Automation Will Drive Industry Revolution
- James Bement (Halliburton Sperry Drilling)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- November 2011
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 18 - 20
- 2011. Copyright is retained by the author. This document is distributed by SPE with the permission of the author. Contact the author for permission to use material from this document.
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Automation is a leading buzz word in our industry, perhaps to the point of triteness. In order to achieve a significant step change in safety, efficiency, reliability, and performance while addressing a growing demand and reservoir complexity, we must advance just as other industries have. Thankfully, we have the ability to use their insight to drive our own industry’s development, using automation experts and best practices from fields such as medicine, automotive, and aerospace.
We understand the technology necessary for automation: fully automated rigs, smarter sensors and drilling tools, virtual onshore operation centers and detailed subsurface modeling including updates to the subsurface geomechanics, petrophysics and wellbore models in real time. How we will create one automation/control system among competitive industry verticals remains to be solved.
Integration of Industry Verticals? Or Something Different?
The 600-pound gorilla in the room that must be solved is how we will create this system. Open standards are necessary, but not at the expense of competitiveness. Is the answer, then, to acquire and integrate all system components under a single corporate entity? Some have moved in this direction. While this may be a short-term answer, perhaps the long-term solution is not something the industry has yet envisioned: Simply integrating industry verticals will not drive efficiency, as we cannot work in a factory drilling environment with the rigs that exist today, and there are major issues related to liability in terms of control and ownership of these components.
We need innovation to find the right approach. Achieving the next level of integration and drilling efficiency will require a new concept that differs dramatically from the rigs of today. It will mean turning convention on its head and changing our current derrick, drawworks, and mud pumps mind-set. We have many ways to pick things up, to pump, mix and clean fluids, sand and gels as we drill and complete, so the answer for automation may be some combination of current components or something we have not thought of. This system must also be easy to manufacture, rig up and down, and move, and it must have a lower capital cost, a high degree of automation, a step change in operational efficiency, and result in improved safety with fewer people on location.
Added to this is the necessity to solve the completions part of well construction automation. As an industry, we are focused primarily on drilling automation. How do we bring completions into the mix?
The other piece we have not solved is what the digital interface among these activities will look like, that is, what the service delivery platform will be. Today, it is literally the physical rig; the future will be some type of digital platform enabling the most comprehensive system available for drilling for oil and gas.
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