shows a giant, floating iceberg. For a typical iceberg, only 10% of its mass is visible above the water. The remaining 90% is immersed in the deep blue.

It is difficult to estimate its underwater shape; hence, we say “tip of iceberg“ meaning the starting sign of problem.

Similar situations exist on rig floors. Drillers have limited information, which include hook load, surface torque, etc. However, they do not know the axial force along the string, whether the pipe is buckled or not, or if the torque on the pipe connection exceeds the makeup limit. Experienced drillers may sense the downhole problems through the combination of brake vibration, noise or pump pressure, etc., but what we need is something to bridge the gap between what we can see and what we cannot see.

Drilling software servers as this bridge!

Over the past 20 years, drilling engineering software has become an indispensable engineering tool in design phases, real-time monitoring and post job analyses. Using known operation parameters such as ROP, RMP, mud weight, drilling string configuration and well path trajectory, software like TADPRO can predict pipe buckling, hook load, surface torque, etc.

In other words, software is becoming drilling engineers’ eyes. Equipped with software, we can not only understand what we see (why certain hookload, surface torque), but also see the otherwise invisible happenings.

Do you have “eyes“ for your next well?

Drilling Software: Get More Done by Doing Less

More than a century ago, Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto noted the consistently lopsided relationship between inputs and outputs called “The 80/20 Principle”, which asserts that a small portion of inputs or efforts leads to a big portion of outputs or results. In 2008, self-confessed “lazy entrepreneur” Richard Koch explained this principle in great details in his best-seller book “The 80/20 Principle”.

Basically, if 2 sets of data, relating to causes and results are examined, the most likely result is that there will be a pattern of imbalance. The imbalance may be 65/35, 70/30, 80/20 or 95/5, or any set of portions in between. However, rarely 50% of inputs will account for 50% of outputs.

80/20 principleWhether we realize it or not, the principle applies to our work, social life, and personal matters.

In our personal life, 20% of our clothes will be worn 80% of the time. 20% of our carpet areas are likely to get 80% of the wear. If you have an alarm system, 80% of the false alarms will be set off by only 20% of the possible causes.

In society, 20% of motorists cause 80% of all accidents. 80% of the value of our relationships is derived from 20% of close relationships.

In business, 20% of products or customers are responsible for 80% of a company’s revenue. 80% of wealth increase in portfolios comes from fewer than 20% of the investments. In a study of the revenues and lifespan of 300 movies released over an 18-month period, they found 4 movies (1.3% of the total) earned 80% of box office revenue – a clear example of the rule of imbalance.

Similar analysis could be done to study our time allocation of our drilling engineers/managers. It will probably show the similar imbalance. Achievements should probably not be “99% perspiration and 1% inspiration”. Instead, they may come from the 20% of our work.

The key terms in the equation of imbalance may vary from person to person. But from our drilling engineers’ perspective, taking the advantage of drilling software is one of the ways to improve our efficiency, because we then can spend more time in analyzing/identifying potential problems, rather than doing the tedious calculation.

As a software vendor, majority of our time is spent on R&D and software development, so that our clients do not have to spend big chuck of their valuable time making spreadsheet calculation. This is a derivative of the 80/20 principle: if you are not many times better than others in certain areas, outsource the tasks.

Drilling software does not replace drilling engineering. It amplifies drilling engineers’ skills so that we can get more done by doing less.