Industry Article

Recipe for Digital Change: A Case Study Approach to Drilling Automation

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Society: SPE, May 25, 2021

AI Automates Geophysical Interpretation

As margins tighten, players in the modern O&G landscape are being forced to reimagine their business models and re-evaluate their strategic direction to maintain a competitive edge. This often means doing more with less and spreading ever slimmer margins across increasingly complex well operations. Fortunately, with the wave of digital innovations that are sweeping the industry, most E&P organizations have a wealth of opportunities to streamline activity and increase efficiency while reducing the resources required. However, with the increasing array of digital opportunities, the gauntlet is set: those who adopt quickly and reap early benefits will undoubtedly be tomorrow's leaders. Laggards slow to adapt will fall progressively further behind as leaders successfully navigate through the learning phase and accelerate into new standards of efficiency. This combination of urgency and opportunity will undoubtedly be the force that propels the industry into the fourth great revolution; digital transformation.

As observed in a variety of industries, automation has proven to be one of these instrumental digital levers to unlocking the next level of efficiency. Across the O&G industry, we are beginning to see a number of applications in which tasks are not only becoming less labor-intensive but also faster, safer and with increased levels of precision. This ensures that repetitive tasks which often drain and distract workers are reallocated to automated processes while ensuring that employees remain concentrated on prioritizing safety and operations integrity. The value proposition for automation in drilling is especially compelling as human operators can easily become overwhelmed with the volume of competing priorities and the pressure to make immediate decisions. By carefully delegating some of the decision-making to an intelligent drilling system, the cognitive burden on human operators is reduced resulting in a safer working environment conducive to increased performance and engagement.

In this paper, a detailed case study is presented to document the effort of a major service company to deploy a full drilling automation system in the Middle East implemented to autonomously operate rig surface equipment. A detailed description of the system's intelligent management system will be provided to communicate its capacity to interpret and autonomously respond to changing well conditions. A case study approach will be used in attempt to specifically identify the areas where automation delivers a step change in results compared to manual operations. Additionally, given the complexity inherent to executing a digitalization project in drilling, insight will be shared on the strategies leveraged to navigate the intricacies of deployment and adoption. Throughout this paper, it will become evident that automation is quickly becoming a reliable solution for the consistent delivery of top quartile performance by unlocking new levels of consistency and procedural adherence.

 

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Authors: Brennanl Goodkey, Rafael Carvalho, Andres Nunez Davila, Gerardo Hernandez, Mauricio Corona, Kamal Atriby, and Carlos Herrera, Schlumberger