Adoption of tablets, mobile devices was rolled across the rig fleet in late 2017 after iterative development process
By Annejifke Andrew and Adebayo Aremu, KCA Deutag
The industry strives to build a culture where everyone consistently adheres to defined procedures. It works to ensure that all procedures are clear, concise, correct and easy to understand, so that people think before they act. When a better way of doing a job is identified, the process is reviewed, vetted, documented and approved before any changes are made. Additionally, procedural discipline must be measured, recorded and reported in a simple and robust manner.
The above words, paraphrased from the Well Control Institute, reflect what the drilling industry is trying to achieve on every shift, on every rig. In 2015, KCA Deutag faced a challenge, set by its workforce, to do things differently. The workforce wanted clearer and more easily accessible work procedures, and the company responded.
The establishment of clear and concise work procedures is essential in creating a safe and efficient environment within any drilling operation. Easily comprehensible procedures help to ensure that drilling crews consistently follow best practices and that any historical lessons learned are systematically applied. This approach can help to optimize operational efficiency and minimize the potential for human error.
In some instances, clearer work procedures also have an important role in controlling workflow. They ensure that appropriate approvals are obtained prior to commencing critical operational tasks.
In the early days of the oil industry, utilization of documented procedures for routine drilling activities wasn’t commonplace. However, the industry experienced a major shift in the mid-1990s with the adoption of written work procedures. This change to workplace culture came about as the industry sought to reduce the number of safety incidents, while improving overall operational performance. Over time, the use of written procedures has expanded to include most, if not all, routine drilling activities.
It has often been argued that an experienced crew can easily complete most tasks from memory and that the use of written procedures isn’t required. However, root-cause investigations throughout the industry have shown that the majority of incidents and significant nonproductive time (NPT) events are caused either by a lack of adequate procedures or the crew failing to use the available procedures correctly.
In barrier management, barriers are classified according to their effectiveness. Paper-based work procedures are considered soft barriers due to the potential for the workforce to ignore or incorrectly interpret such documents. The ability to get smart feedback on the utilization of the barrier management processes – in this case, work procedures – is key to making these barriers more robust.
To ensure a safe and efficient work environment, it is critical to verify that adequate procedures have been effectively implemented. Paper-based systems provide limited means of verification; just because a procedure has been printed out does not mean it has been understood or followed.
As part of a routine feedback cycle, KCA Deutag commissioned a safety climate survey to understand the effectiveness of its hazard mitigation activities. Detailed workforce consultations were held to seek feedback and identify opportunities to practically improve operations.
During the consultations, the workforce raised key points and identified multiple opportunities:
• Ease of access, particularly on the rig floor;
• Simple and easy-to-understand solutions;
• Access to lessons learned from previous jobs; and
• Access to other information required for the task, e.g. user manuals.
Operational management also expressed a desire to improve the process for verifying that work procedures are used. Specifically, they wanted ways to confirm that the latest version of a procedure is used each time an activity is performed.
Lessons from other Industries
The aviation, nuclear and medical industries use checklists to ensure critical steps in processes and operations are not forgotten. In these high-risk environments, a small mistake can have catastrophic consequences. Years of improving compliance with procedures have resulted in the rigorous use of checklists to eliminate human errors.
Mobile technology is widely used for this purpose, with one device able to accommodate all the required checklists. The advantage is that it allows simplification of procedures to a few essential steps, with more detailed information provided as a prompt when required.
Storage space available on today’s tablets also allows pictures of the operations, lessons learned and manufacturers’ operations manuals to be stored and be readily accessible.
Defining the Solution
The use of digital checklists on tablet computers was identified as an ideal and practical way to meet the requirements. Developing the technology for the specific needs of the drilling contractor, however, did present challenges. The solution must meet the following requirements:
1. It has to be suitable for all locations, including those with low internet connectivity;
2. The data collected, e.g. completed checklists, change requests, etc, need to be returned to a central server;
3. Offline access is required at the point of use; e.g. rig floor;
4. Periodic synchronization functionality, at a convenient time, e.g. when the tablet is charging;
5. Ability to cope with extreme temperatures, from -55°C in the Arctic to 55°C in desert environments; and
6. Tablets need to be intrinsically safe and ATEX Zone 1 compliant.
Finally, because KCA Deutag operates across multiple countries, its procedures must be available in different languages. Whatever the solution was determined to be, it had to minimize any written content so the need for translations would be kept to a minimum. The goal was to deliver a simple solution.
To create KCA Deutag’s digital operational checklist, it was necessary to put together a multidisciplinary project team which included experienced operational personnel and the right blend of functional professionals committed to doing things differently. The project also required rigid and robust processes for developing the software application solution. These helped to maintain control of the specification and costs, ensure that the final product met the needs of the end users, and achieved the stated goals by providing opportunities to improve operations.
During the development process, the tablet and digital checklists application underwent iterative improvements based on feedback obtained from operations teams, leading to better functionality.
The phased rollout of the digital checklist application began in October 2017 to replace the paper-based work procedures in both offshore and land drilling operations. A feedback mechanism, built into the system, provided invaluable input from the workforce.
The data received so far indicate that each rig submits between 30-60 checklists every week. Fluctuations in the numbers depends on the nature of ongoing operations, e.g., fewer checklists are submitted on days when a rig is drilling compared with when other operations are ongoing.
Some of the most frequently used checklists across the fleet are:
• Transferring drilling fluids;
• Operation of the Iron Roughneck;
• Tripping in/out of hole;
• Picking up and laying down the bottomhole assembly;
• Transferring bulk liquids; and
• Changing out the top drive wash pipe assembly.
Operational and safety performance are often spoken about separately. In reality, they work hand in hand, contributing to the efficient operation of a rig and the delivery of successful wells. The development of checklists and the data collected provides a unique opportunity to correlate the relationship between the use of agreed procedures, and safety and rig operational performance.
Initial analysis – using business intelligence reporting and a sampling of identical rigs working in identical fields – demonstrates that the rigs with the best safety performance are also the most receptive and compliant with the use of the digital checklists. These rigs also tend to have the best operational performance, with a lower NPT percentage, fewer major operational failures and lower well “flat” times.
Performance improvement initiatives typically fall into two categories: completing well construction activities more quickly, and removing activities from the critical path to minimize waiting or flat time. Analysis of the individual activities that make up a typical well program will lead to innovative, more efficient and/or safer ways to carry out the operational steps.
These improvements may mean that crews will need to carry out tasks differently in the future. Digital checklists will provide a way to verify that the crew have followed the procedures correctly.
Encouraged by the positive feedback from the field, KCA Deutag is implementing further improvements to the digital checklists application, e.g., a job-scheduling tool that will allow rig management to plan upcoming work and add lessons learned so that these are presented to the crew before they are about to perform a task.
Ultimately, the aim of the digital checklists is to improve rig operational and safety performance. The implementation of this system and the subsequent data collected is invaluable in helping to deliver value for clients, today and into the future. DC
This article is based on a presentation at IADC World Drilling 2018, 19-20 June, Copenhagen, Denmark. DC