IADC is 75 years young!

By Mike Killalea, Editor & Publisher

Logo-ProgressionWebIADC is 75 years young, providing an opportunity to peer Janus-like both backward into our rich history and forward to IADC’s bold initiatives for today and tomorrow. IADC’s story mirrors that of the drilling industry, with much to celebrate, albeit also some regrets. Over the next several months, culminating at the 2015 IADC Annual General Meeting (San Antonio, 4-6 November), IADC will showcase its history along with our current and future initiatives.

While drilling contractors today own and operate the lion’s share of the world’s drilling rigs, this was not always the case. In the early 20th century, a significant share of the fleet was owned by oil companies. The contract-drilling industry was in its infancy.

Day of the contractor

If you’ve seen the 2007 movie “There Will Be Blood,” you might recall Daniel Day-Lewis’ character contemptuously berating contractors: “You’re depending on a contractor who’ll rush the job through so he can get another contract just as quick as he can.” That apocryphal putdown from this flick about our wooden-derrick era is far from aligned with today’s win-win spirit.

At length, operators recognized that their core business is to find and produce hydrocarbons – not operate drilling equipment.

Still, by 1945, long after the events of “There Will Be Blood,” drilling contractors operated only about 75% of US drilling rigs.

Structurally, the nascent and entrepreneurial contract-drilling business of the 1940s was strikingly different from today’s sophisticated and largely publicly traded industry. I like to quip that the early industry comprised 800 contractors running five rigs each, while today, it’s more like five contractors running 800 rigs each.

Catalyzing improvement

Contract drilling was maturing, and with that maturity, contractors recognized the need to organize. IADC’s predecessor, AAODC, moved swiftly to catalyze improved drilling performance. It worked toward enhanced safety procedures and more efficient drilling practices. Among IADC’s earliest efforts to enhance safety was a five-rig trial program in the Permian Basin. Two years later, 400 rigs were participating, roughly a quarter of the operating fleet. Ultimately, our recommended safety measures, including publication of our first accident prevention manual, were recognized in 1946 by the US National Safety Council for substantially reducing accident rates.

Drilling safety took major leaps forward in the early 1990s with the launch of our RigPass safety orientation program and WellCAP, serving the same role for well control.

Our commitment to well control was underscored by the publication in 1998 of the “IADC Deepwater Well Control Guidelines.” The second edition of the guidelines is now being prepared for publication.

More recently, IADC’s tireless work to improve safety performance brought us awards from the International Regulators Forum, Offshore Technology Conference, Offshore Energy Center and more.

Toward operational excellence

In 1946, we began improving training, co-sponsoring courses on mud-engineering and general drilling.

We did not forget technology and operations. For example, also in 1946, we initiated studies on drill string problems. The studies soon fingered corrosive saltwater used as drilling fluid as the culprit in Permian Basin drill pipe failures.

IADC’s commitment to providing the tools for better drilling marked a milestone in 1955 with the publication of the first “IADC Drilling Manual,” then called the “Toolpushers Manual.” This was our first effort to collate recommendations and instructions for virtually all steps in the drilling process.

The Drilling Manual proved wildly successful. IADC will celebrate the manual’s 40th anniversary this year with publication of its 12th edition.

Sinusoidal history

The current down-cycle is nothing new. Our industry’s history reads like a sine wave – endlessly up, down and up again.

Cycles probably began with the spudding of the first well and will likely be with us until the last well TDs.

Whether up or down, IADC will be here for the industry and all stakeholders. That promise has been our point of pride for 75 years. Here’s to the next 75.

Mike Killalea can be reached via email at mike.killalea@iadc.org.

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