Aerospace design addresses risks of deepwater drilling

Posted on 30 October 2012

By Katie Mazerov, contributing editor

With a background in the aerospace industry, Bastion Technologies has developed an intervention system to automate the control and separation of a well under upset conditions.

With a background in the aerospace industry, Bastion Technologies has developed an intervention system to automate the control and separation of a well under upset conditions.

Bastion Technologies, an engineering services company that started out in the space industry, has developed a well control intervention system designed to automate the control and separation of a well under upset conditions and leave a clean interface to return to the well. “We feel it is important to look at well control from the perspective of intervention rather than rely on remediation after an event has occurred,” said Dana Kelley, director of Bastion’s OGP (Oil, Gas and Petrochemical) division. “We called on our NASA experience in the area of failure modes and effects analysis to address reliability and safety issues and deal with aspects of well control and drilling systems that are impacted by the fact there is a man in the loop, which can result in unrecoverable events due to  reaction and control latency.”

The IntrSeptr (Intervention Separator) was designed for deepwater applications but can be used in any depths and at any pressure,” Mr Kelley explained. The technology has been tested in laboratory environments and will be deployed for field trials in the next six to 12 months.

The system is not designed to replace a BOP nor interfere with the current approach to offshore drilling, he emphasized. “The IntrSeptr ensures that the man-in-the-loop problems that can occur in conventional offshore drilling are addressed through a process called ‘Well Personality Recognition,’ which looks at the characteristics of the hardware, the BOP, the lower marine riser package (LMRP) and other key components, and determines the state of the system based on Bastion’s well personality recognition software.

“Once IntrSeptr has established an optimum state for a well, the IntrSeptr’s embedded control system can determine if the nominal, or appropriate, drilling operations are being performed by the topside through conventional mechanisms, such as operations of the BOP stack.”

Ensuring a reliable disconnect

The technology also provides the ability to cut through bigger pieces of drill string and drill collars with a high-energy shear to ensure the string can be cleanly severed, allowing the system to automatically disconnect the top part of its assembly from the bottom part, “like a launch escape system operates in the event of a launch abort,” he continued. The system completely closes off the well with built-in equipment, leaving a clean interface that will allow an operator to return to the well and reattach the riser.

The mechanism replaces the first piece of riser typically above the LMRP, just above the flex joint. “This is an autonomous device, not visible to the drilling operator, that is there to make a determination that the well is out of control beyond the ability of the man in the loop to control it,” he said. The 45-ft tall equipment is roughly the size of a BOP.

Mr Kelley added that the main goal was to design something that could be easily integrated into the existing offshore infrastructure and drilling systems.

Likening the technology to a ground fault circuit interrupter or an air bag, he said the system will engage only when the conventional protocols are determined to be failing. “The IntrSeptr is not meant to control a kick or initiate separation under nominal conditions, such as in the event of a storm. It is there to make a determination based on the well personality recognition software and on the command and control system we have developed to determine when the well conditions have exceeded the ability of the topside to maintain or regain control.”

Work on the IntrSeptr began in 2010.

IntrSeptr is a registered term of Bastion Technologies.

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