This paper presents Shell's platform designed and developed to support advanced drilling technologies and workflows. The capabilities supported by this IT platform are real-time performance optimization, remote control for directional drilling and measurement while drilling, completions and drilling automation. These are modular capabilities and can be combined to suit local requirements. The underlying IT platform has been developed to support each of the technologies and any of their combination. With this IT platform in place, the traditional RTOC model changes as new functionalities like remote operations and automation are added and the scope is extended to include monitoring of low complexity and low cost wells drilled in unconventional plays.
The first, small scale Real-Time Operation Centre (RTOC) in Shell was tested in 2002 in New Orleans, US and upon a successful result, a larger facility became operational in 2003. From 2004 onwards, the RTOC concept had reached a global deployment scale within Shell (van Oort 2005). Today, there are four main RTOC hubs in Shell: New Orleans and Houston (US), Aberdeen (UK), Miri (Malaysia). Together, these ROTC hubs cover Shell's global activities.
Initially the RTOCs were focusing on the well execution phase. Therefore the activities performed by the RTOCs were real-time, continuous monitoring of drilling operations of multiple concurrent rigs, data flow monitoring and data QA/QC, performance analyses and capture and dissemination of best practices.
Approximately from 2006 onwards, the RTOCs extended their scope to include the well planning phase. The associated activities included facilitation of collaboration between the subsurface and the well engineering teams on the basis of visualization tools combining subsurface models and well engineering information, offset well analyses using integrated subsurface and drilling insights, well engineering designs, capture and dissemination of best practices.
Typically the RTOC services were (and still are) provided by contractor staff with extensive field experience. In terms of roles, RTOC staff fulfilled (and still does) either continuous monitoring of drilling operations or well engineering activities.
While the initial investments for the RTOCs were significant, the value delivered by the RTOCs is considered high as well. RTOCs have made significant contributions through avoidance of additional costs due to operational problems associated with non-productive time (NPT) and through cost reduction due to invisible lost time (ILT). This holds true for both exploration wells and development wells which became increasingly complex, especially in deepwater. In addition, value was also delivered through promoting the collaboration between subsurface disciplines like geology, geophysics, petrophysics, reservoir engineering and well engineering. In the last case the value drivers were improved and faster decision making. Last but not least, the RTOCs have also had an important role to play in delivery of high-quality wells and safe drilling operations.