Process automation using workflows and recipes for automating vertical drilling sequences has made an important contribution to consistent operation and to expanding the driller’s ability to control more activities on the rig. Automated directional drilling is a true technical breakthrough that has the potential to drastically change, and significantly improve the way unconventional wells are drilled. Nabors has combined highly capable drilling rigs, software programs, downhole tools and process automation to achieve unprecedented levels of safety, efficiency and wellbore placement accuracy.
The ROCKit® Pilot system integrates critical information needed for directional drilling such as measurement while drilling (MWD) toolface data, MWD inclination and azimuth, toolface advisory, resultant toolface, pump pressure and delta pressure. Using this information, the ROCKit® Pilot system provides automated corrective controls and steering logic in the PLC to auto steer the downhole motor toolface.
When combined with RigWatch®, the Navigator™ software allows drillers to visualize the downhole position of the drill string in relation to the planned well path and automatically calculates directional drilling instructions needed to keep the well on an acceptable course. The ROCKit® Pilot system then automatically implements those instructions during slide drilling operations. This technology can ultimately eliminate the need for a dedicated directional driller on location.
How It Works
When the MWD tool transmits a survey to the surface, showing inclination, azimuth and toolface, a workflow is initiated within the Navigator™ software that generates step-by-step steering commands – to adjust the toolface and set the slide distance.
The ROCKit® Pilot system receives these instructions, dynamically controls the toolface and automatically steers the stand down. The system controls pump speed, performs any needed rotary action, and adjusts the torque automatically to keep the toolface oriented. Once an adequate course correction is completed, the system automatically switches to rotary mode to drill the stand down.
In late 2017, Nabors used the Navigator™ software and ROCKit® Pilot programs to perform fully automated directional drilling on three wells in the Permian Basin. Performance of these systems was evaluated using Nabors’ directional drilling KPIs for slide and rotary percentage and rate of penetration (ROP), toolface orientation time, percent of lateral in zone, and burn footage, among others. For these three wells, the automated systems performed as well as or better than third-party directional drillers.
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