A breakthrough in drilling automation


DrillTronics™ will be the first permanent installation of an automated drilling system for conventional drilling. The drillers at Statfjord C will take the system into use within this year's summer.

IRIS is excited that many years of thorough research within automated drilling has led to results that are commercially available.

The role of Drilling Control Systems is focused on ensuring the proper behavior of the drilling machines. DrillTronics™ introduces a paradigm shift by extending the functionalities of the Drilling Control System to encompass a safe management of the drilling operation itself. DrillTronics™ controls actively the draw-work, top-drive and mud pumps by applying safe guards and safety triggers. These protect the well from potential damage that could be caused by inappropriate movements of the drill-string or drilling fluids.

A tool that assists the drillers
Because these drilling operation protection mechanisms are continuously updated as a function of the ever changing estimated downhole conditions, it is possible to automate standard drilling procedures and therefore gain in consistencies while running drilling operations. The end result is a tool that assists the drillers while drilling wells with reduced margins, and at the same time decreases the occurrence of drilling incidents that could be the source of non-productive time.

IRIS started developing the system back in 2001. The project has been supported by Statoil, Chevron, Eni, BP, Skattefunn and Demo2000, and has been successfully validated during two pilot tests on an offshore installation in the North Sea. In preparation for a permanent installation on Statfjord C, National Oilwell Varco has tightly integrated the DrillTronics™ functionalities into their Cyberbase Drilling Control System.

Sekal responsible for the commercialization
Last November, the integrated system has passed with success a factory acceptance test conducted by Statoil and Archer, the drilling contractor company at the rig site. Archer’s drilling crews from Statfjord C will also attend DrillTronics™ training sessions. Sekal, a start-up company founded on the DrillTronics™ and DrillScene™ technology, is responsible for the commercialization.

-We need technologies like DrillTronics™ to enable fully automated drilling, says Ronny Bergerud, project manager for DrillTronics™ in Sekal. -Without real-time knowledge of the complex dynamics inside a well, automated drilling will be like driving a car with blindfolds. This first installation of DrillTronics™ marks the beginning of a fully automated drilling process, Bergerud says.

Statoil the first to install the technology
IRIS would like to especially thank Statoil for their continuous support during all the development phases of this drilling automation project, and for being the first operator to install the DrillTronics™ system. It is of great importance that they have taken the responsibility to be the first to install such a step-changing technology.

Eric Cayeux, IRIS, and Suni Pollekkat, Sekal, during the DrillTronicsTM factory acceptance test at NOV’s location.

Drilltronics™ is part of IRIS’s project portfolio within automated drilling. Automated drilling has been one of IRIS’s three main strategic areas since 2008.

Narrow geo-pressure margins and complex well geometries are stretching the limits by which it is hard to drill wells without experiencing drilling incidents and thereby causing delays and increased well construction costs. By enforcing drilling process envelope of protections at the source, i.e. at the drilling machine levels, we can offer assistance to drillers that help them drill more efficiently, says Eric Cayeux, chief scientist at IRIS, and one of the main contributors to the development and industrialization of DrillTronics™.

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