A New Era for Mudlogging TechnologiesBy Pedro Alcalá | Fri, 09/25/2020 - 08:36
Q: What led to the creation of Pacific Oil Tools?
A: I founded Pacific Oil Tools in Villahermosa back in October 2015. I have worked for international oil and gas companies throughout my 33-years career. Reaching the position of Latin America manager of one of Weatherford’s service lines, which provide among others Mud Logging Services. That eventually became the specialty of Pacific Oil Tools. I later decided to apply all the knowledge I had acquired in the corporations I had worked for and launched my own company.
For the past five years, the market has responded well to our products and services, which has led to exponential growth. Sales have doubled thanks to the quality and innovation of our work but also thanks to the change in Mexico’s oil and gas landscape. This is due to the industry’s increasing decentralization from PEMEX and the growing presence of private operators. We work with clients that include GSM, Grupo Carso, Constructora y Perforadora LATINA, Parker Drilling, Jaguar E&P among others. A good example of our innovations is the aggregation of all kind of drilling parameters produced at the rig site by more than six different services providers into our Real Time Data Transmission platform so, our client doesn’t have to have six computers to monitor the data but just one.
In general, private operators and service providers make up a considerable part of our portfolio. It was certainly a challenge to create this company right in the middle of the oil sector’s previous crisis. During the worst times of that period, there were less than five drilling units working at any given time so presenting and maintaining a high-quality service was crucial for us.
Q: What is the biggest challenge you are dealing with?
A: The biggest issue that we are dealing with is delayed accounts receivables from our clients. These delays create a chain reaction that reaches the smallest and most basic of suppliers and service providers in the industry. Incredible amounts of pressure have been put on individual companies’ budgets because of delayed payments. Thankfully, some companies, including us, have had the opportunity to build a portfolio that includes new operators working with CNH contracts and do not depend on PEMEX payments. However, we are still feeling the negative effects of this matter.
Q: What is your approach in terms of digitalization, technology and well instrumentation?
A: I consider myself a frustrated electronic engineer. I started by studying in the US majoring in electronic engineering. Somehow, however, I ended up graduating as a petroleum engineer and specialized in the area of mudlogging. Our approach to the mudlogging service involves a lot of electronic equipment, such as sensors and software. Back in the mid 80´s, when I began my career, personal computing was very much different than today. I have come to love the service’s entire technological evolution, and adapting and contributing to it has been my passion. I have my own electronic workshop at home. I have approached each obstacle experimentally and proposed my own solutions. Our software and hardware development team now supports us when providing the mudlogging service. We have made great progress to the point in which our clients can now get real-time updates to their phones on the mudlogging process and their drilling operations. This includes not only drilling data but also geological data. We have also developed this technology beyond drilling. For example, in one project, we are now developing a dashboard to see changes in production parameters that include alerts for viewers that can predict issues in production systems, such as their well pumping systems. This technology has also allowed mudlogging to become much more precise in its measurements. A 10 percent margin of error was acceptable in the 1980s and if two sensors registered exactly the same measurement, it was assumed that one of them was broken. The service has evolved past these standards, and now errors derived from a faulty calibration in a sensor are exceedingly rare.
In Mexico, you can sometimes still see examples of this type of antiquated mudlogging. Sometimes, it is even done with pen on paper and through improvised laboratories on the platforms. When I began working in Mexico in 2002, we won a contract that had been granted to the same local Ciudad del Carmen company for many years. Our client in this contract ended up being very impressed with what we brought to the table and what we understood the mudlogging service to entail, especially since this other company applied very basic services that did not include technological characteristics, such as real-time data transmission.
Q: What would you consider to be the most important aspects of your future strategy given the current shape of your portfolio?
A: First, we have to contextualize the future in a broader historical sense: the era of oil booms and oil prices above US$100 might disappear. With that in mind, operations focused on workovers and repairs of existing wells will become an important part of our portfolio. For the industry’s investors, working with existing wells is going to make a great deal more sense than drilling new ones. Our service portfolio will be expanding to adapt to this reality. As I mentioned previously, we are also expanding our services to include technology that can monitor, automate and optimize production systems and producing wells.
Pacific Oil Tools is a Villahermosa-based drilling service provider that specializes in mudlogging tools, rig instrumentation and remote data transmission equipment. It offers its own Electronic Drilling Recorder software and sensor system installation and management.