Since 2013, more than 6,500 students have passed through Noble’s drilling training facility located just outside of Houston. The building was meant to get the firm’s crews trained up on the newest breed of cyber-based drilling rigs.
But amid the slowdown in offshore activity, the company’s training arm— NobleAdvances—is looking to enroll student crews from oil companies and the service companies they use on their projects.
The 96-year-old drilling contractor believes that opening its training program this way will strengthen existing partnerships and possibly create new ones. It also sees itself offering the offshore sector an advantage that only a handful of facilities around the world can boast of: the ability to train crews under the same roof on the
industry-standard paper exercises along with large-scale drilling simulators. The two training methods are known as drilling the well on paper (DWOP) and drilling the well on simulator (DWOS). This tandem was introduced at the Noble facility just 2 years ago and represents the leading edge of offshore drilling training.
For a single offshore well, dozens of personnel from different companies take part in 2-3 days of these training exercises. It is a small yet valuable investment of time, according to Fritz Golding.
As the director of learning and development at NobleAdvances, Golding said that every well drilled following a DWOP and a DWOS exercise has been delivered under budget. “The operators are seeing this as the best way to go before a well is drilled,” he said, adding, “In this downturn, everyone is focused on financial security—and how you get that is by drilling efficient wells.”
Golding also noted that the dual- training program has become central to Noble’s own operations and is now being offered to clients ahead of every well campaign. By opening the facility up to more of the industry, the company is also aiming to improve itself by picking up new drilling efficiencies and lessons on procedural discipline—always important selling points in the high-stakes world of offshore drilling.
What is not a primary focus here is direct revenue generation. “We offer everything at cost, or even less, so we can have that interaction with our clients and prospective industry partners,” explained Patrick Ewbank, a commercial development manager at NobleAdvances.
Paper vs. The Sims
Paper-based drilling training remains an industry standard, and for good reasons. The DWOP places drilling contractors, operators, and service providers in the same room where they walk through the well plan step-by-step. The DWOP is also where the drilling teams meet for the first time before they spend several weeks working offshore together.
“Typically, when an operator contracts our rig, the crews are new to each other,” said Golding, adding that this is especially the case the DWOP is being run for the first well in a new campaign. So it becomes critical during this part of the training for these people to learn how to communicate with each other. Events can be triggered during a DWOP to see what their reactions and interactions are, giving operators and the drilling contractor a basis for judging their crews situational awareness level.
Things get more sophisticated when these people head into the simulation- based training which has received high- praise from drilling experts in recent years who have argued that changes in technology and increasingly complex geologies demand a better way to pre- pare crews for the high-stakes business of subsea well construction.
Among several things that simulators offer that a paper-based exercise cannot is the visual experience of looking out of the cabin windows and seeing the very rig to be used in the operation—even if it is still being built in the shipyard. Meta- ocean data can also be used to recreate the expected sea and weather conditions.
The simulators also reflect that the latest generation of offshore rigs are digital-based machines that require digital-based training to fully appreciate. Golding pointed out that in the past, drillers had mostly analogue gauges and a single brake handle to work with. Now, they sit in a pressurized cabin where they are surrounded by touch- screens that control a variety of automated systems.
Amid Downturn, Noble Invites Wider Industry Partners To Use Drilling Training Center
Trent Jacobs, JPT Digital Editor
03 August 2017