The post COVID-19 era will undoubtedly present paradigm shifts in operational planning and execution and advanced automation will become an important factor. However, drilling automation without directional drilling (Cayeux 2020) capability will exclude the use of automation in a vast number of fields where precise placement of the wellbore has shifted from a luxury to a necessity. This is important in unconventional plays where automation can make a step change in operational outcomes (Chmela 2020). However, most efforts in automating directional drilling are using bespoke rigs (Slagmulder 2016) and bespoke bottom hole assembly (BHA) that limit operational options. The goal is in designing systems that enable directional drilling automation (Chatar 2018) with existing BHAs.
This paper will look at three challenges that were identified and overcome to deploy a vendor agnostic system for automating the directional drilling (DD) process. The three challenges identified here are as follows:
Using any mud motor including low-cost motors in a closed loop
Integration with an existing measurement and logging while drilling (MLWD) system
Ability to roll out automation systems on any operations with existing rigs
The system is a modification of an operator’s autonomous drilling system (Rassenfoss 2011), designed to use existing rigs, BHAs and have minimum footprint on the rigs for operational use. The system will have a dedicated connection to the rig’s programmable logic controller (PLC) via common industrial protocols including Modbus, EthernetIP or Profinet, a physical connection the MLWD receiver and a brain box with a cloud connection to aggregate, process data and send commands to the rig PLC to execute directional commands.
A vendor agnostic system will increase adoption of automated technologies and further drive improvements in operational and business performance.