In the last few weeks, we have released the methodology and results of a comparative human factors analysis for the use of Automated Well Control against traditional well control methods carried out by Marex Marine and Risk Consultancy. By examining the opportunities for human error/failure to impact upon the successful identification and shut-in of an influx, the study demonstrates that automated well control could achieve 94% reduction in the probabilities of human failures, which could lead to either a potential loss of well control, or 96% chance of reducing the shut-in influx volume. What does this analysis mean for the oil and gas industry?
Traditionally, well control systems have been entirely reliant on humans reliably and accurately detecting an influx and then quickly and safely shutting-in the well. The human condition means the Driller can be distracted, or unexpectedly influenced by extraneous and often competing factors: safety of personnel on the drill floor, safe and economic use of the rig equipment and satisfying demands of his employer and of the client, which are not always fully aligned. The intense work pattern and nature of well construction operations produces a high cognitive workload for the individual followed by extended periods of repetitive tasks. All those multiple demands on the Driller’s attention create a greater risk of errant decision making. Over-reliance on humans in well control is dangerous, because of the inherent and constant exposure to human factors risk. So, it is understandable that well control incidents are predominantly caused by human factors.
Advancements in Automation
Technologies are transforming different industries, reflecting on workforce development, productivity and safety. The high-risk industries of commercial aviation, nuclear and rail signalling, for instance, have successfully introduced automation to reduce the risk and produce more consistent and efficient outcomes. Automation of well control has not yet been applied within the drilling part of the oil and gas industry. In the last few years, some technologies have been developed and implemented, however they have limited application. As in other industries, the advent of automation in the area of well control would enable increasingly larger number of operations to be controlled in a safe, consistent and effective manner.
The process of influx detection and management of the rig to safely shut in a well is a complicated undertaking encompassing well control engineering, rig and BOP equipment control and drilling contractor processes. Thus, our industry needs a system which can deliver Automated Well Control. Understanding the demand, Safe Influx has developed a technology which allows for fully automated influx detection, decision making and shut-in sequences to mitigate the human factors risks associated with well control.
Automated Well Control enhances process safety for well control. It is designed as a tool for the Driller, reducing his cognitive workload and the overall number of task steps required. The benefits of Automated Well Control include improved management of risks to personnel, the environment, assets and reputation protection. The use of this technology would enhance real-time decision-making in critical well control situations, dramatically reduce the risks of blowouts and the size of all influxes, thereby saving millions of dollars per well, reducing environmental impact and preventing loss of life.
Additionally, automation enables a range of potential value-adding features to be added. Within well operations there is significant complexity to the variety and types of operations that can be conducted: drilling, tripping, connections, running tubulars, cementing, in-flow testing, and others. To date, Safe Influx has identified over 60 potential modules that can be also be implemented using the same technology to cover every facet of well construction and decommissioning operations. Existing systems in use on rigs, such as Managed Pressure Drilling (MPD) and Early Kick Detection Systems (EKDS), benefit from linking directly with the Automated Well Control system to facilitate a fast and effective shut-in.
The outcome of the comparative human factors analysis highlights a significant reduction in the human failure risks that Safe Influx Automated Well Control brings to well control. Therefore, Automated Well Control has the potential to improve the performance and reputation of the upstream petroleum industry. The system prevents blowouts, minimises influx volumes and can improve the well design to reduce well costs by 20%.