Drilling Systems Automation and Management

Topics: Drilling automation

Systems automation is generating considerable interest within the drilling community. Results of extended field operations with these systems were published this year. An offshore deployment in the North Sea shows savings of approximately 10%, with exceptional repeatability and optimization of activities such as breaking gels. An onshore deployment in a factory-­drilling environment in the Bakken, using wired pipe, shows good results in delivering top-quartile performance while indicating room for improvement in systems automation.

As systems automation becomes more widespread in drilling, simulators are required to plan, train rig crews, and monitor real-time operations. The role of drilling simulators can only increase in the future, because training of crews must improve for automation. Demanning at the wellsite is feasible only if the remaining crewmembers are well-trained across multiple disciplines. Real-time monitoring using simulators is not new, but it is approaching a higher level of sophistication with real-time calibration and validation of modeled parameters.

Alongside automation, in-depth studies at the field level can produce exceptional improvements in drilling efficiency, especially when planning and optimization use new technologies to drive that improvement. This systems approach to drilling is aimed at better understanding of issues that hinder efficiency, coupled with implementing methods and technologies that are available in the industry to address identified barriers to efficiency.

The thought-provoking papers presented here represent a good overview of these topics in drilling systems automation and drilling management.

Systems architecture is a structure used to describe the hierarchy of digital feedback loops with different latencies that are inherent to any system. For the drilling industry, the system architecture construct is the drilling systems automation, decision-making, and control framework, which is based on the International Society of Automation 95 standard used in many other industries. This structure allows drilling-­automation and drilling-management developers to describe the data flow and control in manual and automated systems at different operational levels. One of the recommended additional-­reading papers—SPE 178814—describes how this framework was developed to bring ­cohesion to the highly fragmented nature of the drilling industry.

The recommend additional reading shows the high level of activity, and level of broad drilling knowledge, within drilling automation and management. A special mention should be made of SPE 174920, which was written by the winners of the first SPE Drilling Systems Automation Technical Section (DSATS) drillbotics competition. The drillbotics competition objective was to build a fully automated model of a drilling rig that can drill through an unknown block of rock. The paper is quite instructional and shows the wealth of talent available to the oil industry. Read it; you will not be disappointed.

Recommended Additional Reading

SPE/IADC 178814 Systems Architecture and Operations States for Drilling and Completion: The Foundation to Real Performance Measurement and Drilling-Systems Automation by John P. de Wardt, De Wardt and Company, et al.

SPE 174920 Design, Construction, and Operation of an Automated Drilling Rig for the DSATS University Competition by V.A. Bavadiya, Saudi Aramco, et al.

OTC 27145 Real-Time Monitoring Using All Available Data Plays a Vital Role in Successful Drilling Operations by Cory Moore, Ikon Science, et al.

SPE/IADC 178850 True Lies: Measuring Drilling and Completion Efficiency by John P. de Wardt, De Wardt and Company, et al.

SPE/IADC 178862 Use of a Transient Cuttings-Transport Model in the Planning, Monitoring, and Post-Analysis of Complex Drilling Operations in the North Sea by Eric Cayeux, IRIS, et al.


John Macpherson, SPE, is a senior technical advisor for drilling services for Baker Hughes. He has been in the oil and gas industry for more than 40 years, much of that time with Baker Hughes in the upstream industry. Macpherson spent the first 7 years of his career in operations in South America before transitioning to applications research. His technical interests include measurement-while-drilling (MWD) systems, drilling-measurements (especially drilling dynamics) signal processing, MWD telemetry systems, enhanced-geothermal-system technologies, and drilling-systems automation. Macpherson has held various research and development management posts, has published extensively, holds several patents, and has been a committee member of SPE conferences. He is the current chairperson of the SPE Drilling Systems Automation Technical Section and a member of the Drilling Systems Automation Roadmap initiative. Macpherson holds a BS degree in geology from the University of Glasgow. He is a member of the JPT Editorial Committee and a 2016–17 SPE Distinguished Lecturer. Macpherson can be reached at john.macpherson@bakerhughes.com.

Drilling Systems Automation and Management

John Macpherson, SPE, Senior Technical Advisor, Drilling Services, Baker Hughes

14 August 2016

Volume: 68 | Issue: 9