The promise of drilling systems automation is to increase well construction efficiency, delivering quality wells in a safe, reliable and predictable manner. This promise is achieved in part by creating a digital infrastructure that extends vertically from the drill bit to the remote enterprise, and horizontally from exploration to production. Critical to the success of automation is the unimpeded flow of quality data through this infrastructure. This paper focuses on studying only drilling systems automation, but the lessons learned can be applied to other disciplines such as completions and production.

Due to the disconnected nature of the well construction business with multiple disciplines and companies involved, data silos and restrictions are numerous. This paper describes the development of a wellsite-based automation system consisting of an open data aggregator, with networked surface and downhole sensors and real-time applications for process monitoring, advice and control. The data aggregator is designed to allow all relevant parties to access and share data in a high-velocity deterministic environment. This access and sharing permits easy implementation of comprehensive drilling system automation, be it monitoring, advising or control, in a controlled, productive and safe manner. The paper also describes the implementation of automation applications using data from the aggregator, covering real-time drilling optimization and hydraulics.

Operation of the data aggregator at the wellsite with connection to rig systems and remote operating centers is described. The data aggregator uses protocols that are international standards, and it is designed to be open and not proprietary. From an implementation standpoint, this allows easy interface of the aggregator to measurement and control systems, and access to copious third-party communication products, reducing development time and increasing reliability. Observations are that many rig instrumentation and control systems use either customized or proprietary protocols; common data information standards are lacking in the oilfield. In addition, data ownership and governance must be addressed at an industry level, as well as secure bi-directional flow of data between wellsite and town. While these topics are, to some extent, being addressed in industry road-mapping and guidance groups, progress is slow and this hinders the adoption of technology.

The paper describes the development and implementation of an open data aggregator for the wellsite. The aggregator allows third-party real-time applications to use and share data, and to collaborate on industry standards. It further describes the development of automation applications riding on the data aggregator, and their use in drilling systems automation. This case study illustrates and examines issues that must be addressed at the company and industry level to move universal drilling systems automation closer to reality.

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