BP has developed an internal Recommended Practice for the deployment of a standard data architecture for real-time drilling and completions information. This architecture uses WITSML communications as much as possible although data aggregation on the drilling rig can still employ WITS, OPC or even a proprietary language. Most deployments in BP are built on the latest Version 1.3.1 of WITSML. Early deployments in Indonesia revealed some inter-operability problems which had to be resolved quickly to eliminate operational delays. This experience highlighted the value of pre-deployment testing and subsequent deployments have all been staged in an independent test facility hosted for BP by SAIC in Aberdeen.

The BP WITSML test laboratory has already staged drilling and completions data systems for BP businesses in Gulf of Mexico, UK North Sea and Oman prior to field deployments. In addition, the Business Units have also been keen for the laboratory to provide an operational support function post deployment. Testing has also been conducted in conjunction with main BP equipment suppliers to demonstrate compliance for future installations.

Various problems have been identified during testing which will be described in the paper. The value of identifying these problems in a laboratory environment, rather than potentially exposing drilling operations to delays during equipment commissioning, is very considerable. The testing has been conducted with a very positive commitment from our suppliers which has resulted in significant learnings for all parties.

BP, along with other major energy companies, sees WITSML as an important enabler for remote operations, collaboration environments and the deployment of new technologies to support its future drilling and completions operations. The WITSML laboratory testing has been a critical step in building confidence in the robustness of WITSML and demonstrating its performance capabilities.


The rapid development of digital technology is touching all disciplines in the oil and gas industry and, in particular, is providing exciting new opportunities and capabilities within the drilling and completions disciplines. Examples include automation of rigsite work processes, remote operations from collaboration centres (Wahlen et al, SPE 78336; Sawaryn et al, SPE 99069; Edwards et al, SPE 100113), simulation (Lauche et al, SPE 99774) and enhanced visualisation. For a large oil and gas operator, much greater value is derived from this technology if it is deployed in a consistent manner using a standard communications architecture (Pickering et al, SPE 110388). An important enabler is the emerging WITSML (Wellsite Information Transfer Standard Markup Language) standard (Kirkman et al, SPE 84066) which is now enjoying significant uptake throughout the industry.

As a standard, WITSML is still relatively immature. It is transitioning through a higher rate of releases at present as the functionality evolves. Conformance testing is also in its infancy with the first public testing being held at the WITSML SIG (Special Interest Group) meeting in Dubai, 16 – 19 November 2008. These factors make the standard less dependable from a plug and play perspective, particularly when hybrid systems from multiple vendors are inter-connected. For this reason, the offline testing of integrated systems is strongly recommended prior to in-field deployment.

This paper describes the build and operation of an offline WITSML test laboratory in BP that was inspired by WITSML inter-operability problems in the Tangguh drilling collaboration environment (Pickering et al, SPE 115511) in Indonesia.

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