Drilling systems automation is the real-time reliance on digital technology in creating a wellbore. It encompasses downhole tools and systems, surface drilling equipment, remote monitoring and the use of models and simulations while drilling. While its scope is large, its potential benefits are impressive, among them: fewer workers exposed to rig-floor hazards, the ability to realize repeatable performance drilling, and lower drilling risk. While drilling systems automation includes new drilling technology, it is most importantly a collaborative infrastructure for performance drilling.
In 2008, a small group of engineers and scientists attending an SPE conference noted that automation was becoming a key topic in drilling and they formed a technical section to investigate it further. By 2015, the group reached a membership of sixteen hundred as the technology rapidly gaining acceptance. Why so much interest? The benefits and promises of an automated approach to drilling address the safety and fundamental economics of drilling. What will it take? Among the answers are an open collaborative digital environment at the wellsite, an openness of mind to digital technologies, and modified or new business practices. What are the barriers? The primary barrier is a lack of understanding and a fear of automation. When will it happen? It is happening now.
Digital technologies are transforming the infrastructure of the drilling industry. Drilling systems automation uses this infrastructure to deliver safety and performance, and address cost.