Future Trends – Automated Drilling

New Wave Media

July 15, 2014

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Some interesting trends are developing within the O & G industry, one of which is the trend towards increasingly automated drilling. Since the early stages of onshore and offshore drilling, the act of drilling itself has been undertaken as a hands-on job by specialized workers, along the last decade this has begun to change with the introduction of autonomous computer-controlled drilling operations, also known as drilling automation. Oil and Gas operators are developing technologies which they hope will allow drilling operations to be automated, consequently meeting their safety goal of zero people hurt on the job and also reducing drilling operation costs.

Drilling automation, should certainly become safer and more efficient, through process improvements, optimized rates of penetration, consistent hole quality and overall drilling performance, all of which will help operators reach their drilling objectives in the shortest time and with substantially lower costs. Drilling automation allows for repetition to occur without suffering from lapses in attention that its human known for. Robots are able to attain a high level of autonomy because there are few decisions to make and there is little uncertainty or variability in their environment and tasks. Algorithms can detect changes in rig data consistently and quickly, preventing problems early on. Algorithms are also capable of optimizing the machineries performance, within established parameters in real-time, which should allow the machinery to drill more efficiently.

Norway's Robotic Drilling Systems AS (formerly known as Seabed Rig), for example, has developed an autonomous robotic drilling rig for unmanned drilling operations. The company claims that the new system, Robotic Drilling System (RDS), sets new standards with increased safety and cost-effective planning and drilling and can be implemented on existing, as well as new drilling structures, both offshore and onshore. The company has taken their product a step further by signing an information-sharing agreement with NASA to discover what it might learn from the rover Curiosity. RDS uses an autonomous robotic working operations system that can be remotely controlled from an interactive 3D interface, which NASA has done for quite some time. The Mars rover is designed to collect data and take action on its own based on programmed reasoning. The industry is looking to replicate NASA's technological success by making drill bits more intelligent and able to respond instantly to any condition changes they run in to. The RDS system will also be incorporated with the submerged patented encapsulated and pressure compensated Seabed Rig for exploration drilling in harsh areas such as arctic or ultra deep waters. It is certainly possible that within the next decade we will see major automated drilling operations taking place on and offshore, primarily in remote locations and harsh deepwater and arctic environments.

Paschoa, Claudio
Claudio Paschoa is Marine Technology Reporter's correspondent in Brazil.