Larry Dickerson, CEO and president of Diamond Offshore Drilling speaks with Drilling Contractor associate editor, Katherine Scott, about the company’s new Ocean Technology Center dedicated to preparing employees for the future of drilling. The center houses multiple classrooms, a customer conference room, and several simulators including a 180° dome-shaped simulator.
By Katherine Scott, associate editor
Addressing the increasing complexity of drilling technology and equipment, Diamond Offshore Drilling recently opened its 15,000-sq-ft Ocean Technology Center in Houston. A $9.2-million investment, the facility has been designed to centralize a multitude of training, from crane operations to rig stability to actual drilling, into one location. The first phase of the center was completed in March, with phase two to complete the center’s second floor beginning in the summer. When the center is fully operational, Diamond Offshore expects to train 1,200 students there a year. Twelve instructors currently serve the center, and one more will be added when both phases of construction are complete.
Instead of using lecture-based classes, the Ocean Technology Center will primarily use four simulators to help students engage with the learning material. Three have been installed, and a fourth, the stability simulator, is expected to move from the Diamond Offshore office to the new center in early 2014.
“Our goal is to have everybody on a simulator 60% to 70% of their learning day,” A.J. Guiteau, director of learning & development for Diamond Offshore, said of the basic drilling course. “By the end of the course, we’ll have exposed them to 18 different drilling practices; it’s designed to be a foundation for all of our guys.”
The company offers complimentary training for customer representatives and their engineers, as well as training for its own employees. “Regulatory inspectors attend classes as well but are required under federal guidelines to pay a commercial fee,” Mr Guiteau explained. The basic drilling course takes five days, and once the employee has two years of work experience, they come back for a two-week advanced drilling course.
The centerpiece of the facility is a 20-ft-tall and 40-ft-wide, 180° dome-shaped drilling simulator. It reconstructs the entire drill floor using seven projectors with laser readers that project a series of dots onto the inside of the dome that then bend the portrayed images.
“You sit in the driller’s cabin and you’re pretty much immersed on this floor,” Mr Guiteau said. “The drilling simulation is extremely realistic and can show real-time downhole simulations of up to 20 problem zone areas in a proposed well. Exploratory well designs can be put onto the simulators with problems induced into any zone. The simulations are not predictive but are practice to heighten critical awareness and procedures during those potentially risky zones.”
The first basic drilling classes start in June, with 130 students coming in over five months.
Seventy PCs equipped with $86,000 worth of graphics cards control three individual simulators: traditional drilling, crane and dome-shaped drilling simulator. To create a realistic experience, noises, configurations and controls are all just as they would be on a real rig. “The traditional model of learning in the field was apprenticeship. We don’t have as much time to make a driller anymore, so what you would’ve learned in that time, we’re going to give you the tools and instruments to let you see, touch, play and watch what happens. Then when you go out to the real world, it won’t be as foreign to you.”
The traditional drilling simulator has a drill floor that is set up like most rigs, with a brake, manual controls and analog instruments. “We do two students and an instructor at this simulator, so the learning level is very high and our knowledge of the student becomes better so we know the student’s capabilities.”
The crane simulator represents two types of cranes that the company uses on its rigs: Seatrax and knuckleboom. “We can change cranes just by changing the software. The crane operator would come in, plus his signalman and his rigger, and they would participate in the same scenario at the same time,” Mr Guiteau said.
Of the three simulator rooms, the crane and dome simulators also each have a “déjà vu” station, which follows and documents every action on the simulator so it can be replayed as a learning tool. Instructors oversee a command center that controls each simulator while the students train.
The Ocean Technology Center currently has three classrooms synchronized with one another and with the simulators; together they’re able to accommodate approximately 160 people. “Technically, I can have a spud meeting with 85 people in one room, 45 in another, and I can project the simulations of the equipment on all of these screens at the same time so you can do a live well proposal,” he said.
The center also provides highly equipped rooms to accommodate meetings with operators or with internal staff. In addition, a company meeting room is available to accommodate 300 people. “When we want to do a spud meeting for a customer, we can bring all their engineers, superintendents and our team leaders in, and we can actually do scenarios together, which is a powerful thing in terms of training because then everybody gets to form a team over the high-risk portions of the development.”