IADC: Pioneer’s Black sees strengths and challenges for U.S. operators

Kurt Abraham November 03, 2022

By Kurt Abraham, Editor-in-Chief

(WO) – As the Annual General Meeting of the International Association of Drilling Contractors (IADC) got underway Thursday morning in New Orleans, an excellent look at the issues facing large independent operators was delivered by Bonnie Black in her Breakfast Keynote Address. Black is the Vice President of Drilling for Pioneer Natural Resources, the largest operator in the Permian Basin of Texas.


Black acknowledged Pioneer’s special role in the Permian, when she noted, “we have the largest acreage position of any operator in the Permian.” Even so, she explained that her firm still has some concerns about how to proceed forward, with the Covid pandemic mostly in the rear-view mirror. “These are the good times, so why do we feel so many headwinds?”, said Black.

Issues facing operators. She said the headwinds include inflation and supply chain issues, in particular. “Partnerships with contractors have helped to offset some of the inflation,” noted Black. But the continued high costs of some oil field goods, along with spot shortages in the supply chain, and matched up with operators’ desire to create more shareholder value, will continue to limit activity growth. “Today, we’re running 24 rigs, and next year we’ll run 24 to 26 rigs,” confirmed Black.

The V.P. talked about Pioneer’s ongoing evolution of its “Command Center,” a centralized operations center that monitors and remotely controls some drilling functions. “It’s a center with all kinds of diversity to monitor all forms of digital info to support the 24 [active] well sites.” She added that subject matter experts can monitor all data related to their specialties at the wellsites. “Data scientists now have an equal seat at the table,” she explained.

Industry employment. For all of this progress and efficiency, “we still need people,” lamented Black. “The ability to find people has been interesting.” Industry trends over the last several years, she added, have resulted in quite a few veteran professionals retiring from the upstream industry, with a moderate amount of new, young employees coming in behind them. “This has resulted in quite a few of what we call ‘SSEs,’ explained Black. “This stands for ‘short service employees—people that have been in the industry for just a handful of years. It’s not unusual for an industry company to have 30% SSEs.”

The V.P. said the industry needs to do a better job on future employment and counteract detrimental public perceptions of the upstream. “We need to attract the next generation of oilfield workers,” declared Black. “Our children have been influenced to think that our industry is bad. We all need to work, to counteract that perception.”

Exemplary Service Awards. Earlier in IADC’s Thursday breakfast session, the association presented Exemplary Service Awards to Sarah Kern, Senior Industry Affairs Analyst at Helmerich & Payne, and Nathan Moralez, Senior Rig Automation Engineer at bp.

IADC says that its Exemplary Service Awards recognize individuals, who are notable for outstanding contributions to the drilling industry and to IADC. Recipients have, during their career, repeatedly demonstrated their commitment to improving the drilling industry and advancing its safety, training, or technology.

Connect with World Oil
Connect with World Oil, the upstream industry's most trusted source of forecast data, industry trends, and insights into operational and technological advances.