One of the biggest challenges facing the oil and gas industry — maintaining wellbore stability and monitoring drilling non-productive time — was explored at a Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) workshop. The SPE Saudi Arabia Section “Drilling Ahead of the Bit” workshop is an upstream initiative for advanced drilling solutions such as drilling uncertainties and geo-hazard real-time predication and mitigation. In its second year, the workshop brought together more than 100 drilling experts, upstream service providers, technology vendors and research institutes to discuss ways to improve the prediction and reading of well environments while drilling. Omar Al-Husaini, general manager of Saudi Aramco’s Drilling and Workover (D&WO) Department, spoke about current drilling challenges. Previously, drilling wells were vertical and simpler, but in 1994 horizontal sections came into play in Saudi Aramco and introduced new challenges. “’Drilling Ahead of the Bit’ is now more important because of the complexity of our wells, the thin layers of reservoir and extended-reach and deep-water wells, ” Al-Husaini said. The phrase, “Drilling Ahead of the Bit,” refers to the ability of downhole tools to read ahead of the bit — to accurately drill into the reservoir and avoid problematic zones. “It is like an autopilot,” he said. When the horizontal sections were introduced, the focus was on landing better horizontal wells. “There have not been many enhancements in technology over the years,” said Al-Husaini. “At present, as we are lacking in the hardware, the focus must be on the well data, and integrating all of the data collected is essential for simulation and prediction.” “We need to achieve optimization of real-time drilling monitoring; we need to make the best use of our data,” he said. “There is an absence of the right downhole tools, and we are relying on intelligence.” Experts agreed that the increasingly complex drilling environment requires developing and deploying advanced technological solutions. When this is achieved, drilling engineers will be able to deliver a larger amount of wells more safely, quickly and with huge cost savings. SPE resolved to establish a technical section with the working title “Drilling Uncertainty Prediction.”