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Drilling automation

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Drilling automation differs from rig automation. Instead of mechanized or automated machinery that deals with surface processes, drilling automation is centered on the entire system of processes from well planning and design through to downhole activities necessary in the actual drilling of an oil or gas well. Today, this involves the linking of enterprise, surface and downhole data systems with near real-time predictive models to improve the safety and efficiency of the drilling process.

Drilling Systems Automation Technical Section (DSATS)

SPE volunteers formed the Drilling Systems Automation Technical Section (DSATS) in 2008. The purpose of DSATS is to accelerate the development and implementation of drilling systems automation in well construction by supporting initiatives which communicate the technology, recommend best practices, standardize nomenclature and help define the value of drilling systems automation. Appropriate initiatives include workshops, forums, lectures, and technical and white papers, among others, and DSATS actively encourages participation of automation experts from outside the drilling industry. 

DSATS is working to produce an industry standard to allow communication between drilling machine control systems and external applications to optimize drilling operations.

2022 - DSATS VERSION 2.0

The leadership of DSATS launched an initiative at the end of 2021, asking for members of the section to form a workgroup with the objective to re-launch the technical section. This included taking a look at the way the section operates and looking for ways to improve it, how the section interacts with the members and other industry entities working on automation, identifying new topics of interest that can be used to launch technical activities, and last but not least how to engage new members in the leadership team as well as in the various on-going and new section activities.

A group of thirty industry peers worked for a period of three months and came up with a proposal on how to re-launch DSATS. At a high level, the proposal identified several new directions that DSATS should support (e.g. interoperability, Human Factors, ESG, geothermal, Verification & Validation, to name just a few). For each one of these areas, the team came up with a list of topics/ideas that could evolve into activities of the section, based on the level of interest they create with the members.


Drilling Systems Automation Roadmap

The Drilling Systems Automation Roadmap (DSA-R) initiative is a cross-industry effort launched in June 2013 to provide insights to industry participants and non industry participants regarding the adoption of advancements in drilling systems automation for both onshore and offshore oil and gas wells.


Drillbotics is an international competition for universities to design and build a small drilling rig  that uses sensors and control algorithms to autonomously drill a rock sample provided by SPE’s DSATS.  Recently, teams may choose to model a full scale drilling rig. The latest challenge involved directional drilling through two or more targets. Winning teams present a SPE paper about their research project. Search for Drillbotics on OnePetro.


Noteworthy papers in OnePetro

Macpherson, J.D., de Wardt, J.P., Florence, F. et al. Drilling Systems Automation: Current State, Initiatives and Potential Impact. Presented at the 2013/9/30/.

Thorogood, J. Automation in Drilling: Future Evolution and Lessons From Aviation.

Thorogood, J.L., Florence, F., Iversen, F.P. et al. Drilling Automation: Technologies, Terminology and Parallels With Other Industries. Presented at the 2009/1/1/.

Zamora, M. and Geehan, T. Developing a Drilling Automation Technology Roadmap. Presented at the 2013/3/20/. OnePetro

External links

DiFiore, Amanda. "Human Factors in Automation." : Web Events. Society of Petroleum Engineers, 22 Sept. 2015. Web.

Popa, Andrei. 2015. "Understanding the Potential of Case-Based Reasoning in the Oil Industry." Web Events. Society of Petroleum Engineers,

Drilling Systems Automation Technical Section

Drilling Systems Automation Roadmap

Drilling Systems Automation Body of Knowledge

OPC Unified Architecture (UA)


See also