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Rig Instrumentation Technology: Facilitating Drilling Operations and Reducing Cost

Rig Instrumentation Technology: Facilitating Drilling Operations and Reducing Cost

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Published by: mihirddakwala on Nov 10, 2009
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Peter Buckley, Petron Industries
effi-cient, safe and cost-effective drilling hasnot, in times past, been easy to accessand analyze. Vital information, key toboth the identification of drilling prob-lems and ways of improving drilling per-formance, can be difficult to find. Dis-persed and often well hidden among routine data collected in morning reports, tour reports, mud reports, bitrecords, drill recorder charts, circularcharts, and the mud log, this informa-tion is tedious and time-consuming toidentify and assemble together in ameaningful form.But things have changed. A rapid evolu-tion in drilling instrumentation, thanksto innovations in sensing technology and improved computer designs, hasbrought to the drilling operation a pow-erful tool with great potential. Now, atthe same instant that the driller is watching the drilling parameters at theconsole in front of him, a complete andaccurate record of the entire drilling process from spud to TD is being storedautomatically. These valuable data fromroutine, significant, and extraordinary events recorded on a foot-by-foot andtime basis have become easy to accessand review, both during and afterdrilling, providing valuable insight intothe causes of equipment failures andhole problems. The accuracy of the datadocumented usually leaves little roomfor doubt or conjecture as to exactly  what events took place and when.Engineers learn early on that inaccu-rate data leads to incorrect conclusionsand poor decisions. It is not necessary to work with rough estimates andapproximations of drilling data, whenaccurate information is available froman instrumentation system, the cost of  which will probably be dwarfed by itscontribution to savings in time, materi-als and effort. Not all instrumentationsystems perform in the same way, how-ever. Selecting the best system compo-nents to match the user’s needs and therig’s intended operating environment, while taking full advantage of thenumerous advances in sensor display,computing power and communicationstechnology, can be a challenge for eventhe most technologically competent.
 Accuracy in measurement of drilling parameters begins at the sensors. Thesensors are the most important andfundamental part of any rig instru-mentation system. Most drilling rigscarry as original equipment electro-mechanical and hydraulic sensors. While it would be difficult to operate arig without them, subtle changes indrilling parameter behavior which areimportant in identifying developing drilling situations are often masked.These types of sensors have built-ininaccuracies that produce non-linearresponses and, in addition, tend to show  variations in readings with temperaturechanges. A new generation of highly accuratesensors has become available in recent years which makesuse of solid-statemeasuring tech-niques. Compensa-tion for sensordrift over a wideoperating temper-ature range is pre-cise and reliable,and ultra-stablecalibration characteristics mean thattime-consuming calibration proceduresat the rig site are eliminated. The sen-sors’ small size and weight make logis-tics and installation much easier.It is extremely important that the sen-sor’s accuracy is fully utilized and thatit measures the drilling parameter asdirectly as possible. Electronic sensorspiggy-backed onto the rig’s existing hydraulic or electro-mechanical sensorsinherit the limitations of the originaldevices. The response, reliability andaccuracy of the measurement may beseverely compromised. The accuracy of such hybrid instrumentation systems istherefore significantly limited.
The design of the front-end data acqui-sition system is equally important. Itsconstruction must withstand punish-ment from the rig environment, weather,and drill-floor personnel. The mission of the data acquisition system is to guar-antee a continuous, accurate flow of data under the drilling unit’s tremen-dous variety of operational difficulties.
 As the success of a drilling operation very much depends on what takes placeat the brake, the display presenting information to the driller is critical. Analarmable alphanumeric display givesthe driller tight control of importantdrilling parameters. Digits need to belarge enough to be seen clearly from adistance, while the complete display should be easily comprehensible at aglance. As this display may be subject tosevere punishment from time to time , itmust be very rugged.
September/October 1999
Rig instrumentation technology: Facilitatingdrilling operations and reducing cost
Data-acquisition equipment must be able to with-stand punishment in the rig environment. This sin-gle-board data-acquisition computer is cased inmetal, combining ruggedness and miniaturization,as the comparison to a US penny above shows.Driller’s display: An alarmable alphanumericdisplay gives the driller tight control of keydrilling parameters. Digits should be largeenough to see from a distance. Inset: Optionalgraphical and gauge displays driven from thedriller’s console are useful supplements.
Optional graphics and gauge displaysfor the drill floor, driven from the maindriller’s console, are useful supplementsto meet the specific needs of the rig. Thelevel of sophistication of these displays will depend on the driller’s level of expertise and responsibilities. Wherethe drill floor environment and level of training (and budget) permits, a fully computerized work station can beinstalled, giving the driller the samecomputerized data management capa-bilities as the company man and drilling engineer.
 A drilling project is successful due to theefforts of rig specialists—driller, compa-ny man, toolpusher, mud engineer, direc-tional driller. Individual remote work-stations with access to graphic and dig-ital data displays of the drilling data canbe used by each of these specialists withalarms set to monitor a particular vitalarea of interest. In this way, each skilledmember of the drilling team is able tobecome more focused and productive.The onset of lost circulation, washouts,dog-legs, key seats, increasing forma-tion pressures, kicks, and blow-outs canall be detected by monitoring real-timeinformation and graphic displays of developing drilling trends.One of the work station’s most impor-tant functions is to reliably documentsignificant events in the drilling process.Pressure tests can be
recorded, providing precise documenta-tion of leak-off and BOP tests. Recordedon a foot-by-foot and time basis, maxi-mum values of drilling parameters suchas torque and hookload can give valu-able insight into the causes of equip-ment failures and hole problems. Thisheightened level of accuracy leaves littleroom for doubt or conjecture should amishap occur. With so much informationeasily and quickly accessible in oneplace, its efficient utilization can resultin significant savings in drilling timeand expertise. This is particularly valu-able when tight AFE’s have been set orin a turnkey situation.Today’s PC technology has made it pos-sible to include some very powerful fea-tures that are extremely valuable to thedrilling process. In Petron’s new PNT workstation, for example, there is alarge array of easy-to-use graphicsscreens to make the drilling processeasy to follow and analyze. Full detailsof important rig data such as pumpspecifications, hole geometries andmore are stored for reference by numer-ous application programs. One of themost useful programs with a wide rangeof practical applications is a real-timehydraulics function. Hydraulic parame-ters for any part of the hole can be cal-culated as often as every 2 seconds.“What if” scenarios can be examinedinstantly, using real-time data to see if changes in annular flow regimes, pumppressure, jet nozzle size and mud prop-erties, would minimize related holeproblems or improve drilling perform-ance. Formerly, this kind of computing power was available only from expen-sive, full-service mud logging units or asseparate time-consuming programs which performed the required calcula-tions on a personal computer.Many of the sophisticated functions of amud-logging unit can beprovided by this type of  work station. Accuratedepth and ROP withlagged gas and correctionfor TVD can be displayedautomatically. Where ac-curate foot-by-foot geolog-ical descriptions are notrequired, this feature canin many cases providemore reliable and lesssubjective informationthan that from the aver-age mud logging service,saving a substantialamount of money on serv-ices and personnel costs.The system, while packing a powerfultechnological punch, is surprisingly easy to use and operate.
Communications links have improveddramatically in the last few years andare rapidly approaching a highly uni-form quality worldwide. The last geo-graphical frontiers will soon be con-quered when stationary-orbit communi-cations satellite networks currently being put in place are fully functional.Communications technology is open-ing the door to unprecedented rig-siteinformation transfer and knowledgeexchange at such a reasonable cost. Forexample, 24 hours of detailed drilling data can be downloaded in less than 30sec in a data-dump mode. In Petron’sPNT system, any computer loaded withinexpensive Internet software canaccess a drilling data overview field eas-ily and cheaply. Even though Internettechnology is being used, data security is not sacrificed, as access is madedirectly through a secure telephone line. WITS protocol can be used for data com-munication with other vendors.If a drilling problem needs to be dis-cussed with someone off-site, data fromthe rig can be received with equal easeby a personal computer in the office, oran engineer with a laptop in a hotelroom. Both historical and up-to-the-sec-ond drilling data can be reviewed, withcontrol over the screen data display andcursor operation transferable betweenrig-site user and off-site user. In thismanner, unequivocal and well-coordi-nated examination of data relating toimportant drilling events is facilitated.In addition to the important aspect of drilling data review and data transfer, which in itself can enhance the efficien-cy and cost effectiveness of the drilling 
September/October 1999
The work station: Individual remote worksta-tions displaying data digitally and graphicallyenable members of the drilling team tobecome more focused and productive. Insets:State-of-the art displays include drillingparemeters with TVD and lag correction(leftinset) and real-time hydraulics (right inset).ITConnection: Communications technology allows historical andcurrent rig data to be received off site with relative ease. Thevalue of this type of workstation is just now being recognized.

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