Interview with Lilia Noble, operations engineer well integrity

Shenelle Kelleher, July 29 2020

After 13 years at Schlumberger, Lilia Noble joined LYTT in January 2020 to become our well integrity technical product owner. Here, she shares a bit about her background and why she loves being part of the bigger picture.

Can you tell us about your career before joining LYTT?

I initially studied systems modelling followed by a Masters in petroleum engineering. After that, I joined Schlumberger where I went through three main phases – four years as a general field engineer, running wireline tools in the North Sea, four years as a wireline engineer-in-charge, where I led the tractor conveyance and special services department, and finally five years as a senior well integrity engineer, providing data interpretation on well integrity products.

And what does your job at LYTT involve?

I’m the technical product owner for well integrity, so it’s my responsibility to build and execute our distributed fibre optic (DFO) well integrity product strategy. That means creating a vision for the product, overseeing its development, evaluating its delivery. I also work with our well integrity clients to find out what problems they are trying to solve, what kind of requirements they have for our product.

Can you explain a bit what well integrity means?

It’s about making sure a well behaves as you expect. Your ultimate goal is to prevent hydrocarbons escaping to shallower depths or the surface. There are all sorts of well integrity problems you might face. For example, a tubing leak, which would allow communication between tubing and casing and cause sustained annular pressure at surface, or a deterioration in a well’s cement barrier resulting in a flow behind the casing.

How are those issues traditionally managed?

There are a number of tools and methods you can use, such as surface testing, resettable packers (which can be set at different points in a well to test pressure and identify a leak, however takes time and requires a rig) and , downhole cameras, slickline ponytails. However, the most common are wireline interventions. I used a number of wireline tools in my last role. However, wireline technology only gives you one measurement at a single point in time, which means you have to be lucky to hit the right spot at the right time to detect a leak. And if the events that you’re looking for are intermittent by nature, then It becomes so much harder.

How does LYTT’s technology compare?

We use distributed acoustic sensing (DAS) technology and fibre optic cable to pinpoint the precise location of a leak and see how it develops over time. LYTT’s pattern recognition technology helps to extract the specific events from terabytes of information and turns it into real-time data that the client can then use to make decisions about how to manage the well.

Why did you decide to join LYTT?

A lot of reasons, but I saw an exciting opportunity to join a company that is growing rapidly. I liked the fact that it is so technical and digital. In my previous roles I was mainly using software, whereas here I get the opportunity to influence how the technology is developed.

How does LYTT compare to your previous experience?

With a bigger company you’re quite specialised in what you do, so your focus is understandably narrow. At LYTT, you get a much broader perspective and you’re involved in so many different conversations. We work agilely as well, which is different – it means we deliver smaller goals more frequently. I think when you’re part of a larger team you don’t always get to see the big picture. Here, I am part of that picture – the product development depends on my vision.

It sounds busy…

It’s incredibly dynamic, things changing all the time. That can be challenging, but it’s a good challenge and I’m learning every day. For example, the transition from wireline to fibre optic is a big change. I’m used to looking at one slice of data in time; now I’m learning how to interpret an event’s progress over time. The other day I couldn’t stop looking at this interesting data set, wanting to understand what’s happening, so we can share that insight with our client. I love the idea that the data gives you more information than you had before, that it can solve real problems. Now that I’ve switched from operational support to product development, I’m also learning more about data science, machine learning and coding.

Do you like that process of learning?

I do, although it can be a little overwhelming. But I’m excited to be part of the team. It’s great to see how much LYTT has progressed in such a short space of time and Tommy and Prad [LYTT’s founders] are inspirational leaders. They have a very clear vision and have built a great team. It’s also rewarding to see more companies excited by the technology, more clients using it and more data coming in. It’s going to be inspiring to see this portfolio grow.

Given your experience in the industry, do you think LYTT’s technology could be transformational?

I do, I think our product will bring a lot of value to our customers because of its ability to capture events in time and extract events of interest. Additionally, permanent fibre optic cables give us the opportunity to profile the well at any time, while traditional intervention log might be run just once in a few years. The opportunity to see where an event is happening, how it is developing, and then repeat the process as often as you like is empowering. Use of DFO systems for leak detection isn’t a new concept but LYTT’s pattern recognition technology transforms the data coming out of the fibre and allows us to construct fluid ‘flow logs’ across the entire length of the wellbore every second. With DAS all the power is there in the client’s hands.

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