Automation is about to bring major changes to the work process for well planning. The next generation well planning tools will take the steps to higher levels of automation, which can provide step changes in quality of the planning, safety aspects in operations and reduce time and cost for planning and operations.

This article discusses the changes that will follow a new standard in well planning and operations. Analysis of the current practices and investigating the potential of a fully automated planning tool leads to a complete re-structuring of the work process. Well planning is a multidisciplinary activity where representatives from the different subsurface disciplines collaborates with the wells engineers in a compromise-prone process often with multiple iterations due to the differences in objective and understanding. The arrival of cross discipline 3D visualization tools has led to improvements in average duration of planning, but it is still a process depending on the efforts of the participating individuals and their level of experience. In an era where computers are landing passenger planes and the pilot has a verification role, it is time to look at the potential in digitalization for well planning and operations.

Many software developers are familiar with the difficulty in developing a "solution" to a challenge in a complex environment such as well construction and production. Many areas of expertise are involved and it is easy to end up with a compartmentalized product which is specialized for one area or a specific challenge. Establishing links and communication to all engineering and calculations in Wells, Subsurface and Production (e.g. well integrity data) are a matter of cost and safety. The next generation well planning tools has to incorporate all areas of expertise from planning well construction, through producing wells to final P&A.

The key enabler for automating the well planning process is the digital experience module, which will be the main task and focus for the Wells Teams. With built in experience, the application has rules and enhanced algorithms allowing Subsurface Teams to make accurate well plans and mature optimal well designs without involving the Wells Teams. Subsurface can identify the optimal drainage and well path including anti-collision, future side tracks, regulations in governing documentation and follow "local best practice". The Wells teams are ultimately responsible and will verify the well path generated by the software, and do any required updates.

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