Improved capabilities for real-time data transfer have given rise to remote monitoring and support for drilling operations, providing faster access to information onshore, reducing personnel on board (POB) and cost. The challenge lays not so much with the technical feasibility but with the impact on work processes, which is still poorly understood. This study investigated the human factors implication for Onshore Operation Centres (OOCs) in four centres in Norway and the UK, which all successfully delivered wells but addressed different strategic aims.

The sample comprised 25 semi-structured interviews, observations over three months and a longitudinal attitude study with 33 participants. Results were content-analysed by a team of industrial psychologists. The findings show that remote operations in drilling produce similar effects as virtual teams and computer-mediated process control in other industries; the monitoring work in the OOC was deprived of some of the physical activity, sensory information and informal interaction. Potentially some of these tasks could be further automated while more cross-trained staff would be required offshore. Different user groups responded differently to the OOC implementation. Onshore teams generally approved of the concept as the OOC helped to create more situation awareness and present an ideal environment for collaborative decision making and learning. The offshore response was mixed, with both strong support for its innovative potential and critical voices about system reliability, contractual concerns and the impact on work-life balance.

OOCs can add value to drilling operations by enabling better-informed decisions but the findings showed that success depends on how well the introduction of organisational change is managed. The study provides evidence how prospective users can be involved in the change process in this dispersed and fluctuating industry and which social and cognitive skills are important for effective collaboration in e-operations.

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