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Automated well construction

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The drilling process through automation is gaining greater acceptance within the upstream oil and gas industry. Well construction is also moving into using automation as a means to enhance the well construction process. Well construction automation can help improve operational safety, drilling, control systems across multiple drilling rigs, customer specifications, and operational costs.

Improving operational efficiencies

Numerous industry representatives were surveyed to determine their specific needs for improving operational efficiencies, reducing NPT and increasing the overall quality of the wells drilled. All of them expressed a desire for collective improvements that would result in a significant increase in drilling performance through techniques. The following generalized categories are in order of importance.[1]

  1. Rate of penetration (ROP) optimization and vibration management
  2. Well placement
  3. Hole cleaning, hydraulics, RT kick detection, surge/swab
  4. ECD management, MPD, borehole imaging
  5. Real-time torque and drag, stuck pipe prevention

Control systems

Automated well construction system

Control system language and protocols can be advanced quickly by adopting existing industry standards. Setting industry standards will insure the creation of an environment where systems can be integrated while IP (Intellectual Property) can be protected will require industry standards to be in place. Benefits to customers can include:[1]

  • Improved ROP
  • Reduced risk (hole cleaning, stuck pipe, surge/swab, losses, kick detection, managed pressure drilling assistance)
  • Fewer personnel with related travel costs and HSE (remote directional drilling, cementing, mud logging, etc)
  • Smoother, cleaner well bore – less torque for deeper, further sections less breakout for better ECD control, and easier to run completions.

It is recommended that control systems have a common platform across the industry. This is essential so that rig crews can move from rig to rig without a need for orientation or introduction thus reducing non-productive down time. A common platform also enables the development of co-existing applications across the industry. Internal and third party applications can include:[1]

  • Surface Real Time Drilling Optimization
  • Downhole drilling optimization
  • Directional solutions
  • Real-time torque and drag
  • Managed pressure drilling and wellbore stability
  • Non-productive time optimizers
  • Remote monitoring, remote control, remote maintenance, and diagnostics

Down-hole and surface systems

It was essential to develop an open automation system for both down-hole and surface systems. An open system enables contracted and/or outside companies to develop hardware and software that integrates easily into the system.[1]

Economical considerations

Creating and testing a system onshore helps insure reduced safety risks although the automated well construction system could deliver substantially greater well cost reduction in the high day rate offshore world.[1]

Personnel considerations

With an automated well construction system the need for personnel will be reduced. This would mean a substantial change in roles and responsibilities of personnel as the system is introduced. With most any automated system as with this one the long term goal is for an autonomous rig with remote operations.[1]

Customization considerations

The automated well construction system should be designed to follow a planned well project. It is essential, therefore, that it is configurable for all parties involved in the well construction process. For example, one operator or drilling contractor may have a totally different set of operating procedures to another. The system should be designed so that each customer can upload a specific well design and/or procedures easily into the rig’s operating system.[1]

Data to system considerations

The automated well construction system’s design should be such that the rig surface equipment can be controlled in response to downhole data streamed up via any telemetry type including:

Data transfer and control of automated systems should be managed using multiple levels of checks and balances to insure the system is producing within expectations. Some recommendations of a redundancy system can include the following:

  • The system should be able to run with high speed surface automation where all five surface processes are controlled and prioritized by the new control system.
    • Hoisting
    • Rotating
    • Pumping
    • Power
    • Safety
  • The system should perform surface automation with downhole verification using a slow speed telemetry systems like:
    • Mud pulse
    • Electromagnetic (EM).
  • The system should provide full automation integrating both surface and high speed downhole data, transmitted on wired drill pipe to maximize performance. This will ensure the system will still be able to function at a higher performance level than today’s non-automated systems in the event the downhole tools and equipment fail.

Noteworthy papers in OnePetro

Carpenter, B. 2011. Technology Focus: Well Construction. 2011. Society of Petroleum Engineers.

De Wardt, J., Chapman, C. D., & Behounek, M. 2012. Well Construction Automation - Preparing for the Big Jump. Society of Petroleum Engineers.

Dupriest, F. E., & Koederitz, W. L. 2005. Maximizing Drill Rates with Real-Time Surveillance of Mechanical Specific Energy. Society of Petroleum Engineers.

Geehan, T., & Zamora, M. 2010. Automation of Well Construction Fluids Domain. Society of Petroleum Engineers.

Kyllingstad, A., & Nessjøen, P. J. 2009. A New Stick-Slip Prevention System. Society of Petroleum Engineers.

Kyllingstad, A., & Nessjoen, P. J. 2010. Hardware-in-the-Loop Simulations Used as a Cost-Efficient Tool for Developing an Advanced Stick-Slip Prevention System. Society of Petroleum Engineers.

Nessjoen, P. J., Kyllingstad, A., Dambrosio, P., Fonseca, I. S., Garcia, A., & Levy, B. 2011. Field Experience with an Active Stick-Slip Prevention System. Society of Petroleum Engineers.

External links

"Automation: On the Cusp of Transformation - Drilling Contractor." Drilling Contractor. 2012.

Trent, Jacobs. "The Dawn of a New Automation Consortium." Journal of Petroleum Technology. Society of Petroleum Engineers. 2015.

See also





  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Pink, A. P., Kverneland, H., Bruce, A., & Applewhite, J. B. 2012. Building an Automated Drilling System Where the Surface Machines are Controlled by Downhole and Surface Data to Optimize the Well Construction Process. Society of Petroleum Engineers.