Hand up the ones of you that have ever heard a more stupid expression than “intelligent” or “smart” well.

Still, in 2007, we do not have any wells who are intelligent or smart.

It is the PEOPLE designing and installing the stuff that are intelligent. Not the well!

I would state that an intelligent well is a well that actually makes decisions itself, and maybe - if the wells really like you - it sends you a text message saying “Dear Billy Bob. I have closed off and abandoned zone 4 because the water content was too high and I could not separate the water out efficiently anymore. However, if you have new information or learning you want to share with me, I will certainly listen and take action.”

But no doubt we will see systems becoming more autonomous, making decisions based on parameters measures. But for a long time though, the systems will check with an operator - or at least give sufficient warning - before it makes adjustments to e.g. the inflow control valves.

There are many names on a popular child, and here are a few of the ones around:

  1. Intelligent well, or intelligent completion.

  2. Smart well. (Or smartwell, as Well Dynamics calls it)

  3. DIACS - Downhole Instrumentation And Control System. (Which strangely enough a small company not involved in well completions have protected by a tradename, even though it was well known as a description way ahead of this company “protecting” it. ..)

  4. Active completion.

  5. High tech wells.

  6. Any other?

And which one is the best? Well, I would say Active completion, or perhaps DIACS.

And what is it?

It is a well that has downhole devices that can be monitored and operated from surface, without having to perform a well intervention.

So actually nothing more than a valve system that regulates flow through it by either hydraulic or electrical commands from an operator who makes the decision to perform a certain action to improve flow or injection.

And if there are downhole sensors also implemented, that is also part of the active completion system.

And why would you want to install such a system?

That is easy; Simply because in a number of applications it either saves you cost, it increase total reservoir drainage or it gives you a combination of both these.

You can accelerate production, by getting more out of the well earlier. You can increase total recovery, improve water and/or gas injection efficiently, reduce cost on surface equipment and systems, decrease water production, increase reservoir knowledge (of course), reduce the operating expenses (as for example well interventions, etc.)  and better manage uncertainties is reservoir analysis.

Who started it, and who does such systems?

Actually the first idea for such systems came up in Norway, where we analyzed the potential cost savings and not at least increased reservoir drainage by using a number of on/off type valves in conjunction with so called WAG (water alternating gas) injection wells. We did not even think about production well applications first!

Naive as we were, we trusted the operating companies we spoke with, as well as so called “partners”. Guess life has learned us that when someone smells cash, a lot of honor and friendship are secondary.

So guess what? An operating company found the idea very interesting, but getting a small 5-men company to develop that they did not take the chance on. The Chicken Culture. So they got together with our “partner” that we discussed doing the stuff together with, and gave the contract to this partner, which is today out there doing lots of business on active completions. “Reality sucks”, as I saw on a Houston bumper sticker year ago.

Today all the major US technology companies are involved in such active completion systems. There are also a few other fairly large US suppliers having brochures on such systems and doing half hearted attempts. Also, what we have seen is that there are a number of small technology development companies that has personnel that has left the big ones to build something new, and a couple of these have some really good designs. Designs based on the years of learning they had designing existing large company systems.

Looking at the designs coming out today, there is not really much different from the “old” systems, but we have all learned to simplify and improve the designs. Initially we thought way too complicated about these valves.

What you will see emerging in the near future will bring active completions “down to earth”, and the systems will be affordable and designed fit for purpose and the reservoir. So to all of you; We have only seen the start of this technology!

Really easy to describe it as complicated, but it is just a series of valves and sensors downhole that is powered and monitored from outside the wellhead.