The Status and Future of Remote and Automated Drilling Techniques
- Jeremy Ogg (National Oilwell Varco)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- May 2008
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 30 - 34
- 2008. 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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The drilling industry is on a diving board looking down at automation, and we in this industry are currently deciding whether to join the other industries in the pool. We know that our industry will not be the first to embrace automation, and we also know that we are surrounded by other industries whose application of automation is proving, or has already proved, to be successful. Automation has been so successful that it has breathed new life into these industries, often revitalizing the way they supply their product. The results are generally a larger volume of product supplied faster, with fewer errors, and with more process standardization. Does this sound familiar?
Remote Linking and Real-Time Modeling
A number of automated products and services are making headway in the drilling industry, and this article will focus on two technologies of note.
DrillLink, developed by National Oilwell Varco (NOV) / M/D Totco, is a remote-linking automated control technology consisting of a device that facilitates the transmission of remote signals to the control system of a conventional drilling rig (Fig. 1).
Drilltronics, developed by the International Research Institute of Stavanger (IRIS) and NOV, is a drilling information technology that performs real-time modeling to improve drilling efficiency significantly (Fig. 2).
Logically, a crucial step in the drilling-process automation will occur as these types of technologies become capable of providing input for the other’s output—where instructions can be communicated from one device to another to dictate operations. Are we at that point now? No. However, all the parts are developing that will make the whole. Conceptually, before we can automate commands on the basis of modeling, it first is necessary to determine whether commands derived manually can be automated.
Automated-Command Technology Tested
In 2004, MD/Totco and Schlumberger successfully drilled at a test rig in Cameron, Texas, by means of commands sent from Cambridge, UK, using the remote-linking automated control system already described. Achieving 100% success with the communication protocol, the Cambridge scientists were able to successfully control the weight on bit, flow rate, and the revolutions per minute of routine drilling operations of a rig more than 4,500 miles away.
Fundamentally, this technology places a communication box between the existing throttle signal from the drill-floor and the input to the power-control system that drives the rig. This box provides a means for the driller to allow control by a remote directional driller, regardless of whether the directional driller is at the rigsite or in an office anywhere on the globe. The driller remains in control, setting a maximum throttle that cannot be exceeded by others. Additionally, the driller has the ability to override the directional driller’s signal at any time simply by changing the throttle on the console or turning off the linked system, thereby ensuring that ultimate control always remains on site.
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