How BP found shale profits with ‘crystal ball’ oilfield technology

LUFKIN, Texas/LONDON (Reuters) – In the pine forests of eastern Texas, oilfield workers equipped with virtual-reality goggles are helping BP’s (BP.L) shale business turn a profit for the first time. Thousands of automated wells feed data on their performance into the firm’s supercomputers each evening. If they show a need for maintenance, an Uber-style system summons a subcontracted repair firm to keep the shale wells flowing at optimal output and minimal cost. Such technology has helped slash BP’s shale oil and natural gas production costs by 34 percent over five years. The shale business turned a profit for the first time in 2017, BP said, although the company declined to disclose the figure. BP’s progress in shale underpinned its $10.5 billion acquisition last week of BHP Billiton’s (BLT.L) U.S. shale operations. The deal highlighted BP’s newfound confidence in a sector that has challenged oil majors, which initially struggled to adjust to the quick pace and fast-evolving methods used to tap shale with horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing. BP and other majors that had traditionally focused on large, multi-year conventional drilling projects – such as Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.AS) and Chevron (CVX.N) – were left behind when the shale boom took… continue reading

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