Imagination, Prediction and Reality

There is a joke about the human brain and it goes like this: our brain has two parts. One is the left brain and the other is in the right. The right one has nothing left and the left one has nothing right.

According to the theory of left-brain or right-brain dominance, a person who is “left-brained” is often said to be more logical, analytical, and objective, while a person who is” right-brained” is said to be more intuitive, thoughtful, and subjective.

Artists may use the right side of their brains more to maximize creativity, but if they exhaust their imagination, their art works lose their appeal.

Sometimes, we, as viewers, participate in the creative process when we enjoy a good piece of art. This can be demonstrated in our appreciation of the statue of Venus de Milo. The statue is widely renowned for the mystery of her missing arms. The missing arms do not stop people from appreciating this marvelous work of ancient Greek. People are fascinated by the missing parts and are creating their own interpretations of the possible positions of the missing arms. By imagination, everyone creates a Venus statue in their mind. Maybe that is the everlasting beauty of Venus: the incompleteness of an original work of art.

However, in the world of engineering, we strive to remove any uncertainties as much as possible. Drilling software is a tool for drilling engineers to help them predict what will happen on the rig floor and downhole.

The following graph shows the hook load prediction using TADPRO (torque and drag model).

Hook Load Prediction Using TADPRO (torque and drag model).

Hook Load Prediction Using TADPRO (torque and drag model).

Charts like these give drilling engineers guidelines as to what to expect during drilling operations. This way, we can see the upcoming reality with little imagination.

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.

Antique Store and OTC

My brother, who is a civil engineer in Kentucky, came to visit us during OTC in 2013. During his stay here in Houston, we did many things together, including visiting the Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) and a local antique store.

OTC is an annual event that takes place in the month of May in Houston. As the largest oil and gas conference and exhibition in the United States, OTC attracts typically 30,000 – 50,000 visitors from around the world. The exhibition area is huge. My brother and I got tired after a couple of hours walking in one of the exhibition halls. OTC covers numerous technical areas which are totally new to us. We got lost in the aisles of booths, instruments and equipment. We felt so behind in many of the new technologies. However, we also felt that we were lucky to be part of the engineering world (drilling software for me) and that we are contributing to the big wave of technology advancement. We felt the vibe of the next generation. OTC is like a stage, where people dance with their dreams and where dreams come true.

After OTC, we visited a local antique market which had many small, individually owned shops selling items that have history. We were delighted to see many items that had quite a storied past, as the shop owners explained their history. We found an old kerosene lamp which captured a moment in our technology development.

These items are like fragments of time. Touching them allows us to travel back in time. When we are young, we spend more time dreaming, looking into the future. As we grow older, we are more occupied by things we are busy with at the present time; less time to dream, more time for memory review, perhaps.

When we are looking back at the past and forward into the future it gives pleasure to us both ways. A couple of years ago, I gave a presentation on TADPRO, our torque and drag model, to SPE Gulf Coast Section in Houston. I used two slides to summarize the history of drilling. The first one was a schematic of the drilling scene 2,000 years ago in China. The second one was a picture of an offshore platform, representing modern drilling technology. Both pictures represented the very advanced drilling technologies being used at the time. Centuries and millenniums elapsed. Our knowledge accumulation from history enables us to stand where we are.

Similarly, our drilling software development is the result of continuous engineering research and development over the past few decades. I have been fortunate to work with people with engineering and information technology backgrounds; some new and some seasoned. We, as developers are getting older, but our software stays young and robust.

The Longest Distance Between Drilling Engineers

In "Nine Million Bicycles", sung by the singer Katie Melua, there are some interesting statics:

There are nine million bicycles in Beijing,
that's a fact.
It's a thing we can't deny
like the fact that I will love you till I die.
We are twelve billion light years from the edge,
that's a guess.
No one can ever say it's true,
but I know that I will always be with you.

The distance between us and the edge of our universe was mentioned. Then, I asked myself the question of the farthest distance between any 2 people and found the answer on Google shortly. The circumference of the earth at the equator is 24,901.55 miles. This makes the farthest distance between any 2 people on the earth 12,451miles.

I also found this statement on the internet, which I am not sure about its accuracy: The longest distance between two points in the state of Texas is 867 miles.

As these numbers are getting smaller, I start to make sense out of them. We are talking about the measurable distances. Nowadays, our lives are affected and shaped by many tech gadgets. Mobile phones, ironically, while connecting people in distance, create huge distance between people nearby  and these invisible distances created by the internet or mobile phones cannot be measured by miles.

People spend more time on smart phones, not only talking, but also texting, chatting or simply reading news. This could happen, before or during the meetings, lunches, etc. However, we could use more time getting to know our surroundings, or neighbors. We text more, but meet less; we have become more skilled in typing, but less skilled in socializing. I do agree that mobile phones are becoming the distance or gap between people. The magazine cover of “The New Yorker” November issue of 2009 depicts our situation rather well.

In my mind, the greatest distance between people is not the physical distance, nor the tech gadgets. It is the lack of communication. If we cannot efficiently communicate, we are not in the same page. For drilling professionals, besides regular communication skills, we need to pass technical information to our peers or managements. This requires both engineering and communication skills. Drilling engineering software is one of the solutions to bridge this gap.

Drilling software frees drilling engineers from doing the repeated calculations on torque and drag, hydraulics, casing wear, so that engineers can spend more time in making sound and informed technical decisions. If engineers are using the same software, such as TADPRO (PVI’s torque and drag model), then, they can see tables and charts for the same case, even if they are in different locations. When holding a web meeting, they can easily understand each other’s points of view and reach agreements.

Some drilling software like TADPRO also have been translated into several languages including Spanish, Portuguese, Russian and Chinese. The localization further shortens the distances between engineers in different geographical areas. We also emphasize the visualization of downhole conditions. Drilling engineers cannot see 20,000 ft subsurface, but that does not mean that we cannot predict the downhole pressure or pipe deformation, like the buckling status of drilling string in the 3D wellbore as shown below.

Longest Distance Between Drilling Engineers PVI

These software packages are PVI's efforts to bridge the gaps between drilling engineers.