Oral-History:William C. Maurer

About Interviewee

Dr. Maurer has spent his career spearheading changes for the petroleum industry, including his extensive research into novel drilling techniques, drilling mechanics, rock mechanics, drill bit design, downhole drilling motors, high-pressure jet drilling, horizontal drilling, and advanced drilling tools. He holds 38 patents on oilfield downhole drilling and completion tools. In the 1980s, Maurer organized an effort, known as the DEA 44, to develop tools that would drill horizontal wells. Maurer has authored more than 60 published works, including two books on drilling technology and was inducted into the US National Academy of Engineering in 1992.

About the Interview

William C. Maurer: An interview conducted by Amy Esdorn for the Society of Petroleum Engineers, May 29, 2014.

Interview SPEOH000114 at the Society of Petroleum Engineers History Archive.

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Interview Video

Interview

INTERVIEWEE: William C. Maurer
INTERVIEWER: Amy Esdorn
OTHERS PRESENT: Andrew Bennett
DATE: May 29, 2014
PLACE: Austin, Texas


ESDORN:

Okay, wonderful. So today is Thursday, May 29, 2014, my name is Amy Esdorn, and I am conducting an interview with Bill Maurer for the Society of Petroleum Engineers. Bill, could you please give me your full name and spell your last name?

MAURER:

William Maurer. What was your second question?

ESDORN:

Can you spell your last name for me?

MAURER:

Let’s start it over because my hearing isn’t really good.

ESDORN:

That’s okay. Can you spell your last name?

MAURER:

Yes. It’s M-A-U-R-E-R.

ESDORN:

Perfect, thank you. Okay. So we’re going to just start from the beginning, as it were. Can you just tell me a little bit about where you grew up and your growing up years and where you went to high school and all the rest?

MAURER:

Okay. I grew up in Southern Wisconsin on a dairy farm. Growing up, I was very intrigued with all the equipment that we had on that farm. And then I got to high school and I liked math and physics a lot, and I realized that all of those equipment had equations and mathematics that describe it. So that’s how I really got interested in this subject. So I decided I want to be an engineer, and I went to a small school in Wisconsin and got my BS degree. While there, the Amoco came and invited a couple of engineers with the students to work in the oil fields. But in Wisconsin, we didn’t have any oil, so I thought that would be pretty neat. First year, I went to Kansas and worked in a real old oil field, which is a certain type of field. But the second year, when I went to Duncan, Oklahoma, there was kind of a drilling boom going on, so it was a lot different. The well[s] were being drilled, it was new, and it was really exciting. And they took me out on a very deep gas well. This well was a 15,000 PSI well. I had never seen such a big piece of equipment going up by that rig. But that’s what convinced me to spend my life on doing research because it was such an intriguing subject.

ESDORN:

That’s great. So when did you graduate from high school?

MAURER:

I graduated in 1954.

ESDORN:

And you got your BS degree in?

MAURER:

It was ’58.

ESDORN:

In ’58. And what was the subject of your BS?

MAURER:

It was in mining engineering, because we didn’t have any oil in Wisconsin.

ESDORN:

It was mostly for mining then?

MAURER:

Yeah.

ESDORN:

And then -- let’s see…

BENNETT:

Bill, would you mind straightening the bottom of your tie just so it covers the…?

MAURER:

I’m sorry.

ESDORN:

It happens [laughter]. It’s a good cover, but it’s prone to move around. And I’m not paying attention to that. That’s for sure.

MAURER:

That’s why they invented ties.

ESDORN:

Good. Thank you, Andrew. Let’s see. And so you did your four-year degree at the University of Wisconsin?

MAURER:

It’s now a branch of that, yes. But in those days, it was a small engineering school called Wisconsin Institute of Technology.

ESDORN:

And where was it located?

MAURER:

In Platteville, Wisconsin, near the land mines. We had land mines in Wisconsin. And then I went on and got my PhD at the Colorado School of Mines, and that was quite exciting for me because it was the first time ever I was involved with research. And I did a couple of theses there. One was on explosives, which was very interesting, but another one, we were shooting projectiles at rocks at 10,000 feet per second, which is -- we were the only people doing this. And the question then was were the craters on the moon impact craters or were they bubbles of gas. This sounds silly because we all know they were impact craters, but our study showed that they were impact craters. So that was kind of exciting. Yeah.

ESDORN:

That’s really great. And how did you decide to go to the Colorado School of Mines?

MAURER:

Well, I graduated in ’58, undergraduate. There were no jobs for anybody. And if you hadn’t served in the military, you absolutely couldn’t get a job. And on our bulletin board, they said that there were scholarships at the Colorado School of Mines and another school, and so I applied. There were two scales of scholarships; one paid more than the other, but for best results, I said I’ll take that lower one so you can really get one. But I got the better one. I applied for the better one and I got it, so that was pretty nice.

ESDORN:

So how did you get involved in working in the petroleum industry?

MAURER:

The two summers I worked at the Amoco really led me to believe I wanted to be in the oil industry. And while I was doing my graduate work at Colorado School of Mines, I gave a paper at the annual fall meeting at the SPE, and them having to be in Denver. That was pretty exciting. And I decided when I graduated from there, I wanted to go in the oil business, but I applied for two jobs. One was with Corning Glass, at their research center in Corning, New York, and the other one with Exxon at Tulsa, Oklahoma, through one of the research centers. And they both offered me jobs, so I went into the oil business.

ESDORN:

And what technical discipline would you say you worked in, and what drew you to that discipline?

MAURER:

Well, I really did oil petroleum engineering, and I worked on drilling. I don’t know if that’s your question or not.

ESDORN:

Absolutely.

MAURER:

I spent my life in drilling. I think I’m the only person in the world who spent 50 years doing drilling research. Everybody else was smarter; they did something else.

ESDORN:

What led you to or drew you to drilling?

MAURER:

Excuse me?

ESDORN:

What drew you to the discipline of drilling?

MAURER:

Well, just the size of the equipment and the fact that you were drilling such deep wells into the earth. It was a real challenge. It was kind of like -- it’s more difficult to drill a 30,000 foot well or 40 than it is to go to the moon, because a lot of things in the ground are unknown. But the physics of flying, if you know Newton’s laws, you can get anywhere in the universe. So it’s pretty interesting.

ESDORN:

That’s great. Thank you. Let me think. So then you decide to go into -- you did some drilling work, but then you decided to go into research for drilling. Did you do that simultaneously, research and drilling? Were you out on the rigs, or… ?

MAURER:

I was out on the rigs occasionally, but I started out in research. Exxon had two big research centers, one in Tulsa and one in Houston. Luckily, I went to Tulsa because I met my wife there, and then we got transferred to Houston. Exxon Production Research is the one that makes the drilling facilities in the world. And then let me say this. My days with Exxon were really good days, really valuable days to learn, because they had about 1,000 straight A PhD engineers. It was really a good place to work.

ESDORN:

And how long were you there?

MAURER:

I was there 13 years, until 1974. I was really interested in horizontal drilling, and that isn’t something a big company would do. So I left and formed Maurer Engineering, but the idea that I wanted to bring horizontal drilling from Russia to the United States, because they were doing it before us.

ESDORN:

And what drew you to the idea of horizontal drilling? You said you really wanted to bring it here from Russia to United States.

MAURER:

We could only drill vertical wells, but the Russians started publishing articles where they would drill a vertical well, and then branching off, some of these branches went horizontal. And really, we had nothing in the US that could do anything like that, so most of the engineers thought that they were making it up, the method was not real. But I did a lot of work with the Russians on novel drilling because they were doing most of the work, and everything they published was exactly correct. So I knew that was not right. But let me just say this. I knew that from the mathematics, which I really believed in using a lot of math, that if you could drill hours out of a well, you could produce three times as much oil or gas from it. And if you could do that, you could do it cheaper, you could drain the fields better, and you could use a lot less wells. They now take some smaller reservoirs that used to take 20, 30 wells and they’d drain them with four or five horizontal wells. So it’s really changed the world. I knew that was coming, but… and we didn’t know how to do it in those days.

ESDORN:

But you knew it could be done?

MAURER:

Yes.

ESDORN:

Well, I’m going to move into the area of your personal contributions now. So my first question for you is -- and it might be a little bit out of order.

MAURER: That’s okay.

ESDORN:

But discuss your involvement in the development of measurement well drilling technology.

MAURER:

Okay. I believe that’s one the few the tools that we didn’t do a lot on, but later we did a bunch of them. But I’ll tell you the background. A man named Ralph Spinnler with Teleco started working on the MWD [Measurement While Drilling] systems in 1972. That was the one tool that I knew that we had to have to drill a horizontal well. And he worked on it a couple years, and I was doing a lot of work advising the Department of Energy, but it was called other names in those days. And they came to me and asked me if they should fund this project, because Teleco knew that if they could get money from the government, five oil companies over here would join the project. We felt very strongly that they shouldn’t advise them about this. And so they went ahead and started this--were able to commercialize that project because of that money. And about five years after that, I visited Raymond Engineering, who started Teleco, and they said the CEO wanted to see me, and I went in there and I was happy to talk to him but I didn’t know why. He said, “Bill, he said, “if you hadn’t told the government to fund our project, we would have terminated it.” And he said, “I just want to thank you.” That was pretty amazing to me. It kind of chilled me because the whole drilling systems we have now came from that MWD tool.

ESDORN:

Can you explain exactly what the measurement well drilling technology did?

MAURER:

Let me back up little bit. We didn’t know how the Russians were drilling horizontal wells, but we learned about in the late ‘70s that they were using electric motors. These motors came from the electrical submersible pump system. If you take the pump off and put a bit on, you got a drilling motor. But the really neat thing about the electric drill was that it had a power cable going up to the surface. So, when you put electronic instruments down there for guiding it, you had instantaneous communication to the surface. And this is something we should implement today. I feel very strongly that the next major breakthrough on our oil well drilling would be the use of electric drills because of that reason.

But when Teleco started, we didn’t have way to get a cable and a pipe. So they used what they called mud pulse -- and I know everybody—all drilling engineers know about this. But there’s a valve in the bottom that pulses, and it’s kind of like a telegraph in principle. You can send digital data to the surface. It may take a minute—in the old days, it did—to do this. So the key was that you can’t guide something if -- first of all, you have to have a way to move it around so it will drill differently. But you can’t drill a hole accurately unless you have survey sensors in there. And actually, these are the same ones they use with rockets going to Mars or the moon. You have three accelerometers and three magnetometers, and this allows them to do this. So the real key is you have to have a way to send that signal from the bit to the surface. Does that answer your question?

ESDORN:

And so that’s what the measurement well drilling was, was that that was that…

MAURER:

It was our communication system.

ESDORN:

Great, great. So how did you develop that? How did that come across?

MAURER:

Well, really Teleco should get the credit for that too. But for horizontal drilling, that is absolutely essential. But then you’d need a down hole drilling motor that’s really good. All of us we worked on this to have a good motor. But another key is you drill out sideways, the amount of force you can apply decreases a bit of friction in the hole. So, we knew first of all that roller bits wouldn’t work because you have to put on very high load on a roller bit. A vertical hole you can put it down there, and if you want 80,000 pounds on the bit, you put 100,000 worth of drill collars on it and then you can do that. But if you lay those drill collars horizontal, they don’t apply anything. So, the real key in horizontal was to get them to go out. So that’s kind of the answer to that question.

ESDORN:

Thank you. Discuss your work organizing the DEA 44.

MAURER:

Okay. Can I give you a little bit long history on this?

ESDORN:

Absolutely. That’s what I’m looking for.

MAURER:

Here was kind of the sequence of events. I knew that we needed the MWD, and I knew that by ’74, that Teleco could develop it, because they had prototypes out there that were -- you knew that in a couple of years they would work. So I resigned from Exxon and formed Maurer Engineering in 1974, and we worked on all kind of advanced things. Most problems that other people couldn’t solve, they’d give to us. And most people didn’t want to work on them because they were too hard. Then, as we went along, these motors were developed, and all these tools were developed from 1975 to 1985 was really the golden age of drilling technology because all of the tools we needed for horizontal drilling were developed in that period. And then, in the… so first all we had, the MWD, and then, the second thing was we needed those drill bits. So I worked with General Electric, a man named Mahlon Dennis. He invented the PDC cutters we used on drill bits, and we built the world’s first PDC bit when I was still with Exxon in ‘74.

We ran it on the King Ranch. And the way you can tell how good a bit is, you watch how fast the drill pipe moves on into the hole, and that’s the drilling rate. And the first -- we put this bit on right at the bottom, it had started drilling three times as fast as a roller bit. And I knew from that day that that was the future of drilling. I predicted that that in 20 years that half the drilling would be done with those bits, and that was about five years ago. So this was really after 30 years they were the majority bit that’s used. So that’s that. Anyway, first of all, in 1979, I encouraged the government to drill a horizontal well, and they drilled a very shallow one. They started near the surface, and they drilled out. It was a 1,000-foot radius turn. We call that a long radius. It’s not the optimal system.

But what they did was they drilled this well, they took three or four months to do it, they didn’t drill out very far horizontally. They spent a million dollars on that well, and a million dollars in those days was like 10 million now, which was a lot of money for them to spend on one well. But they did it, and it was a historic well. Joe Passini was with the DOE, and he drilled it. What it was it was a first horizontal well in the world outside of Russia. People don’t read, and nobody even remembers this well, but it was very, very historic. Then, in about two, three years later, I checked with in this [hard] drilling horizontal wells in the Rospo Mare Field, and this really caught the attention of the world because they would go down and go out 1,000 feet—or I don’t how exactly how far out—but they demonstrated that an oil company can drill a horizontal well in a real field or a real oil field.

Number two, they increased their production a lot. So this really got everybody excited about horizontal drilling. A man named Louis Jourdan [correction: Andre Jourdan] was a key of that, and he deserves a lot of credit. So then, that brings it up to Rospo Mare. Well, I would visit with Frank Schuh, and I think that he’s giving an interview like this. But Frank was the top guy in the world on casing and tubulars and the stresses. And I went up to visit him at Arco, and this was about, ‘83 or ‘84. I start telling him about what we’re doing with these motors, these little motors—we started a company called Slim Drill, and we became world leaders in guiding these little holes. And he said, “Bill, I’ll tell you what the problem is,” he said. “In our oil field, they drill these 3,000-feet turns. But by the time you get horizontally 1,000 feet away from the rig --” and he said the drilling of that is extremely expensive. He said, “I’ve studied the problem. What I need is to turn that in 300 feet.” And what that means is you vertical the well in one end of a football field, and when you come out at the other end, you’re horizontal. And he said it’s a difficult problem, and I said, “You know, we’re doing pretty high-angle wells, and I think we can do it.” He said, “Can you do it?” and I said I think so. So we went back and ran our computer programs and everything, and I contacted him a couple of days later. I said, “Frank,” I said, “we think we can do it.” And so he said, “If you bring the tools up, I’ll test them.” He said, “I'm drilling with a Christiansen motor trying to do it into a big, open -- into a big quarry, big quarry.” So he said, “We can step back and drill out and see how it’s coming out right properly.” And so I took him out there three months later, and we drilled with it and worked perfect. And so then, that was -- it is really Frank Schuh deserves the credit for coming up with the idea. We call that medium radius. We call those long ones long radius. And so this was really a big breakthrough. And I don’t think Frank ever got the credit for doing that. So we are happy today to just say if it weren’t for Frank Schuh, we wouldn’t be doing it. But we built the motors to do it. So we went out and drilled the world’s first medium-radius well—all wells are now medium-radius—in the Austin Chalk. We drilled out about a 300 feet fracture. It had so much pressure in it that it just right blew out the rig. And luckily… who am I talking about?

ESDORN:

Bill Rehm.

MAURER:

And luckily, Bill Rehm was down the rig, and he wrote all the well control manuals and he brought it under control. So Bill Rehm deserves a lot of credit for working on that first horizontal the well. But then, what happened, Frank Schuh also said, “I just started the DEA.” And he explained to me what it was. Companies came out with an idea to get a lot of companies to fund it. He said, “You ought to really expand your program you’re drilling on-- extended reach drilling-- and do horizontal drilling.” This was 1985. And so, we wrote the project proposal, and our goal was to get about eight companies, each giving about $50,000. We’d have about $400,000. I went to Canada and came back with 20 people from up there, companies, and then pretty soon, it got up to about 80 or 100. And then we had two or three phases, so this went out for a long time. But what was really important was that when you have a new technology, you always have a lot of problems. Okay? It doesn’t matter what it is. But what we did was every time someone drilled a well on this project, we had our top drilling, world-class drilling guy out there, and he identified every problem that arose. All things they tried to solve it with and what solved the problem. And this way, everybody doing the wells had a different problem, and you eliminated all these problems, whereas if one company, like a Shell, they would have to drill 10 years to solve them. But we could solve them in a year because we had 30, 40, 50 companies drilling all these horizontal wells. I think in reality it was the most successful joint industry project ever in the oil industry, because it accelerated horizontal drilling so much.

ESDORN:

That’s great. Absolutely, absolutely. So you wanted to make a couple of more points about horizontal drilling?

MAURER:

Yes. I think the real key is that the joint industry project accelerated full implementation of horizontal drilling tremendously. And if we hadn’t had that, we’d probably be about 10 years behind. So this worldwide Shell boom would not exist. And I think that’s -- of all the things we did, that’s probably the most important because it’s changing the world.

ESDORN:

What were some of the issues that Shell encountered in that period that really were quite challenging technical problems for you all?

MAURER:

The biggest -- I tell you the very biggest one was the torque and drag on this pipe because it goes out -- the torque and drag keep increasing. So nobody had ever done a lot of math on that. But Exxon published a really good paper. They got a summer student to work on this, and it was really brilliant. And we took that and put it into a computer program. And it was really a drill spring drag program. We called it D-Drag. But D-Drag would allow people to design their wells, plan them, and if they ran into problems, to eliminate them because it could exactly calculate things. And people used to joke that probably for 10 or 15 years it was the most popular drilling program in the world because they could solve these problems. Let me kind of give you an example of this. We had a company call us, and they said, “We’re an offshore rig and we’re out there, and the drag is so high that we can’t turn the pipe without breaking it. And we’re not going to be able to finish this offshore well.” And they said, “Do you have a solution?” I said, “Well, I tell you what. One of the companies just told us that they had a problem like that, and they put in a graphite pill. You circulate the graphite, and it’s real slick. And they said it solved their problem.” So the man who asked, said, “Can you tell us how to do this or how do we find out?” And I said, “I can’t tell you who it is or anything because it’s confidential, but I tell you what I will do. I’ll call that man up, and I’ll say you have a problem. The rig shut down. Would you mind telling them how to do it?” He said, “No, tell him to call me.” So the guy called me in about a week later, this man called, and he said it worked perfectly, finished the well, and it was a big success. So that’s the kind of things we learned. I think you asked me what were some of the big- that was the biggest problem. The next problem was -- everything to do with a well relates to hydraulics. Well, our programs were for the vertical well. Now, all at once, you got a mile-long horizontal section, the hydraulics are all different. You could have blow-outs or could you have lost circulation problems. And so, the second big program we did was on horizontal well hydraulics, and we called it H mud. That was about equally important to the D-Drag, but maybe not quite. But then we had to do them for cementing. We had to do them for just all kind of problems. So we ended up with about 15 different programs that, and they were very, very widely used.

ESDORN:

Okay. Let me see. I'm just looking at my paper here. You discussed this a little. You referred to it a little bit earlier, but can you talk about the development of the PDC bit?

MAURER:

Oh yes, oh yes. Mahlon Dennis, as I mentioned, was in GE, and they were interested in building bits. I always wanted a long-life drag bit. We called it a drag bit because it has no moving parts. These are roller bits with all kinds of bearings and they would fail. But if you have a bit that’s one piece, it will last a heck of a lot longer. So we built the first PDC bit, took it on the King ranch, as I mentioned earlier, and it drilled so fast. But there was a problem with it. These cutters, they braced them on the bit, and they was -- because they’d fall off occasionally. And so I told Mahlon, I said, “Why don’t we start a company to market PDC bits?” He said, “We have to solve the attachment problem.” He said, “When I get back to GE, we’re going to initiate six different projects, ways to try to solve this problem,” and we agreed that when he solved it he would come to me and tell me, and we would start a company. So he came to me in 1980, and he said, “We solved the problem. We’ll never lose another cutter.” So we started STRATABIT, the world’s first PDC bit company. Within five years, it had sales of $50 million, it was crazy. But then pretty soon, there were a lot of other competitors. But the major oil companies, major bit companies, all of them, they had a lot of money invested in roller bits and they didn’t want to see them displaced. And so, when Shell and Exxon and everybody went and talked to them about PDC bits, they said, “Well, we tried them, and they didn’t work.” So we knew that the only way to get them implemented was we had to start our own company to do it. But when the sales took over about 15 percent of the market, then each one of them went out and bought a PDC bit company. Essentially all new technology—I mean breakthrough technology-- every bit of the oil industry is done by small companies. Downhole motors were by a little guy, MWD was by a little guy, our directional drilling was by a little guy, all of these things. It’s kind of interesting. And this is why it’s really important at times that the government funds some of these far-out projects. It’s very important. And the DOE and those people deserve a lot of credit. They never get any credit, but we wouldn’t have PDC bits, we wouldn’t have horizontal drilling, or it would have been a long time later if it wasn’t for the DOE.

ESDORN:

So you were saying about the PDC bits that they were wearing out or they were losing parts of them. Why was that happening, and how did they finally solve that problem? Do you know?

MAURER:

I don’t know how they solved it. GE is a big company, and they just developed better materials for attaching things and better procedures.

ESDORN: What made you all think to use the polycrystalline element there on the bit?

MAURER:

Well I’ll tell you exactly, because they developed it for machining steel. And so we knew it was a good material. It was extremely hard, and it’s a diamond material. But it isn’t made of one big diamond. It’s made of thousands of little diamonds put together, so they won’t break like a diamond. We used to use diamond bits a long time ago, but you could break a diamond. But you can’t break it if it’s in a million pieces to start with. The back would flex or something. I don’t know if I answered your question.

ESDORN:

You did, you did. Yeah.

MAURER:

It’s a good question.

ESDORN:

So I think you also discussed a little bit or you just barely referenced slim hole drilling. Can you please discuss your involvement in slim hole drilling?

MAURER:

Yes. Slim hole drilling has been around for 50 years, but it hasn’t really caught on. One reason is that if the hole’s twice as big, the service companies make twice the rental on all the tools. But if we could drill smaller holes -- the world’s deepest well until recently was 34,000 feet. It was drilled 20, 30 years ago, and they drilled down into molten sulfur and had to quit. But the bottom of that bit, the last one was five-inch diameter, and I calculate that if you made it four inch, all these strings of casing get lots smaller, and you’d cut the way to your casing the way that your [unintelligible] spent everything by 50 percent. And smaller ones will drill faster. You can go up and drill twice as fast with a small bit.

So we had the potential of cutting well costs 50 percent in a lot of places with slim hole drilling, and I feel really strongly that that would be the second major breakthrough in the next years. We knew how to do it. We have the tools, but it’s a problem of economics that the service companies don’t want to provide it. And I told you I started slim drill. This is really interesting, right on this fact. I have to stop and think a little bit.

ESDORN:

Sure.

MAURER:

How to say this. I was at OTC meeting looking at the Dyna-Drill motors, then I asked this guy, I said “Why don’t you use more small motors than -- why don’t you sell more motors? Why don’t they use slim holes?” And he said, “I’ll tell you why.” He said, “A big motor rents for $350 an hour. A little one rents for $50 an hour. So no salesman will push them because they got to get five or six sales of the little ones.” So I went back and I thought, “You know? That’s right. But what if you started a company and all they had were small motors? Every salesman will be really interested in selling small motors.” So we did slim drill and we developed the world’s best motors because no one else was trying to improve them. But it was a matter of economics, and I found that very fascinating. Some really major hindrances to implementation of new technology that you’re competing with somebody else who has vested interest in what they do. I hope you understand what I’m saying.

ESDORN:

Absolutely, absolutely.

MAURER:

But I don’t mean to say anything bad about service companies. We couldn’t have horizontal drilling if we didn’t have the Schlumberger and the Halliburtons and the Bakers. I didn’t mean to leave anybody out.

ESDORN:

[Laughter] It’s bound to happen [laughter]. So here you also have on your notes, I’m looking at logging while drilling. Can you discuss what you wanted to discuss about logging while drilling?

MAURER:

Okay. I really should have talked about logging while drilling. One of the problems is on a vertical well, you can drill a 10,000-foot hole, and if there’s 30 feet of oil, you drill 30 feet through it. But if you lay that 30 feet sideways, [00:36:00] and it may go up or down a little, you got to stay in the sweet spot. And the only way to do that is have a logging instrument. And they started out probably with just gamma ray. They called them LWD, logging while drilling, and Schlumberger developed the first one in 1980. That was just two years after Teleco made the MWD because they’re coupled together. The signals have to come up with the MWD.

So that’s kind of the background of that. It’s really important, and I should have talked about it because that was -- I forgot about it. But that’s one of the really essential tools. In our little company, we developed, actually, put logging censors right in the drill bit and it’d relay it up to the MWD. We were kind of the first to do that. That’s really pretty important because if you’re going to drill a big gas, something that might blow out, you’d like to know ahead of time.

ESDORN:

And so that’s the advantage when you put it in the drill bit. You actually know it before…

MAURER:

Sooner, sooner, because you’re logging to up to maybe hole 60 feet or 30 feet. And you might not see it for an hour. Anyway, it’s just interesting. To me, it is.

ESDORN:

No, it absolutely is. It absolutely is. Unfortunately, I can’t -- I feel bad because I want to jump in and be like, “Oh yeah, that’s [audio glitch]… yeah, I will. So when you say under river crossings, so you’re really drilling under the river?

MAURER:

Yeah, come up the other side.

ESDORN:

It’s literally under river crossings.

MAURER:

That’s what they call them.

ESDORN:

And you use fiber optics to -- well, I’ll let you finish. I’ll let you explain it and I’ll listen to the answer.

Great. Okay. So my next question for you, what are some of the other applications of horizontal drilling?

MAURER:

Well, we developed the slim hole systems and they found a lot of other applications. The first one came up in about 1980s or around 1990, when they decided to put fiber optics throughout the United States for Internet use. And it turned out that they would be laying these things, they’d encounter rivers, and if you laid a wire or something at the bottom of the river, a ship anchor could pull it up. So they had the idea that maybe somebody could drill under it, and nobody knew how to do it. But we took our little tools, and it was very exciting the first time -- it was a hard rock, and we drilled under and it came up. They put a pipeline in there -- I mean a pipe, put this through. But it became a really big business for about five years or probably hundreds or thousands of rigs all over the United States. Because if you start going in a direction, you’re out on a stream or something pretty quickly. So, that was really, really exciting. So that was one of them.

Another application that’s really interesting, I thought, my son happened to be out there on the job. He was in high school. But he was in Santa Barbra, and you all know how pretty Santa Barbra is. The cliffs are there. Well, years before, they’d hung a pipe down and dug it into the beach and they rented out to this offshore platform, which is still out there. But they got worried that if a cliff caved, it would break that pipe, it would spill oil. So they asked if we could drill from the top of the cliff, get back about a football field and drill out under the beach, and we did this. We drilled under this beach, we’d probably gone a few hundred feet, and the people were on the beach bathing and everything, and they didn’t even know what was going on. And we came out about a half mile out, and then they hooked the pipeline from there to the offshore rig. But they were worried about it collapsing, and in about 10 years later, the cliff collapsed. But we were far enough back so that it didn’t affect us. I always [00:40:00] felt good. So it’s kind of an interesting application.

Another really interesting one was in World War II, the Germans sunk a lot of ships in this harbor in Belgium, the Zeebrugge Harbor, and they could get their U-boats over in high tide. So they have their submarines in there, and that’s why they were there. So after the war, they couldn’t lift all these ships, so they left the hulls. They cut them. So I hear they had about 15 of these holes in about 1990. They wanted to be deepen the harbor and they didn’t know how to get rid of these things. And they go and put cables under to lift them, and they went all around the world and nobody could do it. So we thought we could drill under them with our drilling, and it worked really well. But when we were deciding, they said -- the three-inch bit comes out on the other side of that ship and through the dirt and the mud and all this. How are they going to find it? And I think I had the best idea I ever had in my life. I said we’ll just pump air down, and the divers can follow the bubbles down to the bit, and it worked perfect. Most of the good ideas in life are real simple, they’re not complicated, the good ones. Anybody can make a complicated tool, but very few can make it simple and do the same thing. Anyway, that’s…

ESDORN:

What about the military holes?

MAURER:

About what?

ESDORN:

Military holes?

MAURER:

Oh, in military, cost is not an object but speed is. And so, we developed systems with water jets so they could drill really fast. Also, silence sometimes is very important. So, we built systems that were really quiet but you could drill a mile away and do something like put explosives under a -- at a runway or something, whatever you wanted to. So military drilling is really interesting because of the speed. If you want to plant devices to listen to people, you could do that.

There was a big thing in Philadelphia. These people were in this building about 34 years ago, and they didn’t know what to do. But we knew what to do but it wasn’t done. We didn’t propose it to anybody, but we could have drilled from a few blocks away out of the building, filled the building with nitrogen. Nitrogen is really interesting, because you can walk in a room full of nitrogen and you just die but you don’t realize there’s no air in there. And so that’s -- anyway, there are all kinds of things that you could do with drilling. I can’t talk about some of them or any of them. Or I’ll have to shoot you [laughter]. That’s what they say about it.

ESDORN:

Okay. Yes, please don’t tell me then [laughter]. What about geothermal?

MAURER:

Okay. Geothermal is really interesting. One cubic mile of hot rock could power -- I don’t know the exact number—a lot of the United States-- for a month or something. And then Los Alamos got very interested in this because they have a volcano in New Mexico that’s two miles across the caldera—I don’t know if you’ve been there. But this is about ten-million-year-old—I think that’s what it is, it may not be right—volcano. But heat moves through rock very slowly, so that volcano is still real hot, and they want to go on the edge of it and drill down into that. They want to drill two holes, parallel holes shaped like this [demonstrates], and they want to put cold water down. These would intersect a fracture and then pull steam out of the other one. Well, the drill that was a direction hole, they went to everybody, okay? Schlumberger, Halliburton, everybody--and they said they can’t do it because our PDM—Positive Displacement Motors—have a rubber element in it, and it’ll burn it up. The temperature’s about 700 ˚f, which is very hot. So they asked us if we could build the turbine drill, like the Russians had, and do this. Well, turbine drills had a lot of rubber in the seals and all kind of things, but we were able to eliminate all of those, and we developed this turbine. And it had to be short, so it was about 28 feet long, which is very short, because the direction turbines were l00 feet long. And we built special turbine blades. Actually, I have one with me here. They were actually a lot bigger than this, but you see turban blades, they normally don’t curb this much. But by curbing them a lot, you can get real high torque. And normally, if you drill granite, you could drill it about 5 feet an hour with a roller bit or can, but we drilled it over 100 feet an hour.

And it’s really interesting. We’re in Austin right now doing this, but the capitol’s made out of a Texas granite, and we went to Marble Falls and got six or eight foot blocks of that rock, and we could drill a 12 and a quarter-inch hole at a hundred feet an hour. That’s really a world record to do something like that. But the first time they ran it, it worked perfectly. Since then, they call this hot dry rock drilling, and it spread around the world. That was the only turbine ever built to drill under those conditions, that high a temperature. I had some really good engineers working for me that did that, yeah. They recommended we hire this guy. He would do all of the turbine drills for a lot of other companies, and he was a genius. Jetty Nixon was his name. And he was really a genius. We did that all in about two years or so.

Let me tell you something about engineers, okay? If you have a world-class engineer, he’s better than 10 or 100 average engineers. These people would create -- it’s like someone that could paint the Mona Lisa. There’s all grades of engineers. All engineers are smart or they couldn't go, but some are just like geniuses. And what I always found was if you could develop a tool to find the smartest guy in the world who did the best one, and if you hire him he can do a better one. And this is what we did. Anyway, that’s kind of a long-winded answer. But it was really exciting to see that drill pipe go down and that thing drilling down there 8,000 feet in rock. That was extremely hot -- you wouldn’t dare touch it. You’d burn your hand. I mean it's hot like a pizza oven, yeah.

ESDORN:

And so you said they’ve implemented this all over the world now?

MAURER:

Yeah.

ESDORN:

And when was it, when was it first…?

MAURER:

This we did in 1978. That’s a long time ago. But geothermal is going in the next 30 years; it’s going to become very important because of things like that. And it’s really interesting that last summer, a group of Chinese came to visit me because they want to duplicate the turbo drill we did in ‘78. Isn’t that interesting? Yeah. They were—Kathy remembers it (my wife).

ESDORN:

And you also have on here mine rescue you wanted to speak about.

MAURER:

Oh yes, oh yeah. In the ‘60s and ‘70s, if you were in a coal mine and you had an explosion, what you’d do is run to the end of the tunnel and barricade yourself in. The likelihood of you ever being rescued was practically zero because you might be a mile from the shaft and that’s full of gas, and the gas is going to keep leaking in and it’s going to probably kill you, because there is no hope to get you, to you. So the government in the ‘70s set up a project in Westinghouse, set it up because a lot of this was electronics, they tried to look through the rock. But there were two of us who were considered the drilling experts, and we concluded that what you needed to do was very quickly drill a six-inch hole down to them, because the first thing you have to do is get them air. Secondly, you have to get them some blankets because they’re probably cold. Third thing, you want to get them water, and the fourth thing is food, and then fifth is keep communicating with them because it’s a very stressful situation. And then, while you’re drilling that hole, which is, it’s smaller a rig, you can get it in pretty quickly. The second thing. So you bring in a bigger rig and drill a 24-inch hole because a 24-inch you can have a round cage that he can get in, and it’s determined by the shoulder width—instead of doing an 18 inch like that, but we did the 24.

And so we recommended that the DOE set up two rigs in Charleston, West Virginia. About 10 years later, they pulled their first group off of that. It’s really interesting when you see these every couple of years when they did this, and I’m always excited because that cage that came out was the one we build through our project. But I felt really good about that because we, first of all, saved some people’s lives. But secondly, if they were trapped down there, they at least had hope that they could get out. These people would actually drink their urine down there trying to get some fluids. A coal mine isn’t usually webbed like a rock, hard rock. But anyway, I found that very interesting. I felt very, very good about that. You can imagine being down there, six, eight hundred feet under a rock and no air. Anyway, I’m glad you asked me about that.

ESDORN:

Okay, let’s see. Okay. So my next question is not as immediate as rescuing people from a mine. However, can you please discuss your contribution to developing the software that they used to overcome the problems that engineers were encountering with horizontal drilling?

MAURER:

Okay. That’s a really good question. Well, if you develop software, it’s mathematics. When I started my work, there weren’t very many PhDs in the oil business, but I went out and started hiring these straight A PhDs, most of them in mechanical engineering. So the first thing you have to do on software is really get the math right. And we had one on borehole stability we did, and it was a -- I got a guy who had a PhD in mechanical engineering and solid mechanics both. Anyway, I ended up with 15 of these guys, and they were just geniuses. And this is how we -- we were able to do that. But you have to -- sometimes the math doesn’t exist and you have to develop the math, like Newton did for space and motion and all of that. So you -- and the real key is that you’ve got to get the very smartest people in the world [00:52:00]. And I think this is really true, I really do. I think we had more PhDs in my little company than Schlumberger had, Halliburton had, and Baker had. One time, the CEO of Baker and I were together--and we did a lot of work for them, and I said, “You know, if I pick my three best engineers out of Maurer, you pick your three best engineers out of Baker,” I said, “we have better engineers than you.” And he smiled and he said, “I know it.” The real key is you got to get really, really smart people.

ESDORN

And so, what…

MAURER:

I always told my son, the key to success in the company is hire people that are smarter than you. And most people like to hire a little bit dumber so they can intimidate them. I hope they are smarter. One man, one of my Chinese guys, when they graduate from a university in science in China, they have to take a math test. He scored fifth in the nation, of China. Now, you know, I bet, you know, he -- well, anyway, he was a genius.

ESDORN:

So what were some of the problems that you had encountered in horizontal drilling that were solved by these equations in this software?

MAURER:

First of all, they didn’t know how to guide a hole. We did that. Secondly, they didn’t know how to keep from having blow-outs and lost circulation with the drilling fluid. We did that. Thirdly, they didn’t know how to cement them, and fourthly, they didn’t know how to frack them. I mean, there’s just a whole list because everything was different. And they kind of solved all those problems by trial and error, but you usually have to make a lot of errors before you learn. So that’s why we had 15 programs. Each one solved a different problem. The borehole stability was a big problem. When you put a well horizontal, it can collapse. How do you keep it open? And, I don’t remember all of them that we did, but that’s just some of them. And on the stresses and the tubulars, we did a lot of work on stresses, so it doesn't break, all of this. I don’t know if that answers that.

ESDORN:

Absolutely, absolutely. And was that part of the DEA 44, or was that the project with your developing the software? Was that part of that or was that…?

MAURER:

It was all part of the project.

ESDORN:

Okay, okay.

MAURER:

And they got copies of all of this software, just for their -- they didn’t have to buy anything once they’ve paid their forty or fifty thousand dollars.

ESDORN:

And so that was 15 projects for 15 different solutions?

MAURER:

No, no. Those were all under the, one project, DEA 44.

ESDORN:

I beg your pardon. I don’t think I asked that very well. But there were 15 issues that you were solving with the software, is that right?

MAURER:

Yes, yes.

ESDORN:

Okay, let’s see. You wanted to talk about -- you discussed a little bit about different motors, but you didn’t discuss [multi-lobe] motors and the development there.

MAURER:

Okay, I might show you -- oh gosh. The motors…

ESDORN:

Hold on.

Yeah, you were talking about horizontal drilling and, you know, the well bore falling in and everything, and we had -- who was it yesterday? I guess was it Sam Gibbs? No. It was Martin Chenevert talking about the shales.

MAURER:

Oh, yes. He’s the expert on that.

ESDORN:

And so that was really eye-opening to hear a little bit more about water migration and all the rest. That was really interesting. I’ll tell you what. I’m really, I’m shooting for an honorary degree in petroleum engineering at the end of all this [laughter].

MAURER:

You know, Martin and I both worked for Exxon in the same office, and his lab is right outside my office. I always saw him fiddling in there with his stuff. But he really did that stuff back at Exxon, and he’s a world leader.

ESDORN:

Did you see his shales on the windowsill that were dehydrated and lost the water from the…

MAURER:

They look a lot different, don’t they?

ESDORN:

Yeah. So I was like -- I wish he had actual photographs of those, to include, but nobody thinks to do that when it’s actually happening. You don’t think it’s important, you know? Those really important things you don’t think are important, so. Okay. We’re good? Okay, great. So let me see here. So you’ve spoken a little bit about some of the motors that you’ve developed, but what about the multi lobe motors?

MAURER:

Okay, the multi lobe motors are -- that’s really interesting because the first motors that we used were single lobe, and this happens to be one. It has a crooked shaft like this, and a rubber. And the reason this wouldn’t work in geothermal, because that rubber would burn up. But the multi lobe, it doesn’t produce high enough torque to drill fast, so they now have a multi lobe and it’s more like a square-shaped thing. It isn’t, but it’s like that. And so, you can get a lot more fluids through it, and it turns the bit with a lot more torque. And actually, the Russians built multi lobe motors and Baker invented one. I don’t know if they knew the Russians had been doing that or not, but they worked on this motor for several years, and it was very, very powerful. But you have to get the motor. You have to go around and get up to the drill bit—Okay—to transfer the torque. And they couldn’t solve the problem. So, Hubie Clark, the man I said about the three engineers, he asked if we could solve this problem, and I said, needing the money of the company, I said yes, I think we can solve it. And so, he said, “What will it cost?” I didn’t know if it was a dollar or million dollars, so I said 250,000. He said okay. So what he did, he went back and told his engineers, but the engineers didn’t like this. So Hubie said, “I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I’ll pay for it out of corporate funds, and when it’s all done, if they solve the problem and you use it, you have to pay me back 500,000 to corporate. If they don’t solve it, you don’t have to pay anything.” Well, they couldn’t argue with that. Again, Jetty Nixon, the guy I said was a genius, he and his guys figured it out. We all kind of did it together, but figured out how to solve the problem, and we did solve it. And they immediately -- see, they build all these motors, but they couldn’t commercialize them because they couldn’t make a mark, you know, and we did that and I was proud of that and our people, you know. So that’s our part of the multi lobe. But we sure helped get them implemented, yeah. But then we built a lot of other motors, little ones in the Slim Drill, and all that, later.

ESDORN:

So earlier, you had talked about… one of the problems with horizontal drilling is nobody knew how to guide the bit and the drill. So what was your part in developing these guidance systems?

MAURER:

Okay. They started out with a real simple thing. You just put a band in the bottom of the motor. And they’d done this for 20 years, not that long, but it was around -- but to drill around that 300-foot corner, you had to put a pretty sharp bend in it, and nobody could solve the problem of how you transfer the torque around that corner. And so, we did a lot of research on that, and that’s how we solved the problem, but it was very critical because nobody could drill a 300 football field size curve until we did that. It sounds simple, but it was kind of complicated. Go ahead.

ESDORN:

What was sort of involved in the solving of that problem? Was it mathematical? What were the elements that comprised that solution?

MAURER:

Well, we just had to do some really innovative thinking about how to do it and do it in such a way that they would not lose too much power going around that corner. And that’s kind of all I can say about it, yeah. We always look around for other technologies in other areas. I didn’t really say this. This is really important. Often, you can find technologies in fields that aren’t related to you but they’re doing things that you could use over here. And one of the real key things, anytime you start a new project, use as much existing technology. Wherever it is in the world, find it, because it’s better than developing something new. But you still have a bunch of things you have to do new, but take everything you can. If you build a new car, you might take everything but the engine from somewhere, and then you build a better engine and you have a better car. I don’t know if that’s a good analogy.

ESDORN:

And what about top drives? What are those?

MAURER:

When you drill, we used to just slide the things in the hole, and pretty soon you couldn’t slide any further. Chipping in and out of those things, if you can rotate the bits, you can move it in and out because the friction disappears. So the top drives are eliminated. We used to use something, a square box called a Kelly, kind of square thing, and a rotary table. But this eliminates that, and you can rotate the pipe when you go into the hole or out of it. And so trap drives are critical to do this.

Let me just comment that it’s amazing. When we first did horizontals, we were happy with 1,000 feet and 3,000, but now they do these extended reach wells, where they -- in Russia, there is an island called Sakhalin. I don’t think anyone’s talked about it, but Exxon has drilled 11,000. They drilled eight miles on an angle, and then they got horizontal and then went about six miles and then two miles horizontal. And you had to have trap drives because of all that friction. And all those Exxon guys deserve a lot of credit for those holes. They just had a new publication last month about them. This is amazing to be drilling eight miles where your bit is rotating it, or whatever you’re drilling.

ESDORN:

And of course, the benefit of being able to drill that far is that you…?

MAURER:

Well, the thing was it’s an island and there’s some land over here and there wasn’t room on that island, or for other reasons they couldn’t drill wells from the island. So they had to come in. it’s the only way they could do it. It’s amazing. Some of those problems were tougher than going to the moon, really. Yeah. It just takes lots more money to go to the moon.

ESDORN:

Can you explain maybe some of the reasons why that would be?

MAURER:

Because Mother Earth is not uniform like space. Outer space, it’s all uniform, but Mother Earth, you don’t know what you’re going to hit in the next five feet. And when you hit it, you don’t know how to fix it if it causes a problem. I mean, I think that’s right.

ESDORN:

So, can you talk to me a little bit about the shale drilling boom and multiple fracks from an HOR well?

MAURER:

What’s the last part of it?

ESDORN:

The multiple fracks from an HOR well.

MAURER: Yes, yes, yes. If you drill a vertical well and you frack it, your frack only goes one direction, so you can only have one frack. And there’s nothing you can do about that. But if you drill sideways from that frack, then you can -- if you’re out there 5,000 feet, you can put 10 or 20 fracks along there and they’re all parallel. And so that’s the benefit of the horizontal and the shale, that you can go along and put all these fracks in, yeah.

ESDORN:

And when did they start doing that?

MAURER:

I don’t know exactly but in the last five years I would say most of it, yes. It’s amazing what these frack companies have done, yeah.

ESDORN:

Okay.

MAURER:

Can I comment about that?

ESDORN:

Yes, please.

MAURER:

I think there is another big thing they’re going to do. There’s a shale well in the Eagle Ford, to kind of well to drill a hole would cost about four million and a frack costs $8 million. I think if they took that $8 million, they could probably drill 10 or 20 holes through that shale. Shale has to have natural fractures in it anyway; otherwise, you cannot move oil through an inch or two of shale if it’s solid shale. And I think we might be able to intersect more fractures with 20 holes, and that eight million (dollars) than we can with these hydraulic fracks. And I think the possibility exists with spaghetti drill formation, and we could reduce fracking or eliminate it, and I think this is something that really needs to be tried. Other people have other names for that, but I kind of can visualize spaghetti going on.

ESDORN:

What are some of the other names that people call it?

MAURER:

I don’t know, I forgot.

ESDORN:

I like yours.

MAURER:

Not too many people talking about it. But that could revolutionize things too because what happens is now they have to make really big holes down there because they have all these frack equipment—very, very expensive. You could just do those wells like we used to, in the Austin Chalk just put slotted liners in there; just pipe the slots in them. And you could reduce those costs tremendously. And I think you could even up your production. I am guessing here, but I think -- nobody has tried to. They ought to really try it. If I live long enough, I might be able to stimulate that. It may not work, but if it does, it would eliminate all these frack problems, a lot of them. But you can use them both together too. I think another thing about the fracking, fracking costs are based on the horsepower they have on the rig site, and they’ll have 20 or 30 frack trucks out there. If you could do a lower flow rate frack, you may be able to do that with three of four trucks, and you eliminate half your cost. But the service companies have no incentives to do that, and the oil companies don’t know how.

ESDORN:

I think we covered everything that we have on our list for your contributions, but I was just wanting to see -- do you want to check your paper or see is there anything, any other contributions that you want to discuss that maybe we didn’t go over?

MAURER:

I would like to talk to the young engineers, because usually, people, if they have a breakthrough, it comes in the first 10 years of their career. And the first thing they should do is select pretty big major project to work on, because my theory is, if work on a trivial project, it has trivial effect to the industry. And don’t be afraid to go out there and try something that might fail. My first one or two things failed, and I hit a homerun or two.

The second thing is use mathematics on everything you do, because if you can’t describe it mathematically, you don’t understand it. And the third thing that they should do is get an older mentor engineer because as you get older, you’ve made a lot more mistakes and you know what not to do. And if you come up with an idea, ask them why it won’t work. Eighty percent of what they tell you is right, that there are certain things--you forgot this or you cause this other problem. But the 20 percent, you can screen out or refine your ideas. It turns out that you have no experience but a lot of ideas and lots of talents. The old guys are just the opposite. They have all this experience, but they don’t have the new ideas too much. So they need to work together. Exxon did this when I got to Exxon Research. They had guys, 50s and 60s that just had a world of experience, but they weren’t the ones at that age probably creating new ideas. But the young guys wouldn’t know all the problems in the oil field and all the -- you know what I’ saying? So you need the old and the young working together. They kind of complement each other. I just want to say that I think it’s really important about doing that.

ESDORN:

I think that’s very valuable too.

BENNETT:

I’m going to try to make another improvement here.

ESDORN:

Okay.

MAURER:

I think we’re probably nearly done.

ESDORN:

We’ve got a few more questions. That was just the end of section two, and we’ve got six sections.

[OFF MIC CONVERSATION]

Okay. So my next question for you is kind of thinking broadly. What would you say are some of the important milestones, most significant milestones or innovations that you’ve seen in the industry in your years in your career?

MAURER:

You mean throughout my career, what I have seen in the industry?

ESDORN:

Yes.

MAURER:

Well, there have been some tremendous breakthroughs in the oil field, the geophysics first of all. They just can do marvelous things. And the production engineering side, so really specifically, I don’t know how to answer that exactly, but it’s just amazing. Let me give you an example. When I came into the industry, they only knew how to drill vertical, and the average drilling rate was 17 feet an hour. Now we drill these 8-mile holes, these people do, Exxon does. The shale wells are amazing. These Eagle Ford wells, they drill down, and they drill out a mile. They do that in 20 days and they frack in 30 days. If you had done that when I was a young engineer, it would have taken a year, all right? It would have taken a long time. You know what I mean? They didn’t even know how to do it, but it’s amazing. And everybody deserves credit, I mean, the industry for doing that, the major operators, the service companies, financial people behind, some of them.

ESDORN:

What -- maybe things that you’ve seen just in your career that you would consider to be something that really pushed the field forward. It might be technology; it might be the way that – I can’t think of the word, but the way that everybody is kind of clubbed together, integration, that sort of thing. What do you think?

MAURER:

Let me say this. The most marvelous stuff has been offshore. They were probably drilling in 500 or 1,000 feet of water, and now they’re drilling in 15,000. It was just unheard of to do anything like that. And the size of these ships and stuff, it’s truly amazing. You wouldn’t think it could be done. They have one bad blow out and everybody thinks -- everybody is in doubt, but it’s not really that way. There’s brilliant people out there doing this stuff. But that is really so amazing what they do. Actually, our company was eventually bought—Maurer Engineering--by Noble Drilling, so for four years, I worked for Noble, and I got to really see the offshore. And it’s a different world.

ESDORN:

How is it so different, would you say?

MAURER:

Ask again? What did you say?

ESDORN:

How is offshore drilling so different? Can you elaborate on that?

MAURER:

Well, to put it -- when they got deeper, they had to have these floating drilling rigs, and they’re so large. And then you have to have this risers. It’s very heavy, and it goes on 10,000 feet of water or more. It weighs a tremendous amount. Just the fact that they can complete these wells on the sea floor, it’s -- you talk about challenges, and I saw a lot of that develop when I was still at Exxon in the seaport. Can you imagine going down two miles of water or something or three and then putting all this stuff down there? And then if it breaks, you have to remotely change the valves and stuff. It’s amazing.

ESDORN:

Absolutely.

MAURER:

Are you interviewing any offshore people?

ESDORN:

We haven’t got anybody really specifically for offshore. We can talk about this later, but not anybody yet. So if you have anybody that you can recommend, we would look to talk to them.

MAURER:

We got a good guy in Austin, Buddy King. Buddy was involved with the rig that went out and picked up a Russian submarine. I don’t know if you ever knew this. I don’t remember the dates of this—I hadn’t planned on talking about it—but around in the 1970s, the Russians -- the US saw through their sonic systems in the ocean that a Russian sub had sunk in maybe five or 10,000 feet of water, and they wanted to recover that sub because they knew there were a lot of secrets on it. I hadn’t planned on talking about this. So they had to have a cover story, and so they got Howard Hughes to be the cover, and they discovered there were nodules in the bottom of the ocean. So they were building this monster ship, and you can’t keep that secret, because to pick up the submarine -- and this kind of crazy, but it’s all true. And so -- let me just think a little bit. You can take this out. I have to think about this exactly.

ESDORN:

That’s fine.

MAURER:

So they had to build a real heavy pipe to go down and pick up that submarine, but they told everybody that the rig was for picking up these nodules in the ocean. Well, I just started with Exxon and they heard this and they believed it, so immediately, the first month or two I was there, we had a project feasibility of picking up nodules from the ocean. Well, it was all a big farce. So they actually went out with this ship and picked up this submarine and picked it up, brought it up the surface, and that was amazing. And they recovered stuff from it -- and one of my friends was in charge of that pipe, and he told -- my partner said that he was damaged by radiation from that broken submarine. But other people said there wasn’t any radiation, so I don’t know. But it was an amazing cover-up. And Howard Hughes went all along with this. You know who Howard Hughes was. His father started Hughes Tool, but Howard was the airplane flier and girls in Hollywood. I didn’t plan to talk about that. I don’t know how I got on that subject. What did you ask me?

ESDORN:

I was asking you for recommendations for people to interview for offshore, and I’m glad I did.

MAURER:

Buddy King was involved with that ship. He was a drilling -- head of an offshore drilling company, and that’s the story. You don’t have to use any of that, but it’s interesting.

ESDORN:

I love it. I want to use it [laughter]. That’s the kind of stuff that gets people’s attention. They say, “Wait, what, what happened?” So, let’s see.

MAURER:

But he really would be a good guy for you to talk to. You ought to catch him before you leave Austin. But you can always come back, can’t you?

ESDORN:

Absolutely.

MAURER:

Not that far.

ESDORN:

Yeah, no. Any excuse to come back. So let’s see. So how would you say -- what has changed over -- how has the industry changed over the course of your career?

MAURER:

I think is what I said. When I started, we had very simple wells and simple tools no computers, no nano motors, no MWDs, no nothing, and now we have all of that. It’s just a different world. It’s like going from a Ford to a Maserati or something else. It’s crazy.

ESDORN:

And what do you think -- how do you see, other than a [mini], I guess that’s really improved, obviously, in the industry and the speed at which we do things and the efficiency, but what do you think -- which of those things that you’ve sort of talked about, what do you think is kind of maybe the most important?

MAURER:

I think the next big breakthrough will have joystick drilling, what I’d call joystick drilling guides and computer controls and the humans will be removed from it, the computers will control everything. But they’ll override it if they get into a problem. But right now, there are still -- the humans make all the decisions on how you’re going to drill a well and how you do things. But if we can remove the human from the loop, we will be a lot better off and it will be all automated. I think -- and I think to myself, I didn’t mention, we had studies 40 years ago by drilling from tunnels like in the Arctic at that, and I don’t know if you know, but Shell just spent a fortune and they gave up about Arctic drilling, or at least that’s a big problem. But I still think we could go down and put tunnels in and then drill from tunnels. And then you just have a land rig, which doesn’t cost much. And it’s nice and warm, you don’t have to worry about the elements, you don’t have to worry about being offshore. They’re doing that some of that offshore, you know, instead of drilling from our shore on the land, let’s drill from a tunnel toward the water.

ESDORN:

So continue on in that vein of the future and what are some of the future challenges that we’ll see. You kind of talked about electro drills and the spaghetti drill versus the hydraulic fracturing and drilling from tunnels and that sort of thing, and using -- you just talked about computers kind of taking over to do that. Can you think of anything else, or would you like to discuss any of those things in more detail?

MAURER:

Let me just think about it a minute.

ESDORN:

Sure.

MAURER:

I don’t think I have any other things now.

ESDORN:

Okay.

MAURER:

If we have something -- no, I don’t.

ESDORN:

Let’s see.

MAURER:

But there’s just a lot.

ESDORN:

I think you said something -- you have here high pressured jet stimulation holes?

MAURER:

Yes. As I mentioned earlier, back in the ‘70s, we drilled pretty deep wells in Texas with the brig that was modified at 10,000 psi and we could drill three times as fast. But I’ve been working with -- some companies now, they’re building very small -- they have a drill that’s a half-inch diameter approximately, and they can drill out from a wellbore, a little hole like that, three, four hundred feet. If you go out three or 400 feet in a lot of directions, you might intercept fractures, or you provide a good pathway to a wellbore. And these horizontal wells, the fluid comes in, and it may come 1,000 feet or something. It’d come in at all at once--it goes in a six-inch circle or something. And as it comes in, it starts plugging things and they think that this damaged zone around these horizontal wells reduces flow rate by 35 percent. But if we could put a bunch of one-inch holes and they have slots that go out through four inches around them, you could produce 35 percent more oil instantly. And so this is something we have to do. Oil may have sand and stuff in it, and it’s okay out here because it’s moving slowly. But the closer it comes in, the faster it’s moving. It may move a thousand times faster around that six-inch hole that it is out here, and it builds up pressure and packs up those solids, and that damages these wells. So I think we can do a lot with these little jet drills to overcome that problem.

ESDORN:

How is that different than -- by now I guess my understanding is that they use shape chargers to do that, to perforate, or is that my…

MAURER:

A shape charger will only go about that far.

ESDORN:

Okay.

MAURER:

I know a lot about shape chargers because of my work on explosives. But that’s really the answer. But I tell you, a shape charge, when it goes out, that rock doesn’t disappear. It’s all forced into the rock around it, and so you get a big damage. So shape charges really have their problems. But if you drill a hole that’s clean -- it’s a good question, again, but they won’t produce a hole like that. But these holes, I don’t think I brought a smaple. But these holes, you see a round hole and you see these slots going out, it produces equivalent of about an 8-inch diameter hole floor area. There are other things about that big hole with the shape charger. I didn’t think you knew about shape chargers.

ESDORN:

I’m surprising [laughter].

MAURER:

I know. I know.

ESDORN:

Let’s see. What has made working in the petroleum engineering industry meaningful to you?

MAURER:

Okay. I like that question. Number one is working with really outstanding engineers all over the world, and I think number two is helping a lot of young engineers reach their full potential. A lot of people never reach their full potential, and we have guys who worked with us and went out to other places and they’re doing extremely well. So I think the young -- you know, helping. And I think you get a satisfaction of making this a better world. And I think that’s what everybody tries to do. If we can produce all that oil from the shale and become energy independent, I mean, that’s unheard of. In the wildest dreams, nobody thought that we would go from importing 67 percent oil to potentially zero. That’s amazing, and having been a little part of that makes me feel a little bit -- yeah.

ESDORN:

You also said here -- maybe things like solving major drilling problems, implementing horizontal drilling, starting 15 companies to market tools in the oil industry, is there any -- do you want to elaborate on any of that, that made it -- those are obviously very -- things that would make it meaningful to you, but is there anything specifically there that you would want to elaborate about?

MAURER:

Let me just say the hardest thing -- you can develop the best widget in the world, but sometimes it’s hard to get implemented. And we found that if you have something really new, the best way to do it is start a company, get it out in marketplace, you know, so people -- and then sell the company and use the money to do something else, do another one, yeah. But it gave us a lot of satisfaction because we would start a company that wasn’t worth anything on paper, we’d give a guy, a big top guy in the industry to run it, give him 25 percent of the company, and before you know it, you have a really big thing growing. And I feel really good for all those guys who we did that with, because they all made a lot of money out of it. I’m not talking about me but I’m saying these guys, yeah.

ESDORN:

Sounds like a really good, motivating…

MAURER:

Oh my God.

ESDORN:

… principle to -- how did you come up with that idea?

MAURER:

Well, we won a small business administration award for it because our product were companies. Most people talk about their product as a widget, and they never heard of companies whose product was companies. But we just figured it out with the PDC bits because we couldn’t ever have gotten them introduced for a long time because the big service companies were all bad mouthing them. So we started that company and we said, “Hey, we do it once, let’s do it again,” and it worked really well, yeah.

ESDORN:

And you started about 15 companies, you said?

MAURER:

That’s right.

ESDORN:

And market, to market tools in the industry.

MAURER:

Yeah, yeah.

ESDORN:

That’s great.

MAURER:

Every one of them made money, and usually your odds are one in 10 of making money, so. But we also had a really good product before we started something. I was kind of proud of that.

ESDORN:

Is there anything else you can think of that made working in the industry meaningful to you?

MAURER:

No, it’s mainly those things, helping the world and making it a little bit better. And the people, wonderful people, friends. You know, oil companies compete, but that’s a company -- the individuals, you can be extremely good friends among -- when I started, which is interesting, we were told -- it was just about illegal to start talking to engineers from other companies. This isn’t exactly true, but it was kind of that way. But I always ignored that because I was always looking for someone who knew something I wanted to know, yeah, or tell them something they needed to know, yeah.

ESDORN:

And what are some of your favorite memories about working in the industry?

MAURER:

I made little list of that, but I think I don’t have it anymore.

ESDORN:

Yeah, here.

MAURER:

I think…

ESDORN:

Hold on just a second. I’m just going to just re-ask it.

MAURER:

No, I’m going to do this extemporaneously, but I think the first time I saw that PDC bit go down three times as fast as a roller, then I knew that it’s going to have a major, major impact on the industry. When we went out on that geothermal thing, the thing was bent, had a bend in it. So when you put it in a straight hole, it’s -- it has a side load on the bit, which -- whereas when you’re drilling, it’s on a curved hole and everything’s fine. But it wouldn’t start drilling. So, one of these old salty drillers, he said we’re going to reciprocate it up and down awhile to make the hole big around one side. And then I thought, “Yeah, that would really work.” Well, they did this for an hour or two, and all at once, that motor started, and it started drilling at these really high rates. And that was--next to the birth of my children and my marriage--that was the most exciting time because all at once, this thing started drilling at this tremendous rate. I’ve thought since that they should had the bit, they should use the bigger bit before us and then we wouldn’t have that problem. But nobody thought about it. It was things like that. I think also, when we have that jet drill in the East Texas and it drilled three times faster, it was so exciting. Because here, people have been drilling for 150 years, and you can drill faster than them. There are other things, but I can’t think of them all right now.

ESDORN:

That’s great. This is our final question, unless you all of a sudden think of something that you want to talk about. But how has being an SPE member affected your work or your career?

MAURER:

Okay. Well, it is tremendous effect on me. I was really lucky to give a paper at the SPE, meeting. Annual meeting’s a big deal, you know, when I was in college, I was able to do that, like out of all these thousand engineers. But I think -- everything we did was mathematical, and most those math came out of SPE papers. And so, we owe a lot most of what we did to the SPE.

And I tell you, in the ‘50s and ‘60s, there were a lot of things in the oil industry that our drilling that they didn’t have math for, and they hired all these really, really, brilliant people -- the major oil companies, they had these mathematicians and they developed all of these. And they all were SPE members. And I think just learn-, everybody wanted to learn something from SPE, so it’s just had a tremendous impact, yeah. Yeah, so I really have -- I’m a strong believer in SPE.

ESDORN:

Sounds like it. I mean, you -- one of the mission of SPE is technology transfer, and you talk about how that was important to be able to talk to other engineers and be able to come together and really work on something.

MAURER:

If any petroleum engineer is not reading all the SPE papers, he’s not a good engineer. I’ll tell you that. SPE has been so important. And I’ll tell you, some of those really old papers -- people did things way back. Sometimes, people only read the most recent papers. Things were done back in the ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s that are just about lost because people don’t read those papers. Yeah.

One thing I did at Exxon was I did a lot of work in the pressure chamber, and I figured out that people thought drilling rates were slowed down because the rock was too hard. But in reality, they weren’t cleaning the hole. They couldn’t remove the cuttings, and -- I’d base this lot on papers, data, and all that, and we came out with a theory on drilling, and there hasn’t been anybody done one since. Everybody at Exxon can do it better. And I found really something too, when I was young. All the SPE papers had mathematics in them, and I -- it’s really interesting now. I looked for it at JPT for a year, and I don’t see a single equation. I’m exaggerating slightly, but not much. There’s very little math in these papers, and I don’t understand that. But I that’s just -- it’s not a real criticism; it’s just the [01:36:00] way they do things. Sometimes they do things on computers that are [unintelligible - 01:36:05] element or something so there aren’t any equations. But if you don’t have equations, you don’t really understand the process either.

ESDORN:

Well I know, Alain Gringarten, when he was talking, he had developed the Gringarten type curves and everything. When we were discussing it, he was saying how, you know, well, what I did was -- this is all math that nobody really knows now because that’s what the software has done, you know. And so, some of that math is lost in a way because of that. But yeah, for sure. Well, thank you so much.

MAURER:

Thank you, thank you.

ESDORN:

Yeah, it was a pleasure to hear you speak about the business, so thank you.

MAURER:

I appreciate being asked. And I want to put for the record that Amy did an extremely good job of asking the questions. She would have made a good engineer.

ESDORN:

Did you get that? [Laughter]

BENNETT:

Yeah.

ESDORN:

Great. We’ll make sure that gets on the video. [Laughter]

MAURER: Okay.