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Data aggregation may lead to exponential value in drilling automation

Posted on 08 March 2012

By Katherine Scott, editorial coordinator

Believing that data aggregation and its importance are “widely misunderstood,” Moray Laing, director of regional project development and managed innovation for Baker Hughes, stressed the need for efforts to resolve organizational issues between the various participants in the drilling process in order to advance drilling automation. Speaking at the 2012 IADC/SPE Drilling Conference in San Diego this week, he urged the SPE Drilling Systems Automation Technical Section (DSATS) to reopen a technical subcommittee on aggregation. A previous sub-group under DSATS didn’t clearly define the value of aggregation, he believes, but more work needs to be done. “We have to move forward with some urgency on this,” Mr Laing said.

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Moray Laing with Baker Hughes gave a presentation on 6 March at the 2012 IADC/SPE Drilling Conference with the goal of instigating the re-formation of an SPE sub-group to work on data aggregation at the rig site.

Although data aggregation is not required by a drilling automation system, Mr Laing argues it’s crucial if the industry is to really derive value out of automating the rig site. This is because interoperability between all the different systems is not enough. Not only do there have to be physical connections and protocols that allow for data exchange, data portability is needed to provide the proper context between systems, he said.

“This will facilitate the development of the next generation of intelligent systems,” he said. “Having control, measurement and decision isn’t enough. We have to add in a fourth piece: review. Why am I doing what I’m doing? What is the value I’m trying to get out of this system? … If we can provide review to our drilling automation system, then the added value derived from that is exponential.”

One example would be to control the rate of penetration based on predictive analytics assessed from formation evaluation data that’s provided by an LWD sensor. This would require having intelligent control and evaluation systems to monitor and exchange information and events within a shared perspective.

Currently in the movement toward drilling automation, the major industry stakeholders can be grouped into two parts, where the operator and service company are focusing on evaluation data and the use of WITS and WITSML, and the drilling contractors and equipment manufacturers have BUS systems (i.e., PROFIBUS) and OPC and are aggregating sensors data. However, there are limitations to these interoperable systems – for example, in explicitly identifying the meaning of data from the other systems, Mr Laing said. He noted that an additional oilfield-centric classification system would be required to clarify the meaning of the various data items that are exchanged.

To overcome the myriad barriers that would be involved, a strategic technology development path should be developed that is mapped to the end user needs, he advocated. Further, this effort must incorporate input from all stakeholders, from rig contractors to operators to service companies and equipment suppliers. “It’s no use if we set up another standards committee and we don’t have everybody fully engaged,” Mr Laing said. “(Data aggregation) is a large effort; it’s going to take some time. It will deliver a lot of value to the industry, but we need to start and we need to start now.”

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