For many years the aerospace and automotive industries have realized significant improvements in efficiency, performance and cost savings by simulating multiple prototype vehicle designs and control systems under various operating conditions. These same simulation techniques have now been introduced to the oilfield drilling industry and are delivering insights for more effective drilling tool designs, bottom hole assembly optimization, drilling severity minimization, dysfunction recognition and for drilling performance improvement with fewer downhole failures. Drilling is a non-linear, coupled and dynamic hydro-geomechanical process, the physics for all aspects of which must be captured to enable a robust automated drilling control process.

Drill string, drilling tool and drill bit failures are frequently incorrectly blamed upon the invisible geology through which they drill. Field engineers frequently report more severe downhole vibrations at rotation speeds other than those predicted by linear frequency-based finite element critical speeds analyses. The same multi-body dynamics simulation techniques used by the automotive and aerospace industries, however, are now being applied to capture the non-linear aspects of the drilling process and provide more realistic predictions of drilling performance.

Simulation validation is achieved by comparing virtual data to physical data with an implicit understanding of the uncertainties of each. Recommendations are presented for improving the usefulness and the quality of physical drilling data which simulation can then also help assure.

The ultimate objective is to deliver better quality boreholes which are less costly with fewer drilling tool failures. These novel simulation techniques are enabling manufacturers to benefit from lower development costs and shorter times to market with more reliable proprietary drilling tool designs. Drilling contractors are using simulations to optimize top-drive controls and drill more effectively. Product developers are able to configure higher performing and more optimal bottom hole assemblies. Operators are able to reduce overall drilling costs with the potential benefits of higher performing drilling automation systems and greater production from better quality boreholes.

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