This paper documents some of the key findings on the data required and methods used to detect and correct issues with drilling control systems such as auto drillers, top drive active torsional damping systems, and heave compensation systems.
It has been found that the rig control systems and how they are tuned can have a significant impact on drilling dynamics. Issues related to drilling dynamics have varied widely among rigs, even among those that are in the same field and that have the same equipment and specifications. The standard answer has been that drilling is different on the ‘other side of the road, river, or anticline', or that one rig crew is better than the other. While there are significant differences in the drilling environment and between crews, recognition of the effects of the control systems employed can explain many of these differences and expand the tools and techniques available to improve drilling performance and reduce dysfunctions. Once the fundamental elements of a control system are understood, the performance limiters identified can often be applied to other rigs in the fleet with different systems via effective documentation of the changes made and their results.
Opportunities abound for improvement in oilfield drilling control systems, their basic design, and documentation on how they should be tuned and best used. There are also opportunities in crew training catered to different audiences: Drilling Engineers, Rig Supervisors, Drillers, Directional Drillers, and Rig Electricians. Lastly, there is often a knowledge and communication gap between the software/control/user experience and engineers designing the control systems. Since rig control systems are not usually identified as the source of drilling dysfunction, requests for software or interface redesign have not often been initiated in the past.
Not surprisingly, the best progress has been made when four way work groups were formed with all key stakeholders involved: the operator's drill team, internal technical experts, rig contractor and crew, and OEM control systems experts. Investing the time and personnel in this process and establishing group trust has helped prevent gaps in understanding of overall system performance. It also allows each stakeholder to contribute their expertise, raise concerns, and get buy in from their extended teams. This process takes commitment from all parties to change the way work is done, but the performance improvements are immediate and can be clearly seen.
Challenges for the future are to continue to upgrade rig site manuals, arrange for more crew training, upgrade the control system design, and to incorporate the control system response as part of the topside boundary condition for future drilling dynamics models.