March 13, 2015

The new Nexen Cuttings & Core Lab addresses a significant business need to improve efficiency in how the company examines and provides cutting and core analysis to internal groups across our global operations.

What are cuttings and cores?

When wells are being drilled, rock fragments called “cuttings” come to the surface along with drilling mud and other fluids. The cuttings are collected and labelled for later analysis. In exploration wells, a hollow drill bit and drill stem are employed to pull cylindrical chunks of rock called “cores” to the surface, to be labelled and analyzed. Analysis of cuttings and cores aid in detecting hydrocarbon zones and help characterize rock formations for parameters such as pore size, grain size, trace elements and mineralogy.

“The need to analyze cuttings, cores and outcrop samples expanded when Nexen got into shale gas development,” says Jeff Taylor, GM-Formation Evaluation, Technology Management. “Many other companies were exploring for shale gas at the time, but commercial labs were expensive, their capability was limited and the wait time to receive analysis was up to six months. Discussions began about doing some of the work in-house.”

In 2011, some of this work began in-house, but space was limited and not conducive to collaboration or efficient analysis. Two years later, additional space became available and a functional lab was designed and built, along with a greatly expanded core viewing area which allows approximately 125 metres of core to be laid out at once.

“To date, we’ve analyzed about 7,000 samples,” says Jeff. “A commercial lab charges at least $500 per sample. That would have been an expenditure of more than $3.5 million, far greater than the cost of equipment and materials for our in-house lab.”

Not only does the lab provide substantial cost savings to Nexen, it was also designed with collaboration and training in mind.

“There’s plenty of room for people to interact, compare ideas and interpretations, even host experts for special training sessions and presentations,” says Jeff. “And because this is a fully staffed, central corporate facility, we offer efficient, effective service to the whole company.”