A Global Ambition

With the proprietary software Oliasoft WellDesign™, the founders have a clear ambition to make the innovation the industry standard for drilling engineers.

With ten years as drilling engineer in Statoil, Lundin, VNG and AGR, and with experience from locations as far apart as the North Sea, the Middle East and Africa, Jim Strand had laid a solid, professional foundation.

Coupled with an interest in leveraging large amounts of data and digital solutions, the idea of automating drilling operations emerged.

“The situation today is that the software used by the oil companies is dominated by one major player, but the systems are outdated and ripe for replacement,” says Strand, Chief Product Officer of Oliasoft AS, headquartered in Skøyen, Oslo.

He feels confident that this is an accurate assessment because during his time as a drilling engineer he became well acquainted with how the oil companies manage the well operations.

Eventually, he realized that it could be possible to make them more efficient, while also making them safer.

“We have set ourselves the goal of making drilling operations simpler and more streamlined by utilizing the power of good software,” Strand declares.

He leans back in the office chair and looks back on five determined years of product development.

Along the way, there have been many milestones, but the most important one now stands before them: the launch of Oliasoft WellDesign™, the web-based software that will revolutionize drilling operations.

The event is scheduled for the first quarter of this year. It’s just around the corner.

From left Jim Strand, Chief Product Officer, and André Backen, CEO of Oliasoft. Photo: Terje Solbakk.

Norway has advantages

“Actually, I had been thinking about the idea for 15 years,” says Strand. To realize the idea and get it implemented, a driven entrepreneur with a sense of economy, marketing and everything needed to build a proper company from scratch was needed.

At the same time, one of the founders of the listed gaming company Funcom was looking for new challenges, and he was very determined that it was within the oil and gas industry he wanted to invest.

He was convinced there were plenty of opportunities.

“Norway has a number of advantages for those who want to invest in this industry, including research and development funds, but also broad, technological expertise that is available through SINTEF, IRIS, NORCE, IFE and other research institutions, and this is what I had in mind to exploit,” says André Backen, CEO of Oliasoft.

“I was also keen to create something that could become global, and the oil industry is just that, and in this industry, we have unique expertise, while at the same time there is a potential for huge value to be added”.

The coincidence wanted Strand and Backen to meet, and after some intense hours of exchange of thoughts and ideas, the plan was laid. Oliasoft was created. That was five years ago.

Since then, the company has grown to 30 employees, including 17 programmers, and is thus heading at full speed towards the launch of new software for drilling engineers.

A variety of applications

“Traditionally, it takes six months to plan a well,” Strand says, and does not hide the fact that he thinks this is too long, considering the opportunities that exist in today’s technology, and not least the advances we have seen in digitalization and cloud-based solutions.

“With Oliasoft WellDesign we offer a package of integrated products that give the drilling engineer the opportunity to do all the analyses and calculations that are necessary during the planning of a well, and in a much shorter time than they are used to,” the entrepreneur points out.

The package includes five different planning tools: Directional Drilling, Casing Design, Tubing Design, Blowout Simulation and Conductor Analysis, and of course real-time monitoring of the drilling operations.

“Because everything is cloud-based, work can be done anytime, anywhere and on any PC, tablet or mobile phone,” Strand says. To offer all this, Oliasoft has employed mathematicians and physicists.

These are the ones that are constantly developing and updating the scientific basis of the software, and which – it is good to note – must be in keeping with the latest research results and mathematical models in drilling technology.

In addition, all software is of course in accordance with the industry standards to which the industry adheres.

“Through open APIs (Application Programming Interface) we make sure that different software can talk to each other. It simply means that anyone can retrieve data from one system, load into another system and do their own calculations.”

The drilling operations are conducted today with a minimum number of people on the drill floor. Here we see that the operators are behind the ‘glass and frame’ and guide the drill bit down into the depth. Soon, Oliasoft will launch a cloud-based solution that will further automate both the planning and follow-up of the drilling operations. In this way, the oil companies can both save time and make operations safer. Photo: Halfdan Carstens

High chance of success

Undoubtedly, Oliasoft is entering exciting times. The launch will be a form of audition. Because even though product development has taken place in collaboration with several oil companies and potential users, it is now the market is to be captured. The ambitions are definitely great.

“We aim to become an industry standard,” says Backen.

“Nothing less?” we think, and why not? This is not the first time that technology from the Norwegian petroleum environment has taken the world by storm. The examples are many, and the Norwegian G & G environment knows the Petrel software well. ‘Everyone’ who interprets seismic uses it. Other examples of success are OLGA Dynamic Multiphase Flow Simulator and Eclipse Reservoir Simulator.

History tells us that Petrel, OLGA and Eclipse were all swallowed by Schlumberger. So then, is this what the entrepreneurs of Oliasoft have in their long-term plan, and in their quiet mind want to capitalize on a good idea? But no, not at all, if we are to believe Backen.

“Today we can reach the entire world without Schlumberger or other global players. The explanation is that both our software and the data are in the cloud, and potential buyers can be found using web-based tools. For example, we use LinkedIn actively. This means that we do not have to travel around and visit the customers with individual meetings that both take a long time and cost a lot.”

The oil industry is known to be conservative. Selling new solutions takes a long time. The good news for Oliasoft is that others have succeeded. Others have shown that it is possible. We also see no reason why the founders should not succeed. Rather the opposite. Overall, they have all the knowledge and experience to succeed in a product that the oil companies will eventually see as a ‘must’.