The Drilling Systems Automation Technical Section (DSATS) is a group of SPE volunteers from many nations, connected by their belief that drilling automation will have a long-term, positive influence on the drilling industry. DSATS implemented a student competition to encourage new entrants into the drilling industry who might consider creating and using automation tools and techniques in future drilling programs. The competition brings a hands on approach to the complex, multifaceted problem of drilling systems, expanding the breadth of knowledge and creative thought processes of the individuals who participate. This project challenges students who plan to become petroleum engineers and other students in related disciplines who may not currently think of the upstream drilling industry as a career opportunity. The competition requires university teams to design and build laboratory-scale drilling rigs to automatically drill through a sample of material unknown to the students. This paper presents the winning students' summary of the rig design, construction and operation of their test results and how it relates to their new understanding of the drilling process.

In the fall of 2014, student teams from different petroleum engineering schools designed a rig that can drill through a concrete block filled with unknown formations while dealing with a drill bit and drillpipe chosen to ensure some common drilling dysfunctions. Based on the rig design, finalists from four universities were selected to move to the second phase of the competition (i.e. construction and testing phase). In the early-spring of 2015, the teams built their rigs. In May and June, they demonstrated the performance of their rig design and control algorithms by drilling the samples while witnessed by DSATS members.. The winning team received a travel grant to attend the ATCE to present this paper that addresses:

  • Drilling limitations and critical parameters

  • Construction issues and initial operations that required a re-design

  • Final design criteria, constraints, tradeoffs

  • How key decisions were determined

  • Summary of recorded data and key events

  • Drilling parameters and how they impacted the test

  • Economic considerations

  • Significant new team learnings

  • Other items of interest

  • Conclusions and recommendations

We believe this to be the first competition of this kind that requires multi-disciplinary teams to work jointly within a university setting, which prepares them for the integrated team approach currently in use throughout our industry. Their designs are practical, but are not limited by the historical features that are commonly included in today’s commercial rig designs.

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