The technically challenging development of the marginal resources in the mature fields in the North Sea requires new levels of planning and execution to control the drilling process.

Over the past few years, improved dataflow between drilling rigs and shore-based operator and service providers support organizations has created a renewed interest in automated monitoring of drilling parameters. Development of data transmission systems like InterACT and data formats like WITSML have initiated the search for and the development of new sensors that can be used for automated real-time monitoring of critical drilling fluid parameters.

Increased focus on HSE in general and the use of harmful test chemicals, vapors and the risk of explosions in particular also has been an important driver for this development. Introducing a level of automation described in this paper can reduce by 70-80% the exposure time of fluids engineer in the rig laboratory without compromising service quality.

Moreover, the development and use of advanced hydraulic simulation programs frequently employed for extended reach drilling and managed pressure drilling (MPD) have increased the focus on more reliable and more frequent operational inputs. The precision of modern simulation software represents a sharp contrast to the current practice of manual rig testing and reporting.

This paper details the selection of fluid parameters considered most important for automation. The authors will describe the sensors developed for monitoring the most important parameters, including Electrical Stability (ES), density, temperature, water content in invert emulsion drilling fluid, XRF elemental analysis, in-line particle size distribution (PSD) and full 3D rheology tests. The parameters that could be monitored with existing sensor technologies used in other industries will be discussed, as well as those requiring development based on current field equipment. In addition, the paper will describe the installation and first field experiences with a full range of automated instruments on various rigs in the North Sea.

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