• September 21, 2016

Wilson & Associates Monthly Newsletter, September 2016


    Lifting the Veil  

    By: John W. Wilson


    One evening early in my career, I was at a trade show and found myself beside a hotel pool, talking to a drilling engineer about his work. I knew I was in an industry where people were dealing with big, complicated equipment, doing seemingly impossible things. My grandfather had built wooden rigs around Texas in the 20s, and a great uncle sold mud, but I was having a hard time wrapping my head around just how complicated the work really was.

    He offered a simple explanation. “Imagine that pool is the earth. And at the bottom of it is a quarter and that quarter represents a reservoir of oil. Now imagine you’re on the surface pushing a strand of boiled spaghetti through the water and trying to hit that quarter. That’s what it like trying to drill for oil.” It fired my imagination for sure because he made it clear the spaghetti was boiled. It helped me understand very clearly, that while drill pipe seemed stiff and strong, under pressure and depth it became something else entirely.

    For years I chased the beast from afar, doing stories on rigs, new discoveries, technological breakthroughs and the like. I sold books on the field, and helped put on conferences. I got close to the nitty gritty when I started editing a magazine called Subsea. We cataloged all of the world’s subsea completions. It was fun picking up the completion details and talking to folks about when and how they decided to pull the trigger on subsea or surface. But the big payoff came when I was picked to edit the completion procedures for a major project.

    Continue reading the full article on our website

    I found myself part of a team, as a Technical Editor, working to design and install completions in deep water Gulf of Mexico. The planning and implementation of the procedures involved complex logistical operations along with a challenging downhole environment of high pressures and temperatures at great depths.

    During the course of the conversations about various phases of the completion, I was always amazed at how the engineers could hold the entire downhole picture of the well in their heads along with the hardware they were installing and talk about it in minute detail, comfortable that everyone else could see the same picture. It was also amazing to consider the forces involved with fluids and pipe as they made their way downhole. They were colossal, and these folks understood them as though they were dealing with a garden hose in their back yard.

    Also, they were more than willing to share their knowledge. No question was too small or unimportant as we crafted and packaged the procedures. The give and take of that questioning helped improve them, and it was always a pleasure to hear someone say, if I’d noticed an inconsistency or failure of logic, “Good catch.”  Being part of that team made me feel as though I’d crossed over a bridge. I was now truly part of the world of the engineer who schooled me those many years before. The awe I felt upon entering the business only intensified.

    Of course, I’m old enough to remember when technological building feats were celebrated. Those days, however, are past. We like digital whiz-bangs, but only because we’re infatuated with black boxes. There’s no good understanding of how the things we use come to us. We just like the gee-whiz things they can do. The new GE television ads are a good example. The heroes of the ads do significant, complicated work, but no one seems to really understand what they do. I’m not sure even the viewers get it, but the ads are an excellent attempt at lifting the veil.

    For the energy industry it also doesn’t help that a lot of our work is underground and/or out of sight. We’re either miles offshore or out in the wilderness of South Texas or North Dakota. People have a hard time visualizing the environment in which the work is done or its scale, which I suppose is why I found it thrilling to be around a bunch of people who could. They conceived and did impossible things during the day and sometimes at night, then went home to coach a little league team with parents who had no idea how the technology behind the curtain worked.

    I guess as a nation of consumers it’s understandable. We buy convenience. We expect convenience. We typically have no idea how it’s arranged for us. Most consumers have no idea how gasoline is made or know how many other products flow from relatively simple hydrocarbons. The ease with which people access gas or anything synthetic belies the difficulty and complexity involved in producing the products. They’re missing the deepness of the connectivity and the mystery of the chase. And they have no idea how deeply hydrocarbons are engrained in their lives.

    I always think of that scene in The Graduate when Mr. Maguire takes Ben aside and says, “I just have one word for you. Are you listening? Plastics.” It was a staggering truth meant to be a cut. The amount of products developed since 1968 when the movie appeared is staggering. Every time I hear people talk about getting away from hydrocarbons, I think unwinding petroleum-related products from our lives would be nearly impossible.

    Part of the difficulty comes because people are so deaf and blind to the technology. It makes it really hard for them to create informed decisions about the industry and its products. I think what would really be good for the industry is if Ken Burns would do a documentary similar in depth and scope to the Civil War or Baseball or Jazz. There would be warts for sure, but how could you fail to appreciate the genius and imagination of people who can find oil at 25,000 feet beneath the surface, make it into fuels for our cars, but also look at it and think, “I bet I could make a shirt out of that.” In the meantime, I can go forward being happy I got to work with the men and women who made our lives and our way living possible and came away with a small understanding of how it all came to be.

    In Search of the Learning Life

    By: John W. Wilson

    I came to the oil business thanks to rock and roll. Fresh out of the Navy, after an earlier stint in college ended poorly, I was back in the saddle and in school courtesy of the GI Bill. Needing a little extra cash to feed a young family, I worked at the Houston Chronicle. During the fall I covered high school football and the rest of the time I reviewed rock and roll music. It was a nice gig. Apparently, it got me noticed.

    As my collegiate career wound down, I placed my resume with a local manufacturing association. It was seen by the folks in the publication group at Shell who knew my newspaper work, primarily the music reviews. I got called in for an interview, passed, and was offered a job. Those were the days of in-house publications with staffs of writers, photographers, and designers. They were talented. There was an ex-editor from the Philadelphia Enquirer, an AP Bureau Chief from New York, and an artist with pieces in a local gallery.  It was fun work, travelling the country, talking to folks, taking pictures, and telling their stories. Over the years, I worked for marketing, the computer center, and finally Exploration & Production.

    Eventually, I left Shell for a mid-major, a move that proved it wasn’t always about the money, a hard lesson to learn but one worth having. I soon left for Petroleum Engineer International as the Gulf Coast Editor. It was during my orientation for the magazine that the editor-in-chief, Bruce Bleakley taught me a lesson I’ve always remembered. It was over lunch. We were at his club in Dallas. Part of my new job was to ferret out interesting technical stories and write about them. Bruce gave me some advice to aide me in my search. “John, you’re going to meet a lot of guys who’ll tell you they have thirty years of experience. Your job, will be to determine if they really have thirty years of experience, or if it’s one year of experience thirty times.” It was obvious to me that the former was going to be my best bet at finding something interesting and useful for the magazine. The hard part, as I discovered, was finding the 30-year person.

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    “Open with Explorer” to upload multiple documents to SharePoint at once

    Do you need to upload a bunch of documents into SharePoint, but don’t want to sit there and load them one at a time? 

    Don’t worry, there’s an easier way!

    Worried about how you will assign metadata to all of those documents using this tip?
    Don’t!  There’s a trick for that too – see the next Tip & Trick in this newsletter.

    Tip: When in your document library in SharePoint, near the top-left of your screen click on the Library tab under Library Tools.


    Figure 1


    This will open up a “ribbon” of options.


    Figure 2


    Trick: Near the center (or right-hand side) of the ribbon you should see the “Open with Explorer” button.  Clicking this button will open up a window that resembles the server.  Simply drag & drop (or copy & paste) the files you need to upload to SharePoint into this window.

    When you’re done, close the window and then refresh your SharePoint page. The new files should appear.

    Make sure to assign metadata to the files so that someone can filter and successfully find the document they’re searching for. This is done by mousing-over a file in SharePoint, clicking the drop-down that appears to the right, and then selecting Edit Properties.  If there are a lot of documents that you need to assign metadata to, see the next Tip & Trick in this newsletter for an easier solution.

    Get more Tips & Tricks in the online archive on our website as they are added with each new newsletter.

    Assign metadata to several documents at once using SharePoint’s “Datasheet View”

    Did you use the previous Tip & Trick to open up an explorer window in order to upload a bunch of documents into SharePoint at once, but now you need to fill out metadata for all those documents? 

    Don’t worry, there’s an easier way to do that than taking it one document at a time.

    Tip: When in your document library in SharePoint, near the top-left of your screen click on the Library tab under Library Tools.

    SP Datasheet - 1 - Library button

    Figure 1


    This will open up a “ribbon” of options. This is the same ribbon where you found the “Open with Explorer” button for the previous Tip & Trick in this newsletter.


    Figure 2


    Trick: Near the left-hand side of the ribbon you should see the “Datasheet View” button.  Clicking this button will open up what looks like an Excel spreadsheet within your browser window.  You will still have all the benefits of being able to filter to narrow down your list of documents (if necessary) to only those you need to add metadata to.  In Datasheet View you can add metadata to one document, and then just like in Excel, you can drag that information up or down (or use copy and paste) to any document that metadata also applies to.

    When you’re done, click the Standard View button to go back to your default view.  Don’t worry, your changes will be saved and should appear in the default view.

    Get more Tips & Tricks in the online archive on our website as they are added with each new newsletter.