The use of real-time information is growing and evolving at a rapid pace, and there is a growing industry shift toward using this data as an active part of the drilling process to improve performance.

What was once confined to high-AFE (authorization for expenditure) wells drilled in high-cost offshore environments is expanding into land operations that run on much lower budgets. Today there is a growing shift in the industry toward using real-time information to improve drilling performance. When real-time information is combined with software and other support tools, companies benefit from effective decision-making, personnel optimization, increased drilling efficiency, and cost reduction.

Industry Expert Kevin Brady Verdande Technology

The real-time infrastructure has vastly improved for land operations in recent years. Because of past methods and technology limitations, the proactive use of real-time information was mostly restricted to companies that could afford real-time centers – typically larger companies with large drilling budgets. Today’s tools no longer are confined to a real-time center. Now most rigs are fully instrumented and store real-time data in an electronic drilling recorder (EDR). Displays for viewing this information are networked from the rig to the office and can be accessed from remote locations through web protocols.

Technology opens the door to opportunity

The implementation of software and support tools is becoming more common due to their low-cost effectiveness, which is particularly beneficial in areas with high land activity such as the US and Canada and in more complex and technically challenging wells. The emergence of industry-standard protocols for data exchange, such as WITSML, is playing a big role in the wider use of real-time data.

Increasingly these tools are being used to effect better collaboration between personnel on the rig and supervisors in the office, which allows operators to develop response protocols for how they want to recognize, diagnose, and mitigate problems. When defined and followed properly, they also allow an operator to quickly escalate a situation to a higher level if first- and second-line mitigation efforts are not producing the desired result, or to bring in domain experts as the situation requires.

Another advantage of the new technologies is that they can greatly shorten the time required to train new engineers by exposing them to simultaneous drilling operations from a number of rigs. These technologies also can be used to leverage the experience of scarce subject matter experts across many wells or fields.

Real-time support tools also play a role in improving drilling efficiency. The tools can be used to update predrill models as new information becomes available, such as models for hydraulics, torque and drag, or pore pressure. Artificial intelligence tools also are being used to increase predictability and diagnosis of upcoming hazards. Statistical tools are being employed to improve operations efficiency, such as the time required to make a trip or make a connection.

Recent technical papers prove this approach is paying dividends. In an SPE paper presented earlier this year, the authors demonstrated how techniques dependent on real-time decision-making facilitated the reduction in days to depth for developing areas in land drilling. Another paper discussed how real-time technologies are supporting large scale-drilling operations that use mature commercial products built on the WITSML standard.

The final hurdle

Despite the successes, the final hurdle for ensuring effective real-time decision-making is cultural change. Using real-time technologies can greatly shorten the training time for new engineers by exposing them to simultaneous drilling operations from a number of rigs. And it can leverage the experience of scarce subject matter experts across many wells or fields. But unless this new way of making decisions is embraced both in the office and at the well site, the initiative will fail.

As the use of real-time technologies grows, the advantages it brings are becoming evident. Collaboration has resulted in lower costs, intelligent solutions, increased efficiency, and improved drilling performance. This shift in the industry will continue as more companies embrace this use of technology.

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