An operator and rig contractor have been implementing drilling operations automation (DOA) pursuing well design and drilling operational execution improvements in terms of safety, quality, delivery, and cost (SQDC). Today, drilling automation enables tighter process control of operations and well design stakeholders are beginning to fully understand and anticipate its value.
DOA requires applying a process control approach and defining well construction processes at a very detailed level. This process control approach is proposed as a method to study and improve work steps and integrate them into overall operational activities. Optimizing, much less controlling, a drilling system is a difficult task with a multitude of variables to manage. The process of automating operations may be one of the best tools to reduce the number of unknown variables and better deliver consistent SQDC results.
Automation case studies such as a downhole Weight on Bit (WOB) drilling system, a directional drilling advisory system, a sliding system for conventional steerable mud motors, and an integrated tubular running system are described to highlight the role of automation in assisting operators and contractors to efficiently manage and improve the well construction process. Process automation requires improvements in foundational systems, tools, and data quality to support operational performance. The most significant finding is how automated systems enable operations to be practically managed at a detailed level by drilling personnel, engineers, and other stakeholders. After practices and systems are proven and automated, they can be scaled and managed over an entire rig fleet. This will ultimately enable today's well construction and drilling system related risks to be mitigated and managed, leading to further SQDC rewards with more efficient well designs.
The operator and rig contractor will share perspectives for realizing value and opportunity through applying DOA. Experience shows DOA-influenced standardized operations can result in eliminating steps that are no longer needed. Automation enables changes to well design that are just beginning to be understood and anticipated by drilling teams. The challenge will be linking these opportunities to pursue new capabilities supporting well design improvement. This will be the true benefit from automating drilling operations.