Managed pressure drilling (MPD) is an adaptive and sophisticated drilling process used to control the downhole and annular pressure. Mud management could enhance MPD as the downhole pressure is dependent on mud parameters such as mud density and rheology. Therefore, a step-change is needed in drilling process control, to enable consistently high performance, accurate pressure control and reduced risk of unwanted effects. Advances in process control have been made, but risk reduction and optimization of the drilling process is still a major challenge in the drilling industry.

A missing piece in considering the process-control puzzle is the in-situ determined drilling mud characteristics. Without accurate knowledge of mud properties and cuttings contents or without an ability to adjust the mud in real-time, a control system cannot reliably maintain bottom hole pressure or ensure a smooth flow of cuttings. The use of real-time density and rheology measurements in combination with a model that optimize the drilling operation by adjusting the mud will be a radically new innovation on the drilling market.

To complete the puzzle, a demonstration of a pilot unit will be carried out. The unit combines monitoring of mud and cuttings with wellbore hydraulic modelling and a control system that adjusts mud properties in real-time. The control setup will strive to keep the drilling operation within its operating envelope with respect to cuttings transport and bottomhole pressure. The demo project will construct such a system from existing components. Its focus will be on demonstrating the potential of a fully integrated drilling system. In particular to demonstrate that mud properties can be adjusted automatically based on real-time mud measurements. This demonstration project will be carried out in collaboration between Huisman, Statoil, SINTEF, Intelligent Mud Solutions (IMS) and Cybernetic Drilling Technology (CDT), with financial support from the Norwegian Research Council.

The demonstration project will take place at Huisman Innovative Tower in the Netherlands, where a full scale facility with drilling rig and a 400 m deep test well goes operational in Q1 2017. Available technology from the project partners covers many of the process control components. Such as a commercial hydraulic flow model for downhole pressure predictions provided by SINTEF, a mud density and rheology sensors provided by IMS with software by CDT and a mud treatment system of Huisman's design, allowing for real-time adjustment of mud.

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