Personal Improvement: Podcasts – What I Listen To

I recently connected with someone on LinkedIn who is a Life Coach for High-Performing Remote Workers. As part of his getting to know me messages, he asked if I listened to any good podcasts lately. That got me thinking about the regular influence on my thinking of the podcasts I listen to. The more I thought about it, the better the idea to turn it into an article listing what I am listening to and why.

A little background on my interest in podcasts:

I have listened to podcasts for almost 12 years. Up until the start of this year, I always had a long commute. Whether a 200+ mile daily round trip to Lafayette, Louisiana or a 1,000+ mile round trip driving to Houston, Tx every other week, I had a lot of highway time on my hands. Podcasts allowed me to be entertained and informed, in addition to allowing me to utilize “dead” time for learning.

Podcasts I Listen To

Podcast Link Category
Bigger Pockets Podcast Real Estate Investing
Tim Ferris Show High Performance
DH Unplugged Stock Markets
Rich Dad Radio Current Affairs/Rich Dad Theory
James Altucher Show High Performance
Akimbo Personal, Professional Improvement
Private Lender Podcast Education on the Subject of Private Lending for Real Estate
Bigger Pockets Money Show F.I.R.E.: Financial Independence, Retire Early
Freakonomics Radio Various Topics

Bigger Pockets Podcast

The Bigger Pockets Podcast helped me to learn a great deal about real estate investing. I have the Bigger Pockets website listed as a resource on this site, but the podcast is an additional tool to learn about REI. Each week, the podcast interviews guests, most real estate investors, sometimes famous authors who provide useful tips for investing, business, and personal improvement, and every once in a while, they will do an occasional webinar-type podcast to educate listeners on a particular topic.

I especially like the investor interviews to get tips, tricks, and strategies that may help me in our REI business.

The Tim Ferriss Show

Tim Ferriss, author of numerous books on increasing performance (4-hour Workweek, Tools of Titans, Tribe of Mentors, etc.), conducts long-form interviews with high-performers across various domains. Even when interviewing guests who have been on EVERY medium you can think of, you always learn things no one else has ever asked. Tim listens to guests’ answers and responds to the answers with deeper questions. He also does extensive research on guests and does not rely on canned press release questions.

I generally like to listen to his interviews because the people he does interview are “Doing It”. They don’t have a theory, they are not selling snake oil, they have done/do whatever they are recommending to increase performance.

DH Unplugged

DH Unplugged is an unscripted conversation about markets between investment advisor Andrew Horowitz and pundit John C. Dvorak.

I like DH Unplugged because they discuss what is going on in the markets and aren’t trying to sell you anything. In fact, they frequently point out how most “Money” shows on cable news channels are always “BUY, BUY, BUY” no matter what is going on.

Rich Dad Radio

Rich Dad Radio is an interview podcast featuring Robert Kyosaki, author of Rich Dad, Poor Dad, and his wife, Kim Kiyosaki, author of Rich Woman. The interviews are mainly related to money and economics, (in a broad way), and generally promote Rich Dad, Poor Dad Principles.

In addition to interesting information from guests, it’s fun to listen to Robert interpret the guests’ statements into Rich Dad principles.

James Altucher Show

The James Altucher Show is another long-form interview podcast, similar to the Tim Ferriss Show, that delves into what makes high performers “tick”. Where Ferriss delves into tools, self-talk, and motivation, Altucher focuses a little more on the path to peak performance, teasing out the development of “micro-skills”. Altucher’s overarching thesis on micro-skills is that high performers build up a toolbox of them that help them to succeed. Like Ferriss, Altucher goes far deeper in his interviews than you normally see in regular media.

Because of the depth of detail and wide range of topics covered in each interview, I really enjoy Altucher’s show.


Akimbo is a podcast put out by author and marketing guru Seth Godin. This podcast is a combination of self help and career advice for entrepreneurs. You don’t have to be an entrepreneur to benefit from the topics & advice given, either.

I enjoy the perspectives, suggestions, and tips provided by Godin in this show. I don’t necessarily subscribe to all of his philosophies, but that is OK. It is good to hear different perspectives from your own to allow a balanced understanding of the world.

The Private Lender Podcast

The Private Lender Podcast is a combination of interviews, case histories, and education with regards to the utilization of private lending in real estate investing.

I like learning about the details of the non-financial industry financing.

I actually met Keith Baker, the host, and have become friends with him. He’s a cool and funny guy. Oh, and he LOVES the band Rush!

Bigger Pockets Money Show

As the name indicates, BPMS is another podcast from the group at Bigger Pockets, focusing on F.I.R.E. (Financial Independence, Retire Early). The podcast is in an interview format, covering guests’ stories, tips, and tricks for becoming financially independent.

I like listening to the BPMS to better plan my own “retirement”. It has also led me to resources that allowed me to recognize that I could retire right now and be comfortable from a financial perspective.

I hope this provides you with some insight into resources to use for personal and financial improvement in your life!

And, as always, let me know what you think in the comments. Ask questions, tell your story.

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Automation – Data Frequency: How “Real Time” Is Real Time?

Happy Finter from South Louisiana! Fall started to show up, but winter was riding shotgun! We went from highs of 81 degrees F / 27.22 degrees C to 45 degrees F / 7.22 degrees C AND clouds and rain. Christmas light show can wait a few more days to get set up.

Today we are going to go over Data Frequency and how it relates to aspects of drilling automation. How often we receive a data point for a given channel or curve.


Variations on Real Time


Ask someone what their definition of real time is and depending on their particular needs, you will get different answers. Some people feel that getting mud report data as checks are made is real time enough to keep them informed.

Others feel that getting a WITSML 1.3.x, (Wellsite Information Transfer Standard Markup Language), data feed that updates every ten to thirty seconds will be just fine.

Then there are others who are used to seeing the rig default of data coming in every 5 seconds and that is great!

Finally, there are those who opine for sub-second data frequencies to ensure valid tracking of rig component movement and calculations.

Depending on your particular needs, any of these might be valid. For a comprehensive approach, the platform should take into account the needs and requirements for the types of data being captured. It should be able to accommodate sensors or inputs that generate anything from one data point per day down to many data points per second.


(Just as an aside, I really like the way WITSML 2.x and ETP are shaping up for real time data)

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Data Frequency

The type of data should drive the frequency of data capture, in addition to what the usage of the data will be.

Some data doesn’t change very fast, so it does not need to be updated very frequently.

Things like wellbore and drill string geometry, fluid properties, and positioning data do not need to be updated every second or few seconds. In the case of drilling fluids, Density updates every one to two minutes is a decent frequency, whereas the oil/water ratio does not need to be updated as frequently.

Other data is constantly changing and depending the particular sensor, could indeed warrant the need for sub-second frequency data.


A good example for that need would be block position, which is used to calculate running speed or pipe acceleration. This is, in turn, utilized to calculate tripping hydraulics in real time.

The benefit of having the ability to do this based on sub-second data allows for simulating the micro-movement of pipe in tight window scenarios…too much down hole pressure, the formation breaks down, causing fluid losses and too little down hole pressure, the formation fluids/gases come into the wellbore, thus inducing a kick.


Logical Assumptions & Why It Matters


Not all data needs to be updated at a high frequency. As indicated in the above section, data frequency depends on how often the data changes. The higher the change rate, the higher the data frequency needs to be.

The main reasoning behind this idea is that you may miss significant changes in the data if your sampling frequency is too slow.

Below is an exaggerated example of missing changes to pipe acceleration (or Running Speed) due to sampling frequency. The data is fabricated, for illustrative purposes.




In the image above, the running speed is a straight thirty feet per minute, with a data frequency of one data point per second. Everything appears smooth, with no issues.




In this image, I’ve added sub-second data to show that the smooth, steady running speed was actually not very smooth, it just appears that way due to when the data points were captured.


Because this data is not captured, it is not thought to have occurred. But if you don’t have visibility of it, you can’t know it is there.


The examples above are made up & exaggerated to prove the point. I have seen this play out over different data points in the drilling arena.

When we were first attempting to develop the Applied Fluids Optimization service, our original software would calculate tripping hydraulics at a one second frequency, but would only capture the data at a thirty second frequency. Running speed spikes would lead the software to calculate and display large pressure variations. When we would try to show these excursions after the fact, we could not because the thirty second frequency did not coincide with the actual deviations.

One more fluids-related example: Fluid density on a land rig. Land rigs are an exercise in economy, from an offshore drilling perspective. The rig crews are smaller, so there are less people to do a set number of jobs. The mud pits are smaller, contributing to the total circulating system being smaller. Because of this, it allows for less significant events to impact the fluid properties. The derrick hand is busy? He can’t dust up the density. The shaker hand is up on the floor making a connection? He didn’t adjust the flow on the shakers. Small system, less attention, more chance for changes.

The mud engineer, (person responsible for keeping the drilling fluid running within specifications), should be running four mud checks a day. So, we should see, at minimum, four density measurements…one every six hours. When we were conducting field testing on the DRU, we noticed that we had lots of variation and excursions in the density reading from the DRU where the mud engineer’s data showed fairly smooth trends. When we overlaid the two data sets, the mud engineer’s data matched almost exactly with the DRU readings, just that it missed the excursions.



  • More frequent data helps you to better understand what is going on
  • Depending on the environment, a data curve may need a higher frequency
  • Some data does not need to be high frequency
  • Choose your data focus wisely


And, as always, let me know what you think in the comments. Ask questions, tell your story.

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Automation: Good Signs Ahead for Automation in the Oil & Gas Industry?


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Hydraulics-Focused Drilling Data


This week is a quick post about what may be an interesting trend in the US Land Oil & Gas Sector…Interest in Automation and Optimization technologies to increase efficiencies. I have a theory on why. AND, #Disclaimer, I mention the service offering I work with.


Historic Interest in Automation


Historically, there are always early adopters for technology, and the oilfield is no different. You have a few entities that want to be on the cutting edge of everything, a few tire kickers, and the majority don’t want to spend any money until something is proven to them. Such is the case with automation and optimization, from the perspective of the offering we have (BaraLogix Equipment & Services).




We initially provided the optimization and event detection service offshore. This was before the equipment was ready to ready to be deployed commercially. Actually, it was still in development. We had a few jobs here and there, but not a lot of buy-in. Even with customers that benefitted from significant value from it, it seemed the response was always something similar to “Maybe you actually did help us achieve our goals, but maybe it was something else…” or “We don’t have the authority to sign off on this case history saying that you brought us value.”

So we did jobs here and there, but  there was never a consistency to the work.




As far as land work was concerned, due to different economics, the service was always outside the client’s budget. In fact, the only time we did provide the service on land, at least in the US, was when conducting trials of the equipment.


Fast-forward to today…


We now have customers in the US Land area that are interested in what the service and equipment can provide them. There are three jobs starting up in the next three weeks or so that are a mix of the combined equipment & services or just the standalone service.


My thoughts jump to “Why now?”


What I suspect is that over the last 3-plus years, operators have been increasing their efficiencies to stay relevant at lower oil prices. And possibly they have plateaued. Now, they want to take that next step and increase efficiencies even more. I think that may play a big part in the sudden interest in our equipment and services.


What do YOU think could be driving this?


And, as always, let me know what you think in the comments. Ask questions, tell your story.


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Personal Improvement – Books That Have Influenced Me Recently

Books That Influenced Me


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Welcome back to another installment of Things I Think About! This week I am going to go over a few books that I have read recently that have had an impact. While some of them cover a mix of topics, to me, they mostly fall into one topic. Because of this, I will break them out by topic and detail the crossover topics, and why I feel that way, for each book I also have them listed separately on my Recommended Books page, HERE.



The E Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber

This book speaks to my soul! I “read” the Audible version, (as I do most books due to my 3-hour plus daily commute), recorded by Michael Gerber himself. This book details why a lot of “Entrepreneurs” find themselves overworked, underpaid, and without the ability to grow. It is an interleaved mix of example stories with lessons explaining about each story. The main focus of the book is to explain why developing processes and systems for operating your business will allow you to employ other people to work IN the business so you can work ON the business.


The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss

A young Tim Ferriss relates how he figured out how to not be locked into common misconception of the American Dream…go to school, get a good job, work like a slave for 20-30-40 years, then retire at an age where there is a good chance that you will have trouble enjoying life. In the 4-Hour Workweek, he details the concepts of mini-retirements, becoming effective and efficient in whatever you do for work, and ideas for small businesses that require little to no maintenance to support you on an ongoing basis.

Granted, as even pointed out in the book, the goal is not to be able to lay on the beach drinking mai tais, it is to free you up to do the things you want to do, including world travel, learning languages, and/or working with non-profit organizations.

This book also qualifies as a personal Improvement book, because a lot of the recommendations for efficiency and effectiveness while working have helped me to reduce a lot of stress at my main job.


Rich Dad’s Cash Flow Quadrant by Robert Kyosaki

This book breaks out the different classifications of people earning money. ESBI stands for Employees, someone who works for someone else to make money, Self-Employed, a person working for themselves to make money, Business Owners, owning a business & employing other people, and Investors, those who employ their capital to buy assets. It promotes the idea to be either a business owner or, ultimately, an investor, as this usually provides the best returns on time & money.


Personal Improvement

The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday

Ryan Holiday is a devoted Stoic. He has multiple books and a website dedicated to Stoicism. This book is kind of a manual for achievement. I really enjoy it because it basically lays out my philosophy on life. The short version is “Do what you can to change the things you don’t like in your life…Ignore the things you can’t change.” The Obstacle is the Way takes it a step further in that it guides you to figure out how to change either the situation or your thinking about the “things you can’t change”.


Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kyosaki

Robert Kyosaki tells the story of how he grew up a poor kid, but due to the tutelage of a friend’s father, learned to become a businessman. The book is a simple read but puts forth important concepts…assets are only assets if they will make you money, don’t spend foolishly, and educate yourself to grow. There is also a good bit of advice on real estate investment as a vehicle to become wealthy.


Principles by Ray Dalio

Ray Dalio is one of the richest men in the world and got that way by building one of the top hedge fund management companies, Bridgewater Associates. In Principles, he relates his lis life and how he got to where he is, developing his principles for business and personal life as an operating system along the way. This is another Audible entry where the author reads the book to you. It works.


Real Estate Investing

Long Distance Real Estate Investing by David Greene

While I don’t invest in real estate outside of my back yard, (for now), this book is incredibly useful as a guide of how to do things. The methodologies and techniques laid out here will work even in a local market. It’s a mix of strategies, tools, and tips to be successful.


The Book on Rental Property Investing by Brandon Turner

This book is a thorough primer for anyone wanting to get into rental properties as an investment. It covers everything from finding properties to rehab tips and beyond.


The Book on Managing Rental Properties by Brandon Turner and Heather Turner

Hmmm…the title sounds a bit familiar…YES! This is the follow-up book to The Book on Rental Property Investing. It picks up where the previous book left off and takes a deeper dive into what you need to do to manage properties successfully.


Loopholes of Real Estate Investing by Garrett Sutton, Rich Dad Advisor

Another Audible author read, Loopholes covers the benefits of and hazards to watch out for when investing in real estate. I have probably listened to this book at least 6 times…right up there with the 4-Hour Workweek and The E Myth revisited. Lots of great advice.


And, as always, let me know what you think in the comments. Ask questions, tell your story.


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Holiday Lighting – The Automation Technology Used to Run a Show

RGB and AC Controller Boards

Welcome back this week. I would still like to understand what you like about this blog and would appreciate you taking this short survey. You can probably finish it in under two minutes. Just click here to take the survey.

Today, I am going to discuss the automation technology that I use to run our holiday light shows. I am using this as motivation to get moving on building additional props for my Halloween show because I have to get it built, then add sequencing to cover the new element in addition to trying to add a new song or two.

Sequencing View

There are quite a few options for making lights go “blinky-blinky”, but the one I have settled on to start out with is manufactured by a company called Light-O-Rama.  They have lots of options to choose from, so no matter if you are a beginner or an experienced enthusiast, they have products to get you going.

16 ch. AC Controller


There are various things you can do to make your holiday light decorations blink. The first thing I experienced was the “blinker bulb”. It was a special bulb that, when inserted into a string of Christmas lights, made them blink.

The next option that came along was lights with a special controller built into the string that gave you options blinking and shimmering. Other products were a box pre-programmed with songs and they blinked the lights in time with the music but was in no way synchronized with the music as a show. There are also LED bulb strings that change from white to multicolor to blinking multi-color depending on the number of times you press the button on the wireless remote control.

These are all options we have incorporated into our holiday lighting display along the years, with the exception of the preprogrammed music box prior to getting started with the animated light show synchronized to music.

Our first controller was a sixteen channel AC controller. This allowed us to have 16 different light show elements or sets of elements turning on and off, synchronized with music. It is able to handle incandescent and/or LED light strings.

We next added a second AC controller and a twenty-four channel RGB controller. RGB stands for Red, Green, Blue, the three primary color components of a RGB light. By varying the intensity of each component, it changes the color that the RGB element puts out. This is also known as a “Dumb RGB” controller. Since each channel controls a single color in an RGB element, twenty-four channels can control eight RGB elements.

We then added a third sixteen channel AC controller to our setup, giving us a total of forty-eight AC channels and a grand total of seventy-two channels with the RGB controller.

This year, in the off season, we added a second twenty-four channel RGB controller. The plan is to use it to control a  dancing skeleton, my above-mentioned prop I need to build.


We use a mix of incandescent, LED, and RGB lights (flood lights and RGB strips) in our show. LEDs work out great due to the low power consumption.

We go shopping on the day after Christmas each year to pick up new and backup lights for the show at a 70%-90% discount off of retail pricing. It helps to keep the cost of putting on the show down.


We initially used extension cords to hook everything up, but it started getting expensive as we added more channels, not to mention that they are bulky and heavy.


We now mainly use SPT-1 wire (16-gauge speaker wire) along with vampire plugs to run power to each string of lights.

Automating the Show

Our goal, once we started using the light controllers, was that the show would be totally automated…meaning we would not need to turn it on and off every day. We also wanted to be able to have visitors be able to hear the music, but not have the music bother my neighbors.

So we added a standalone “miniDirector” to run the show and a FM transmitter.

The miniDirector has the sequences and songs saved on a SD card. When the power is turned on by the timer, the miniDirector starts running the show in a loop. It outputs the audio to the FM transmitter so viewers can hear the music right in their cars and it outputs the sequencing signals to the controller via serial connection using cat-5 cable. All the controllers are linked together in this way.

Now the show runs at the programmed time with no need to keep a separate computer running to drive it.

Well that about wraps it up for what we use to automate our holiday light show. Below are videos of some of the sequences:


This is Halloween – Full


Carol of the Bells – Full


Dragula – Full


This is Halloween – Clip


And, as always, let me know what you think in the comments. Ask questions, tell your story.

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Business – We Don’t Need No Stinking Processes!…or Do We?

Example of documenting a Business Process.


This week we are back to business basics. I am going to go over Business Processes, specifically, and why they are important to people running small businesses, better known as entrepreneurs.


Growing up, I yearned to run my own business. I was exposed to lots of people running their own businesses and it was seductive…do your own thing, be your own boss, make as much money as you wanted to (I was a poor kid and idolized the idea). But as I grew older, I would observe these various entrepreneurs’ businesses fail and disappear. Some of it was from bad financial practices, (as covered in this story: My History with Money, Pt. I), some of it was from just bad business ideas, but as I have come to realize, all of them were due to not having documented processes & systems in place to operate their business.




What is a Business Process?


A Business Process is a map of the steps needed to be taken to achieve a goal or result. This can be the process for generating a price quotation or making a Big Mac. It is the set of step-by-step instructions to complete that task.


It can be as simple as the process detailed below:




  1. Lay out 2 slices of bread
  2. Spread PB on one slice
  3. Spread Jelly of the other
  4. Put the 2 slices together to complete the PB&J Sandwich


Or it can be extremely detailed, for quality control and efficiency:


Peanut Butter and Jelly Royale


  1. Lay out 2 slices of bread that conform to the QC shape on the QC chart on the wall next to your station
  2. Evenly spread 1 oz. of premium natural peanut butter on the right slice of bread
  3. Evenly spread 1 oz of locally-sourced hand-made strawberry jelly on the left slice of bread
  4. Align the peanut buttered slice of bread over the jelly spread on the other slice of bread and lower it to complete the sandwich


But What About Systems?


Some mistakenly refer to the processes and systems interchangeably. In reality, processes are part of a system. A collection of similar processes make up the system. Let’s you are running a fast food restaurant and you want to ensure that the food presented to the customer is the same, every time. You would document a set of processes for each item on the menu, similar to the PB & J examples above. This collection of processes would be your Food Prep System. You would have a separate system for taking orders and another for inventory, and so on.


Another point about systems is that a system does not have to involve technology. There have been lots of technology systems designed to ease and automate manual systems. An easy one to bring to mind is for accounting. You have many options available for electronic accounting systems, but it is still something that could be done by hand. Not that I am advocating to accomplish your accounting by hand. In most cases, using an electronic accounting system is much more cost-effective than doing your accounting by hand. In our real estate rental business, the accounting is handled using a Google Docs spreadsheet, because the complexity of what we are doing and the time it takes to do it does not yet justify actually paying for an electronic system.


Why do I Need Business Processes?


You may ask yourself “Why do I need business processes?” Well, if you are a sole proprietor, who plans to never expand, hire personnel, step back from working in the business, or sell the business, then you probably don’t need to worry about business processes. Even though you are most likely following business processes already, if the above description fits you, you can probably get away with not documenting your business processes.


If you don’t fit the description above, these are the main reason to document your processes:


Precision and Consistency – You want to ensure that things are being done the same way every time. Borrowing from the Peanut Butter and Jelly Royale example above, if you don’t specify how much of each material to use, then you are left with each order resulting in varying quality AND cost to you as the business owner or operator. While using more peanut butter on a sandwich sometimes seems like a small thing that can be overlooked, it affects your Cost Of Goods Sold (COGS) for that sandwich, and throws off your inventory, which could result in your running out of peanut butter before your next order. This could affect your sales of the Peanut Butter and Jelly Royale until you get more product in.


Even if you are able to go out and source a spot supply of peanut butter, it will most likely further impact your cost.

**For the purposes of this example, the peanut butter sandwich and it’s ingredients are a metaphor for whatever you happen to sell in your business**


Redundancy – It is a good idea to document business processes as a kind of back-up. The reasoning behind this relies on the “Hit By A Bus” theory…If the business process is not documented, how would someone else be able to accomplish the task if the person(s) who know how to do it should get hit by a bus?


Efficiency – By having the detailed steps laid out in a business process, there is less chance of deviation of how to accomplish the task, allowing it to be completed faster. The caveat to this is that the process must already be efficient. One way to ensure efficiency is to review processes periodically to make sure they are the optimal way to achieve the task.


Scalability – Another reason you need to have documented Business Processes is to achieve scalability. Let’s say your company builds a widget and you have an opportunity to lock down a sales contract to deliver 25 widgets a month. Your business historically has only delivered a maximum of 10 widgets a month. How do you scale up your business to be able to produce 150% more product? By bringing in more employees. How do you train the new employees to be able to accomplish those tasks? By having detailed Business Processes for you Widget Production System so that employees can get up to speed faster on how to do their job and allow you to produce that increase in widgets almost immediately.


I hope I have been able to make a compelling case for why you need to have documented Business Processes and helped you to understand how it can help your business.


Here is some recommended reading on Business Processes:


4 Simple Steps to Developing Business Systems


The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It


And, as always, let me know what you think in the comments. Ask questions, tell your story.


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REI – Buying a Property While on Vacation

Yes, you can legally sign digital documents from your phone!
Today I am going to go over how we negotiated a purchase agreement for a new rental property while we were on vacation. I will summarize how it can be done and why you shouldn’t sit around waiting for something.
REO? (Not Speedwagon)
Part of my process for finding properties is to have searches set up on the various real estate websites such as Trulia, Zillow, and Realtor. They send me emails on a daily basis with local properties in my areas of interest that meet my investing criteria. I noticed that there was an REO property up the street from the last property we purchased. REO is Real Estate Owned and means that it is a property that the bank has foreclosed on and wants to get off of it’s books, hopefully recouping the money they have into it.
This property had been foreclosed on by the bank and sold at a Sheriff’s Sale back to the bank at some point prior to February of this year.  They then listed it for $98,800. About six weeks later, they dropped the price to $89,900. A month later, it was $79,900. Then they ramped it back up to $98,800 after 6 weeks, but dropped it to $79,900 about 5 days later, so it must have been a typo. And roughly two weeks after that, they dropped the price, again, to $69,900.
It was at this point that we decided to go look at it. There was no power or water service connected, so we couldn’t inspect the plumbing or electrical functionality, but we were able to look at everything.
The property apparently had doors and paint updated in recent years. The floors were mostly tile throughout, with real parquet wood floors in two of the bedrooms and damaged/improperly installed laminate flooring in the master suite. The back exterior will need a little attention along with the roof, but all in all, the property appears to be in good shape and not needing as much in rehab as our last acquisition.
The Rub
The day we looked at the property was the day before we were leaving for the week to go on vacation out of state. We did not have time in our schedule to travel to the realtor’s office and sign paperwork. Luckily, we did not have to. The offer was submitted online via a secured signing portal.
All further counter-offers were done in a similar manner either from my phone or laptop, allowing us to enjoy our vacation and still take care of business on our schedule.
We are currently waiting on the “paperwork”, but we have come to an agreement on price and are waiting for the start of the due diligence process, where we get the property inspected and look for any deal-breakers.
I will detail the whole deal in a future post, once the deal is complete and the  property is rehabbed and rented.
And, as always, let me know what you think in the comments. Ask questions, tell your story.

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Drilling Automation: Why Aren’t We Further Along?

Current level of Drilling Automation


This week I am going to attempt to provide some answers to the question of “Why we aren’t further along with implementing Drilling Automation?”.
The thing that got me started thinking about this topic was an article in the Journal of Petroleum Technology discussing data accuracy, mainly a paper recently presented at the IADC/SPE Drilling Conference. The topic of that paper was An Algorithm to Automatically Zero Weight on Bit and DifferentialPressure and Resulting Improvements in Data Quality
Abstract: SPE189636-MS
The paper details a study by Pason, a company that collects, analyzes, and distributes real time and historical drilling data from rigs in North America. They conducted a study on the accuracy of Weight On Bit measurements and determined that the majority of the WOB data was incorrect due to drillers not properly zeroing the WOB indicator. They proceeded to develop an automated algorithm that zeroed the WOB and another key measurement, differential pressure. This improved the accuracy of the data collected immensely.
The thing in the JPT article that caught my eye was the question, paraphrased here, “What is keeping the industry, as a whole, from collecting more accurate data?” The main answer seems to be that collecting more accurate data is not free. Due to needing to utilize more accurate sensors and having, at minimum, personnel regularly recalibrate those sensors, to developing better sensors and systems, it all costs more money than the current standard provided.
This is a parallel to what we are seeing as a hindrance to progressing with Drilling Automation. Operators want the lowest price they can get to drill their wells, service & equipment providers want the highest price they can get for their equipment, products, & services, and in most cases, what you wind up getting is low-cost provider solution (read minimum quality for cheapest price).
In recent history, most operators have not wanted to help develop new technology and/or practices. While you do see companies like Statoil, Royal Dutch Shell, Apache, and others investing in drilling automation projects and sometimes partnering with service providers to do this, the majority do not.
I think part of the reason why we are not seeing large scale advancements with Drilling Automation is that there is not one entity in control of the entire operation. Factory automation is far easier for at least two reasons: Factories are usually controlled by a single entity and the tasks that are automated are simple, repeatable steps.
Drilling a well is not the same as operating a robotic factory. You can automate a lot of things that are repetitive and can be accomplished by robots. Drilling a well is not the case. There are exponentially more variables involved with drilling a well than welding pieces of a car together. Due to that expansive number of variables, changes in each multiply the contingencies and potential responses needed. To sum it up, it is not an easy task to accomplish. Not impossible, mind you, just not easy.
A lot of wells involve a minimum of three or four different companies working to drill the well. All with different goals and business models. That adds to the complexity. This can be somewhat caveated by Red or Blue rig models where a single service company provides most or all of the various services to the operator on the rig, OR the independent Operator model where they hire their own consultants and utilize third-party suppliers for equipment & products.
So, because of all this complexity, in addition to variations in the market (read: Current, hopefully over, crash in the industry), it makes it hard to make progress with drilling automation.
BUT, there are changes afoot! Industry conferences are starting to highlight Drilling Automation. More companies are becoming involved in the space. With the progress being seen in artificial intelligence, things that someone had to “feel” or “intuit” may soon be reduced to a routine validated by a computer algorithm.
We are starting to see progress. Interest from multiple players, large and small. Companies transferring their expertise from wetware to hardware and software. The singularity for Drilling Automation is not tomorrow. We may never get to a totally automated drilling process with no human involvement, but if we can get 95% there, that will be a huge reduction in cost and increase in efficiency!
And, as always, let me know what you think in the comments. Ask questions, tell your story.
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Oilfield Automation: Where Do We Go From Here?


I was able to attend a Plenary Panel at the 2018 AADE National Fluids Technical Conference and Exhibition on the topic of Automation and Digital Work Transformations for Drilling and Completions – ‘How Far and How Much in the Low-for-Longer Market Setting?’ this week.
The format was 4 panelists from various segments of the industry, each giving about a 10-minute presentation, then the audience was broken out into groups to discuss the content of the presentations. The panelists moved around the room and listened in to each groups discussion, offering commentary.
Brad Cage, a completions engineer with Devon Energy, reviewed Devon’s path with working towards the digital transformation of their completions process. He shared steps and outcomes for that journey, resulting in a more efficient and lower cost completion.
Alan Rodgerson, a Fluids Advisor with BP, detailed BP’s progress with 2020 plan for automation. The main takeaway was that it wasn’t as clear-cut as it seemed at the outset. There is a difference between Automation and Mechanization.
Amir Bar, with Halliburton, highlighted the need for attention to the “People” side of automation and digital transformation.
Eric Griffith, with PDS Petrotechnical, discussed the need for data format standards adoption among operators and service companies.
Once the presentations were complete, the audience attendees were allowed to break into groups to discuss their thoughts on the panel’s presentations.
Those varied from a group of students recognizing the need for automation, but also concerned about job displacement to the need for accurate sensors to capture accurate data, to concerns on how the implementation of automation will impact certain jobs where there is already a gap between experienced practitioners (read: older hands) who resist technology and novice practitioners who innately understand technology but don’t yet have the experience to equal the other group.
Overall, the whole session was thought-provoking and a great session to attend.
I had many thoughts on the various subjects and concerns brought up. I will probably cover them at some point in other articles, but I wanted to cover this because it is one that I have not seen covered in-depth.
How do we transition to full automation for the jobs involved in drilling?
I have heard it said that we already are starting to transition some of the jobs with things like iron roughnecks and pipe handlers, but fully automated versions of these are not the norm. In most cases, on rigs where they are present, their actions are initiated and controlled by people. I am not sure if the cost of running a fully automated (Level 6, according to Dr.William L. Koederitz, SPE, PE) version has not dropped below the cost of utilizing people to operate them or other factors are at play. Either way, we aren’t there yet.
There are a lot of people that will say that you can never automate this job or that job, but ultimately, it may not be a matter of automating the job. It may be a case of finding a way to get the same results without having to do the job at all. Automating a manual process can be done, but does it make sense for it to be done? You can read about an attempt to do just that in this previous post.
I think, eventually, we will have at least three separate stages for moving to general use full automation in the drilling industry:
Piecemeal Task Automation
Specific systems will be automated to reduce risk, improve repeatability, remove the “human error” factor. We are at the beginning stages of this phase. We have auto-drillers, companies working on autonomous drilling advisory systems for geosteering, prototype systems for controlling pipe movement when tripping, based on formation limitations (There may be implementations beyond the prototype stage at this point), and there are probably more than a couple fully-automated pipe-handling equipment providers out there.
More General Automation
Most rig systems will be fully automated with oversight by a smaller skilled crew. The domain experts that used to reside on the rig, (relative to this phase), are monitoring operations remotely and tweaking recommendations to optimize performance, assisted by an AI advisor. Service companies will provide technicians who will do rig-up, rig down, and maintenance on equipment.
Full Automation
Rig is fully automated and houses no personnel. Potentially operates sub-sea, thousands of feet underwater, or even on another planet/moon/asteroid. Systems are fully autonomous and self-correcting. May not even be in the business of exploring for hydrocarbons. (We might all have backyard nuclear reactors powering everything we need.)
And, as always, let me know what you think in the comments. Ask questions, tell your story.
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Equipment Automation – Drilling Fluids

Various pictures of industrial and oilfield automation. The bottom center, top center, and bottom right images are of the DRU.


Today’s topic has to do with Equipment Automation, and more specifically, Drilling Fluids Equipment Automation.
First, a brief history of drilling technology:
  • Early drilling systems used the equivalent of a heavy chisel hanging on a cable down in a hole to “drill” for oil. The “cable drill” would be raised and lowered rapidly to break the rock, thus deepening the hole.
  • Later systems put a bit on the end of lengths of pipe and rotated the pipe to deepen the hole.
  • Drilling fluids were introduced to cool & lubricate the bit and carry the cuttings out of the hole. They were consisting of water and other chemicals to maintain density and viscosity.
  • Invert Emulsion Muds (IEM) were later developed to further inhibit interaction between the drilling fluids and the formation being drilled.


The main tools used to maintain the drilling fluids were a rheometer, a tool developed to test the viscosity of paints to ensure the pigment particles remained suspended, and the mud balance, a tool used to measure the density of a fluid.
***The above history does not contain all innovations, reasons, or details***
Up until 2015, the mud balance and the rheometer were still the two main tools used to monitor the properties of drilling fluids. They additionally use other tools, such as retorts to determine the fractional content of oil, water, and solids in a fluid, chemical titration to test things like alkalinity, calcium content, & chlorides content, in addition to HTHP filter press, a tool used to measure how much of the liquid portion of a drilling fluid will “leak out” through a porous medium, usually filter paper, across a standard differential pressure.
Prior to 2015, quite a few companies have worked on automating drilling fluids testing, including the company I work for, Baroid, a part of Halliburton.
**Disclaimer: I am part of the group that worked on this**
The testing covered varied from density meters to simulated viscosity to solids analysis. The main issue was that the results were either inaccurate or the specific test itself was not necessarily a must-have.
We initially built or had built various automated prototypes of testing apparatus. One was a fully automated retort. If you are not familiar with a retort, it is designed to bake the liquid out of a measured volume of fluid at a high enough temperature to also separate out oil and water content. This test allows drilling fluids engineers (or mud engineers) to determine how much oil, water, and solids are in a fluid. It also allows them to calculate the amount of high gravity solids (desired) and low gravity solids (not so desired) contained within the fluid. The approach the company we contracted for a prototype took was to just automate the manual process. So the result was a big box that took in a measured amount of fluid, cooked off the liquid, reheated the liquid to separate the oil and water, then used LASERS! to measure the amount of oil and water.
They had also included a mini-CNC arm inside the box, specifically for the cleanup part. It would pick up a “retort spatula” attachment to scrape the dried mud residue from inside the retort cell, then it would pick up the wire brush attachment to get the final bits of dried mud from the cell walls. There was a vacuum component that sucked up all of the dried mud residue and dust while the cleaning operation was going on. It was kind of amazing to watch!
Alas, as amazing as it was to watch, it was not practical as a field application precisely due to the amount of moving parts…there were way too many things to break down. Too many things needing hands-on attention during its operation. When a piece of equipment like this is sitting 100 miles offshore, that is too isolated to be able to send someone every couple of days to clean it out or fix something.
We realized that we needed to focus on the critical measurements for running drilling fluids. The properties measured on the most frequent basis are density and rheology. Additionally, as part of the automation strategy we developed, density, rheology, and fluid temperature are the primary inputs for our real time drilling and hydraulics simulator.
Our first unit was dubbed RTDV, Real Time Density & Viscosity. It was a good start, but was not able to provide us with accurate results. Based on extensive analysis of the RTDVs operation, we started a redesign project based on lessons learned. The biggest issues were lack of continuous unattended operation, inaccurate rheology readings, and the ability for air or gas entrainment to affect the density readings.
The next generation unit was named DRU or Density Rheology Unit. It captures a pressurized density, approximately every 1-2 minutes, and a full 6-speed rheology every 10-20 minutes, depending on ambient fluid temperatures because it heats the fluid to a set testing temperature.
It was deployed on late 2015 on a commercial basis and received industry press and awards on 2016.
Our goal is to automate all fluid testing. What’s funny is that when we say that, drilling fluids engineers ask if we are trying to get rid of their jobs. That is just short-sighted thinking.
As things currently stand, in a 24 hour period, just to accomplish the standard required tests, it takes about 6 hours. That’s a full 25% of the day spent in a lab, possibly not paying attention to operations. And that is for only four sets of test results.
Yes, there are opportunities to check on things while tests are running, BUT, What if the fluids engineers didn’t have too spend all that time conducting tests? And what if they could see those test results more frequently? How much better could they maintain the fluid properties?
There are other companies coming out with new technology and have the ability to measure a few properties, but I don’t think that they have the broad vision for an integrated suite of sensors in addition to a plan on what to do with the data once it is captured.
But I do.
But we do.
Look to the future…

Let me know what you think in the comments. Ask questions, tell your story.

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