Industry Article

Beyond automation: Driving advances in autonomous drilling

March 05, 2021

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Well construction can benefit from available intelligent technologies, taking AI capabilities close to the action, where it encodes knowledge and captures learnings to improve drilling efficiency.

To successfully compete in increasingly difficult economic and political climates, energy companies have to dramatically improve upstream performance. Operators need to increase their focus on improving drilling efficiency, while reducing the carbon footprint involved in finding and lifting each barrel.

Automation is playing a key role in improving efficiency of E&P workflows; however, automation, alone, is not enough to achieve the necessary improvements. Today’s automation technology is helpful, but not comprehensive. To transform performance, fundamentally and continuously, the industry requires advanced autonomy capabilities.

The current and ongoing pressure on revenues and profits is driven by multiple structural changes, whether it’s decarbonization, the “energy transition,” or the generational hand-over in the global E&P workforce. The pandemic has added another layer to an already highly pressurized situation.

The net result? In many cases, a barrel of oil is priced below a field’s break-even point. To shift the profitability equation back into the black, operators and OFS companies have reduced costs, restructured, and pivoted to new strategies. However, these efficiency gains that the industry has harvested, to date, are just the low-hanging fruit. Additional capex and opex reductions are still required, as market conditions continue to deteriorate.

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This article originally appeared in the January 2021 issue of World Oil.

Authors: Francis Besnard and Alexandre Jourde, Schlumberger