Sound advice

Elaine Maslin

September 1, 2016

Being able to see what is happening downhole real-time is one thing. Having the subject matter experts on the job, see the same data, as well as predictive analysis and all helpfully visualized, from wherever they might be, is another. BP and Kongsberg have been working on it. Elaine Maslin found out more.

Shedding light on drilling operations. Photo from iStock. 

The 21st century world is becoming ever interconnected and automated. It could be argued that space and military technology are leading the way.

In the military, drones are flown over remote regions by pilots sitting in offices on a military camp the other side of the world. At another location, expert facial recognition staff assess the images the drones gather. Both sites are then linked via satellite to a mission commander at another location, who is liaising with a superior elsewhere, and, in turn, consulting a defense minister, etc.

Thanks to today’s communications technologies, they’re all connected. They’re all able to see the same information at the same time and then make decisions, drawing on live analysis from the subject matter experts as well as real-time live data and visualizations.

It’s a world the oil industry isn’t too far away from emulating. BP and Norway’s Kongsberg have been working together for several years to develop something similar – it’s just that it’s for optimizing well construction operations, not military operations.

By the end of this year, the BP Well Advisor project will have seen the creation and deployment of a suite of 11 “consoles,” which integrate real-time data with predictive tools, processes and knowledge from subject matter experts to help and improve efficiencies and reduce down time on a range of activities from casing running to tripping and remote BOP pressure testing. Some use similar “widgets,” such as a 2D wellbore visualization tool, and all have been created by mining BP’s specialists to create operational specific tools that have then been put through iterative testing and trials in real world situations.

It’s not just about offering visualizations, says John Wearing, Kongsberg Digital’s Houston-based president. These tools provide a wide range of workflows across drilling operations, with built in business logic and business flow processes, presented at the right time, in one common framework.

For example, using the casing running console, the first of which were rolled out in 2013, some US$200 million was saved by 2015, thanks to this console being able to prevent stuck casing incidents, and that figure is now up past $300 million, says Ken Gibson, BP’s wells technology manager. The system has been rolled out to some 28 rigs globally with some 1400km of tubulars run with no stuck tubular incidents, he says.

The Casing Running Console increases situational awareness during the casing running process where stuck casing incidents and sub-optimal placement can contribute to costly non-productive time. Images from Kongsberg.

“There’s a terrific amount of real-time data that exists from any well construction operation,” Gibson says. “The realization, in today’s volatile oil business, was that anything we could do to reduce inefficiency in these operations, improve assurance and well integrity of the well plus monitor critical equipment, such as BOP stacks, should be targeted.”

Roll the clock back and this collaboration between BP and Kongsberg started even earlier. In 2007, BP started using Kongsberg’s SiteCom, a system which acquires, stores and aggregates real-time drilling data. This then gets visualized in SiteCom Discovery another Kongsberg tool. BP had, however, for some time been looking at where and how real-time data utilization could evolve and decided to take the next step.

“By monitoring real-time results, visualizing certain parameters, comparing that with a prepared plan of what should be happening, you can see when you get a significant deviation,” Gibson says. “You have the ability to see if something isn’t right and you are able to stop and assess if you should continue or need another solution. In casing running, you could, for instance, be getting higher than anticipated drag forces. You could decide to proceed or pull the casing the string and clean the hole prior to re-running, stuck casing events are costly in both time and money.”

The casing running console was developed first as a proof of concept. The real-time data required existed, as did the in-house algorithms looking at hook-loads, drag and pick-up weights of the string being run. Bringing all of this together into a live system with data visualization wasn’t.

A lot of work has been done to build infrastructure to analyze and visualize this data in real-time. “We have worked with technical specialists within BP, defining the console objectives, what the information we need to see is and how it needs to be seen so it is useful in decision making,” Gibson says. “A specification is compiled, Kongsberg develop the software which is then tested and subject to field trial.”

The Completions Console supports the real-time transmission of the connection make-up torque data for analysis by completion engineers. 

The casing running console provides real-time monitoring of casing, liner and completions running operations, as well as early warning indicators that helps reduce stuck pipe incidents and mud losses. It includes an automated drag chart, detection of static friction, trip schedule versus actual running speeds, hook load warning indicators, and a hook load signature showing calculated values of interest.

Having developed and proved the casing running console, the project moved on to the next 10 consoles, including; cementing; pressure testing; BOP monitoring; rig site fluid management; no drilling surprises (displays correlation to sub-surface boundaries, zones of overpressure, and pre-drill risks); rate of penetration, drilling operations (well bore stability and hole cleaning); tripping; completions; and remote BOP pressure testing.

Development of the BP Well Advisor consoles will be complete by end of 2016 and so attention is focused on deployment of the consoles globally and transition to sustaining operations.

The tools are deployed to the regions most suited to them and where there’s a particular job that would benefit from the support of a subject matter expert, they can be drawn in, remotely.

“One of the advantages is anyone [given access] can look at the same data.” This enables “shared situational awareness,” Gibson says. “You can have onshore personnel in Houston or Sunbury plus operations personnel in the field (both onshore and on rig) all looking at the same data. This replaces phone calls to transfer information and associated interpretations, which hopefully leads to better decision-making.”

For Kongsberg, the next step is to take similar tools to the wider market, as SiteCom WellAdvisor. The capability to develop consoles for pretty much anything anyone wants is also available, Wearing says.

Yet, it’s still not that easy to get technologies such as these deployed. First there’s the business case. But, then there’s also the human pushback, from staff who’re comfortable doing it how they’ve always done it.

“One of the things we were actively looking at a few years ago when we initiated consoles, would be making them available to everyone and anyone,” Wearing says. “The realization was that certain consoles lend themselves very well to 24/7 monitoring type environment, where certain people monitor them every day from one location, i.e. Houston. This could be certain high-risk wells. Then the consoles can also be used as an alert to say something is outside certain parameters and the expert can then assist decision making. It becomes more efficient.” Indeed, in the future the system could even move from an advisory system to something more automated.