Onshore Drilling & Completion rigs: an integrated process system point of view

The opportunity

When I look the different systems for tracking the Drilling & Completion operation i almost always find that they focus all of their measurements on tower functions (block height, hook load, weight on bit, stamp pipe pressure, flow back, top drive rpm, etc.) and KPI’s for this functions (ROP, time connection, pipe moving speed, depth vs time, etc.). Only a small part of the system measurement is for the rest of the process (pit volume, desander pressure, gas volume, etc.). However, the process is much more extensive there are more data to measure on the mud treatment system, on the power system and in the well control system, all these data have an impact on the construction of the well not the impact always is direct or immediate.

Another aspect of the systems is that they do not have tools to incorporate these variables or an adequate way of visualizing it. The obstacle to find a suitable sensor to measure and that has the necessary ruggedness to support the operation in the rig is clear, but today there are many opportunities to find a sensor to fits every need. At the visualization level, it is just a strategic point of view problem, there isn’t an integrated view of the system as happens in SCADA software, for example.

Also, the systems do not have geographical integration, the systems almost always has two part: the rig site and the office part. The rig part, as mentioned in the previous paragraph, only focuses on the operation of the tower and the office part focuses on the KPIs. These are done at the office site and sometime the rig cannot watch it, if the network has bandwidth issues. Another point is that the office doesn’t have the same tools that the rig site to follow the operation. For the example the alarms are not the same. Likewise, the rig does not have KPIs if the network has problems.

Finally, the system doesn’t have the feature to implement automation on the process. The strategy used is almost always to read the sensor, the hardware cannot do PID or remote command.

All these points mentioned above are limits in the design of the tools,   not for technological reason, and represent an opportunity to improve the operations in terms of the level efficiency and safety.

The approach

The first and perhaps least complex thing is to integrate the system between the rig and the office to see the same thing at the same time (alarm, values, notes, notifications, screens, etc.). This requires taking some features from the rig and putting them in the office and vice versa.  To copy some features, from the office to the rig, it may be necessary to perform calculation and algorithm in the rig site to avoid using a lot of network bandwidth, also avoid data loss to maintain performance in case of network failure.

Once you have integrated the system, the next step is to prepare the system to show the different part of the process to suit the needs of the specialists (mud, maintenance, electrician, mechanical). Thi may not seem like a big deal but the way the data is displayed is crucial to understanding what’s going on.

The next step should be implement an alarm management system with all steps. It is common to confuse notification with alarms and this cause many calls that distract the operator’s attention. It is the source of some operation problems could lead to serious problems.

The system is now integrated, have alarms, can display other processes, and is capable of supporting network failure by doing calculation at the edge. It is time to move forward with the automation feature. At this point, first station to arrive is change the hardware that collect the sensors and transmit them to server to perform calculations and control algorithms in real time. Also add output signal to command actuators to modify the process. Next, the system must have the features in software to send the parameters and commands to the algorithms control. Both the changes made to the hardware and in the software must contemplate the security workflow to avoid incidents. Now is time to select the sensor and actuators to manage the process. This is a big challenge because it is important to find sensors and actuators that fit into the tight reduced spaces and rugged environment.

The team

The point mentioned above are important, however, having a team to accomplish them is crucial. The D&C area can use two ways to treverse this path. You can hire a company to do it or use internal resources to work with IT. In any case, the D&C area must have an internal position with the skills to lead the project. This position must have a digital skill. It means that knowledge about technology applied to the industry, about IT and about the process is needed. Without this position the project, has a high chance of failing. It may be that the area is tempted to use a drilling engineer to fill the position thinking that is more important to know about the process, this is an incorrect strategic because the project needs someone focus on the whole system. Another point of view is to use someone from IT, again is an incorrect strategic because the system focus will be the office system and leave the industrial system unattended.

Final thought

With the objective and the team on board, it is important make a roadmap that includes all the steps. Don’t forget the sponsors and stakeholders. The idea could be successful if the right people push from the bottom of the organization. But this option requires a lot of time and energy. It is easier to have good sponsors and powerful stakeholders; this is not enough, but allow you to put the most energy into the important part of the project.

It is important to keep in mind that all these things were done in other areas such us downstream, midstream, facilities or energy to achieve the necessary efficiency in the process to accompany the changes across the years.