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Drilling Rigs & Automation

Opportunities, hurdles line industry’s path to making subsea equipment smarter

There are relatively few sensor suppliers in the subsea field, and a need exists for sensors to be developed to meet the demands of the harsh deepwater environment. Such developments take time, can cost significant sums and, if pursued without regard to the benefits of standardization, will lead to multiple solutions of different sizes, using different connectors and implementing different protocols and, thereby, lead to a lack of interchangeability.

To support increases in safety, reliability and operational economics, equipment used in the oil and gas industry must be made smarter. How is this going to be achieved, e.g. how will original equipment manufacturers (OEM) instrument both old and new equipment? Where are the new sensors going to come from? Condition-based monitoring (CBM) and predictive maintenance systems such as Cameron’s Cognition utilize new sensors fitted to subsea systems.

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Drilling programs give university students hands-on exposure to automation, simulation

The University of Texas at Austin’s Cockrell School of Engineering is home to the only drilling real-time operations center (RTOC) in a university setting. Students participating in UT’s RAPID program can use the RTOC to analyze real-time and historical well data to search for potential efficiency gains. Dr Eric van Oort, who leads RAPID, said he believes that preparing students to work with data is important because data is the future of drilling.

A growing number of universities, research institutes and oil and gas industry groups are investing in programs that put students in front of the industry before they graduate. Three such programs are the Rig Automation Performance Improvement in Drilling (RAPID) at the University of Texas at Austin (UT); Drilling Simulator Celle, affiliated with Clausthal University of Technology in Germany; and the Drillbotics competition sponsored by the SPE Drilling Systems Automation Technical Section (DSATS).

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Applying systematic approach, FMECA during rig design, construction can mitigate risk of costly downtime later on

Figure 2: The FMECA is a bottom-up approach. It emphasizes failure escalation from component to sub-system to system to the entire rig.

Risk assessment process should emphasize preparation, participation, technical content to maximize effectiveness By Wael Abouamin, Energy Risk Consulting Building a deepwater rig that incorporates the latest technical and automation innovations requires planning, coordination and a thorough understanding of the limitations of people and machines. Implementing a risk assessment and management program is an essential part of the rig-building process. Consider some of the challenges in the construction of a sixth-generation ultra-deepwater rig: • Highly complex systems designed and manufactured by multiple vendors; • Integrating complex systems with the shipyard-built systems; • Highly automated systems that require coordination and integration; • Highly automated systems that need to be operated by rig personnel; • Highly automated systems that need to be maintained ...

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Operational safety, integrity challenges, expectations evolve as global rig fleet ages

Looking at jackup site assessments, one area that requires additional effort is leg foundation fixity. ABS is working with universities – Oxford, Cambridge, University of Western Australia and the National University of Singapore – to interpret and apply their findings to potential solutions. ABS is also upgrading its classification rules to reflect relevant classification criteria based on Load and Resistance Factor Design, recently introduced by ISO 19900.

In addition, jackups that work in cold air temperature environments must be designed to contend with the effect of sea spray, which can freeze instantly and accumulate on the exposed portions of the rig structure. Beyond the immense added weight that may compromise the structural integrity of the rig without consideration of winterization, systems – both operational and safety related – may also be compromised.

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New process automation platform aims to pave path to drilling consistency, efficiency


Demand for automated technology continues to grow throughout the industry despite the decline in oil price and reduction in capital spend across the board. Driven by sub-optimal industry conditions, operators are searching for faster, safer and more consistent wells, leaving drilling contractors the difficult task of optimizing their rigs. Contractors are faced with several challenges to compete in the current market: how to maintain operations with a shrinking workforce, how to enhance their existing fleet, and how to safely manage a multitude of third parties vying to optimize the control of their assets.

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