Automated drilling has been discussed for a long time, with much of the discussion being around future ambitions – what could be or might be possible. Given the complexity of a modern drilling operation, the idea of automating all or part of it is daunting. Despite the apparent obstacles, there has recently been significant progress toward this goal, centred on the core process of drilling new boreholes.

This paper presents an automated directional-drilling process executed on a commercial well in the Norwegian sector of the North Sea in 2019, where a next-generation intelligent rotary-steerable system completed a well section in a single run with all drilling commands automatically computed, optimized, and downlinked by a drilling automation platform. The section was complex, comprising two intervals requiring steering in three dimensions, separated by a tangent section. Directional-drilling engineers onshore, who had the authority to override the system if necessary, supervised the operation remotely. No such override was required, and the automated system was able to drill the entire section while automatically sending steering decisions.

The 12¼-in. landing interval required precise positional control to enter the reservoir in the correct location and with the correct attitude. At the end of the section, with over 1500 m drilled, the final well position was 0.28 m above the target position and 3.89 m to the left, with minimal tortuosity, making it easy to land the subsequent casing string. The final build section, from 33 to 71.6° of inclination, was drilled between 100 and 150 m/hr, with a planned dogleg severity of 3°/30 m. To drill such a complex trajectory automatically would have been unthinkable only a short time ago and marks a major milestone in the development of automated drilling technology.

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