The intelligent drill floor robots are coming to your drilling rig

Published 19.02.2016

It is not science fiction and it is not years ahead of us: The robots are here, they are for real, they are highly intelligent professional drill crew and they are likely to be operating in the North Sea by the end of the year.

World class technology

The introduction of robots is a mega trend in any production oriented businesses these days. The Norwegian company Robotic Drilling Systems (RDS) is ahead of its competitors in developing intelligent robots for advanced operations on the drill floor. These electric driven robots provide the high precision, combined with the advanced programming, needed to master the complexity of multiple machines working simultaneously on a dynamic drill floor.

Successful implementation of the technology has already been done on the test rig Ullrigg at IRIS in Stavanger. We expect the first drill floor robot in commercial use in The North Sea within short time.

These drilling rig robots can be used as standalone units or as a complete drill floor system, and can be retrofit into most existing drilling rigs. When the complete system is installed and programmed, it will pick up tubular, align it correctly, make up the connection and run the tubular in the hole, as well as handling the bits and pieces you need during a drilling program.

The future drilling rig

The drill floor robots will change the way we drill oil and gas wells forever. I will cover this more deeply in later articles, but let me start with the most notable changes:

  • Improved drilling efficiency
    A fully implemented system is estimated to save up to 40 operational days a year. Even with todays soft price environment this total USD 12 million, just in rig rental costs. Further potential efficiency gains will be achieved when you tie a robotic drill floor to real time downhole data in a fully “automated drilling control” mode.
  • Technical limit performance every time
    Through automatic sharing of best practice and the accuracy and repeatability of the robots, technical limit performance will be achieved consistently. No more dependency of individual crew’s performance and no more human errors.
  • Reduced operational cost
    By eliminating manual operations, and significantly reducing maintenance, personnel can be reduced and thus reducing the OPEX costs for wages, accommodation and transportation significantly.
  • Improved safety for rig floor personnel
    Manual handling will be reduced significantly in drilling operations and no persons need to be in the red zone during operations.

The arrival of the intelligent drill floor robots should be very welcome to operators struggling to adapt to the harsh environment of a down cycle market. The robots might also breathe new life into dead projects. Field development costs will decrease in a way that fields previously considered unprofitable might now be up for revised calculations.

Seeing is believing

We are used to refer to new technology as game changers, and this is surely a disruptive technology shift. In the history of oil and gas, well construction we have seen top drives replacing rotary tables and the Cyberbase® Operator Station taking us from a manual world to a remote operated world, but all with limited efficiency gains. The potential benefit of letting the intelligent electric robots take over the drill floor seem obvious, but is the industry ready for this change?

I will cover how this will affect the different aspects of our industry in following articles. In the meantime I will leave you with a clip from Stavanger Aftenblad’s report from the first robot ready for operation on a drilling rig.

Topics: Drilling Equipment, Drilling

By: Per Lund

Per has 20 years’ experience from operations, technology development, business development and management positions in the oil and gas industry. His background is from well services, well abandonment and subsea services, working across Europe, Gulf of Mexico, Middle East, Africa and Asia. Per is Senior Vice President – Innovation and special projects in Odfjell Drilling.

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