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Simulators vital to earning well-control competency

Posted on 15 April 2010

The Drilling & Advanced Rig Training (DART) facility features a full scale reproduction of the rig floor with cyberbase chairs for the driller and assistant driller.

The Drilling & Advanced Rig Training (DART) facility features a full scale reproduction of the rig floor with cyberbase chairs for the driller and assistant driller.

Drilling simulators can play an important and cost effective role in training for managed pressure drilling, according to Jim Borthwick of KCA Deutag Drilling.

He spoke at the IADC Well Control Europe 2010 conference & exhibition in Aberdeen, and said that the DART (Drilling & Advanced Rig Training) facility in the city had already played an invaluable role in MPD and that it had been used to great effect in the Gullfaks field operated by Statoil.

The brief for Gullfaks was to complete training without impacting normal in-field operations.

In essence, this was about getting already experienced personnel accustom to unfamiliar MPD drilling techniques and practices through repetition in a fail-safe environment.

They would have to accurately manage down-hole annular pressures and be capable of carrying out emergency procedures and contingency events.

“While doing all this, as a team, they were tasked to capture the results and modify procedures to help the operation go much more efficiently once the (Gullfaks) operation started up in earnest,” said Mr Borthwick.

“Hand-in-hand this happens in 100% of simulator training events. Teamwork always happens. people are communicating and  as far as they’re concerned they’re in a tactile situation. Hands-on things are happening, they’re making changes, there are consequences and they have to alter their behavior/reactions to prevent those consequences from becoming a critical event,” he said.  “This hopefully reduced the learning curve for the offshore crews.”

In the Gullfaks case, a total of 77 people ranging from drillers to toolpushers to MPD specialists attended the DART facility across four courses.

The program covered training on routine operations within MPD: tripping, drilling, connections; training on transition between MPD and well control; and training on emergency procedures, namely influx, loss of circulation, power failure (drawworks /pump) leakage on surface equipment, well control scenarios, blocking of choke and blocking of nozzles.

Mr Borthwick said, not only did the crew learn and enjoy the experience, but the use of this approach by Statoil led to an improvement of MPD procedures, with 87 changes carried out.

“Most importantly, the drillers felt more confident to handle managed pressure drilling,” said Mr Borthwick.

“Crews thrive on hands-on training, acting as a drill team in a risk-free low-cost environment. To provide this experiential training without the use of a simulator would require rigs which would have to be experiencing actual problems. That’s not practical and very, very expensive and the consequences could be very severe.”

The plan is to expand MPD training into the wider industry and, like the Gullfaks project, train personnel in a safe environment without impacting daily operations.

Mr Borthwick said the approach was so cost-effective that 20 days of simulator training could be carried out for the cost of hiring an average rig for one day.

There will be focus on unfamiliar drilling operations and procedures; on well control and on the testing and tuning of MPD-control systems.

It will enable the drilling of demanding wells in a simulator before doing it offshore and of course train new personnel.

When asked whether reliance on a simulator-based approach could lead to unwarranted risk taking, Mr Borthwick’s response was robust: “It’s very important to emphasize the consequences of actions, the severity of what can happen. This is not a PlayStation and it’s not Disneyland.”

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