April 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico and January 2017 in Oklahoma brought into sharp focus what can happen if the oil and gas industry gets well control wrong: 16 fatalities, significant environmental damage, loss of assets and reputation. Each year we have multiple blowouts and several fatality events due to a loss of well control. The oil and gas industry can improve from a personnel safety, environmental and reputation perspective. The Automation of Well Control will bring a significant step change in the area of Process Safety forwells. It prevents blowouts, reduces all influx volumes, minimising kicktolerance volumes and reducingcasing and well costs.
A system has been developedwhich enables Automated Well Control whilst in drilling mode. Pre-determined influx rates, agreed by the operator and drilling contractor, and input by the driller are established. Once the system detects the influx, it performs a series of operations by taking control of the drilling rig equipment. The drill string is spaced out, top drive and mud pumps are stopped, and the BOP is closed. All of this occurs without the driller doing anything; however, he can intervene at any moment. Thissystem is designed as an aid to the driller and does not remove his responsibility.
The Automated Well Control system has been tested on drilling simulators with real drillers. Comparisons tests have shown that the technology enables shut-in times faster than conventional human interface methods, with influx volumes typically 10-20% of those experienced during manual shut-in. Additionally, a full Field Trial using a traditional rigdemonstrated the effectiveness of the system, proving up the functionality under different operational requirements. The system can now be applied to any type of rig worldwide. Over 50 potential modules have been identified. Planned developments forthe system include circulatingout the kick automatically, shut-in for tripping, circulating, cementing and in-flow testing. It provides assurance for afast, safe and effective shut-in.A full Technology Qualification process has been used for this technology.
Over the past 20 years, technology advancements associated with simulators and cyber-rigs have enabled new technologies to be developed. One of these technologies is Automated Well Control.
It is believed that this innovative system will enable a step change in the performance ofprocess safety forwell control, dramaticallyreducing major accident hazards, thereby saving millions of dollars per well, reducing environmental impact and preventing loss of life.