Division Profile

Operations Geology is an important sub-discipline of the practice of geology. As it pertains to petroleum geology, we include any geoscientist managing drilling operations from the office/home (including planning wells) and geosteerers. Operations geologists are uniquely involved in the drilling of a well from the initial planning stages to long after TD and the data have been properly distributed to stakeholders and/or lookbacks have been held.

Knowledge of one’s geological targets (conventional, heavy, or unconventional) is more important than it has ever been for well placement optimization, especially considering the introduction of new technology, such as horizontal drilling and multi-stage fracture stimulation. Beyond the typical geological capacity and experience, knowledge of stakeholder management, regulatory process and approvals, well planning, drilling processes, reservoir engineering, petrophysics, production, wellbore analysis technology, etc are also vital to the role of the operations geologist. These disciplines are commonly in conflict during drilling so prioritization and compromise of the well's objectives is also a skill.

Communication is another vital skill set of the Operations Geologist. Not only does the Operations Geologist communicate with their drilling engineer, directional driller, wellsite geologist (if present), and geosteerer (if present), but communication with their subsurface team, logging team, internal and external regulatory groups, as well as other internal and external stakeholders are also critical to drilling success. A common misperception is that Operations Geology is not its own discipline, the above paragraphs prove that while the Operations Geologist is truly a generalist, there are skillsets that are unique to the Operations Geologist beyond taking well calls in the middle of the night.

Topics may include, but are not limited to:
● The role of an Operations Geologist in safety.
● Questions to ask your wellsite geologist to aid in your collective interpretation of well data.
● Reading/interpreting striplogs, cuttings, cuttings technology
● Basic training/discussion of geosteering software
● Critical Regulatory knowledge (ie: D56)
● Best practices: dealing with unforeseen events, stuck pipe, collapsed hole, etc.
● Logging technologies, open hole, mwd, lwd
● Communication with drillers, directional hands, etc
● Drilling technologies
● Stakeholder management
● Geohazards-identification, mitigation, avoidance
● Data QC/QA - is that well really sour?
● Pore Pressure/Fracture Gradient prediction
● H2S Analysis and Regulatory Requirements for sour wells
● Data management and reporting

Division Chair: Kurt Armbruster, P. Geol. | email: kurt.eh@gmail.com 

Upcoming Division Talks

Logistical Challenges of a World-Record 207m Coring Run

Speakers: Craig Forrest | Baker Hughes, a GE Company 
Date: January 31st, 2018 | 12:00 noon
Location: Bankers Hall Auditorium, Lower Level A/P3
                 315-8th Avenue SW, Calgary, Alberta 

Operators in Western Canada are currently active in the Montney formation despite these tougher economic times. As more wells are licenced and drilled in this formation, Operation Geologists are continually fine tuning their drill targets within the Montney to find optimal well placement to generate the best return on investment for their wells. 

A coring program has a direct opportunity cost between the overall operational drilling costs of an AFE and the best total vertical depth (TVD) and quantity of cores brought to surface. Coring multiple smaller TVD sections greatly increases the overall rig time and drilling AFE, yet it may yield results and knowledge that optimize production and directly impact the long-term development of an asset. So, the question becomes, how much risk (costs) is worth the reward (finding the sweet spot) to the Operator? 

In 2017, an Operator requested Baker Hughes, a GE company (BHGE) to perform coring operations on the Inga field. The initial operation interval was projected to be 280m in thickness as the plan was to core the entire Montney interval, as well as the lower Doig Phosphate to overlay it. 

Upon discussions with the Operator’s drilling and operations geological teams, it was decided that the operation was planned to be completed in 2 runs with the use of BHGE’s High Torque (HT30™) coring system, Jambuster™ technology, and Talon™ corebits equipped with StaySharp™ cutter technology.  

The initial execution of the first run was agreed to be attempted using a 207 meter assembly; this would be the longest core run attempted to date industry wide. The previous longest assembly successfully run was a 189 meter assembly completed by BHGE in the Middle East region through a homogenous sandstone reservoir.  

The major operational risk of such a core would be premature jamming specifically during the transition between the Doig Phosphate and Upper Montney in addition to the multiple unconformities throughout the Montney formation. To alleviate the risk and prevent a short core run, BHGE recommended deploying Jambuster™ technology to allow coring to continue if a jam was experienced through any of these transitions. An additional risk to the operation was the deterioration of the core bit life while cutting due to such an extended core.  This risk was alleviated by deploying a TC407 (7 blade, 13 mm cutters) corehead. This core head is able to provide the cutter durability to ensure minimal wear in the harder and more abrasive Doig Phosphate. As well, it provides longer cutter life to ensure the Montney formation could be cut with adequate penetration rate.

Preplanning and modeling was conducted by the BHGE applications engineering team to ensure the expected well profile and well conditions would be within tolerance for all equipment deployed. This helped eliminate both mechanical and operational issues with such a long assembly. The engineering department deemed that the 207m core would be achievable and the operation would fall well within the technical limits of the tools. This additional step of risk mitigation gave the Operator piece of mind before deployment.

The objective to acquire 280 m (919 ft.) of 3.5-in core in two runs to minimize the operational costs of the drilling program was successful. BHGE planned and then executed the job with two dedicated coring runs. The first core that was cut was 207.0 m (679 ft.) and the second core was 73.0 m (240 ft.), with 100% recovery. 

The deployment of the 207 meter Jambuster™ system necessitated solutions for handling the installation and removal of 24 core barrels, in a safe and efficient manner. Additionally, it was a logistical solution when it came to the processing and transportation of approximately 4,615 kilograms of core.


Craig has been in the oil and gas industry for 20 years and has built his expertise in coring operations over this time. Craig is based out of Calgary Alberta and has spent the last four years in coring in Western Canada. Prior to this, Craig coordinated coring operations throughout the US and was based out of Casper Wyoming. Craig has also spent a large part of his career in the field both on drilling rigs and as a service representative.