Innovating Safety – Shell Drone Program

Shell is developing multi-mission surveillance drones for its’ shales operations for greater efficiency and safety.  

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The shale industry has mostly focused on incremental improvements to reduce costs. In late 2016, Shell initiated iShaleTM to explore a vision for the shale field of the future with several suppliers and partners. This field of the future would increase production while delivering significant decreases in costs and safety risks. It would enable quicker decision making and more efficient asset operations. It would also offer environmental benefits in the form of greater energy efficiency and reduced operational footprint.

What is iShale?

iShaleTM leverages recent advances in automation, digitalization and advanced analytics to enhance well productivity. We are investigating intelligent pads & smart field operations, and the utilization of standardized modular facilities. iShaleTM also signals a shift towards more analysis of data across our workforce, from headquarters to operations.

In short, iShaleTM identifies ways to deliver a technological step change by leveraging innovation and synergies across the field life cycle. This includes:

  • Increasing automation in drilling and frac operations to reduce human exposure and increase safety.
  • Building fit-for-purpose facilities that can be scaled with production needs.
  • Constructing ‘Smart’ wells with onsite wireless instruments for better monitoring.
  • Putting in place surveillance that is driven by ‘exceptions’ to standard conditions for efficient operations.
  • Establishing central operating centers for production data analysis and cross-portfolio learnings.
  • Building a fluid ‘organization of the future’ enabled by a digitally connected and broadly skilled workforce.

Our Journey

We are conducting both benchtop and field trials to test our development concepts across our shales assets in the USA, Canada, and Argentina. When we identify winning solutions, we aim to immediately integrate them into our assets and operations. For example, we have already completed a plunger lift optimization trial in our Appalachia asset in Pennsylvania (USA). Over the next two years, we hope to demonstrate the value of integrated surface and subsurface technologies as we roll out our vision for the field of the future.