As the July and August issues of PatchWorks explained, there are several steps in the lifecycle of a well including gathering seismic data, and getting mineral and surface rights to a parcel of land. The next steps are preparing a well plan or design, and getting a license to drill.

Provincial regulatory bodies grant licenses to drill to exploration and production (E&P) companies. In Alberta, for example, licenses are granted by the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB).

The job of provincial regulators is to ensure the safe, responsible, and efficient development of the provinces’ energy resources including oil and gas. The ERCB’s requirements are meant to safeguard the environment and public safety. The ERCB is very busy with applications. In 2006 it received over 38,000 applications relating to energy facilities (including wells, pipelines, batteries, and gas plants), resources and utilities. (Source: ERCB)

To apply for a drilling license, an E&P company must submit a detailed drilling plan. Each company in the oilpatch has its own process of planning or designing a well.  However, there are usually two key pieces required for the creation of a well plan.

The first key piece is a geological prognosis which is the prediction of the probable layout of the rock formation where oil and gas is expected to be. This plan is created by a multi-disciplinary team at the E&P company which often includes geologists, petroleum engineers, drilling engineers and geophysicists using seismic data, knowledge of rock formations and wells drilled nearby or offsetting well information.

The second key part is a land survey which is prepared by a land surveyor with a construction lead from the E&P company. The land survey contains the well surface location, existing structures on the property, potential and existing roads, distances from water bodies, and well site elevations. An average of 10,000 wellsites are surveyed in Alberta each year. (Source: Alberta Land Surveyors’ Association)

Using the information from the land survey, the multidisciplinary team at the E&P company updates the prognosis report. This is an important stage of the well planning process as the site of the actual well can move a significant distance from the original plan due to factors on the lease such as water, roads or structures.

With this updated information, a stick plan or drill plan summary can be developed. This plan is a comprehensive overview of how the well will be drilled. The plan outlines the well type (e.g. exploration or re-entry), the well profile (what direction the path will take) and the coordinates of the bottom of the hole. It also details the drilling schedule and the specific equipment and supplies needed for each stage of the drilling process, such as drill bits and cement. (Source: Manitok Energy, Precision Drilling)

The stick plan is key to getting a license to drill and to getting to the next stage in the lifecycle of a well – moving a rig.

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