Hart’s E&P: Automating Complex Tasks In Unforgiving Environments

In the popular imagination, a truly automated drilling unit is one that is manned by one human and one dog. The human is needed to feed the dog and the dog to keep the human from touching anything. For those earnestly engaged in developing automated drilling processes, however, the guiding image is not the humanfree robot-controlled assembly plant but the airplane autopilot system that advises the pilot and, when appropriate, autonomously flies the airplane. A concept that has been discussed by the industry for more than a decade because the subsurface is a highly complex environment filled with unknowns, fully automated drilling operations have been slow to emerge. The road to full automation is being paved with very large volumes of data delivered to the surface from newly developed downhole sensors. These new data provide engineers with real-time insight into the state of the well as it is being drilled, but because the volumes arriving at record speed are so large and unwieldy, much of the information…

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