February 2024

Digital tool kit enhances real-time decision-making to improve drilling efficiency and performance

A new AI-driven solution provides insights that enable rig personnel to act earlier and more confidently, reducing risks and improving well delivery.
Gary Hicken / NOV

We are deep in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (IR4.0), and with this comes opportunities for us to make step changes in the way we operate in our daily and work lives. We have all seen huge improvements in technology use, whether it be digital solutions that help us work from anywhere in the world or artificial intelligence (AI) tools that help us write essays and check software code. 

In the ever-evolving landscape of the oil and gas industry, the integration of AI has emerged as a transformative force, particularly in the realm of drilling operations. AI technologies are changing the way drilling processes are executed, optimizing efficiency, reducing costs and enhancing safety. 

Data is key to all digital solutions. The sheer volume of data generated during drilling operations can overwhelm human operators. AI excels in processing and analyzing these data, providing actionable insights to support decision-making. From drilling performance metrics to environmental factors, AI systems integrate diverse data sets to offer a comprehensive view of drilling operations. This data-driven approach enables personnel to make informed decisions, optimize processes, and respond quickly to changing conditions. The solution described in this article has been designed to address today’s challenges in a way that is easily understandable, using readily available data sources to provide immediate benefits. 

AI-driven drilling tool kit. NOV, working with its partner Intellicess, has developed Drilling Beliefs and Analytics (DBA), an AI-driven driller’s tool kit that functions at the rig and is available via existing electronic drilling recorder (EDR) screens and human-machine interfaces (HMIs). DBA takes an edge-first approach that ensures insights are available instantly to drillers and rig personnel, constantly processing, and available even if rig communications drop.  

All the outputs from DBA are also synchronized in real time, back to the cloud or on-premises site, using optimized data transmit protocol to reduce the availability of data from seconds to milliseconds. The solution has been designed to detect drilling and tripping dysfunctions and automate the modeling of torque and drag and swab and surge, removing the leg work for customers. 

This holistic tool is designed to immediately alert users of potential incidents, allowing them to act before an event. DBA has been used globally to detect and mitigate issues, saving operators millions of dollars by avoiding non-productive time. To ensure the quality of the data used, DBA has been designed to use only surface and existing contextual data to enrich the accuracy of the system’s outputs.  

DBA consists of: 

  • DBA beliefs—a probability index that an event is imminent. 
  • Automated torque/drag and swab/surge models—no need to manually create/update. 
  • Real-time drilling advisory. 
  • Real-time engineering calculations. 
  • The visualization of all data via RigSense 4.0 and WellData 4.0. 
  • Access to these data is generated through the Max system and its application programming interface (API). 
Fig. 1. DBA network diagram.

All features are integrated with the latest Max technology—RigSense and WellData 4.0—providing a single view of all data. The solution brings personnel in the office and at the remote site together, using unified data and visualization solutions, Fig. 1. Using the company’s trusted and proven data methodologies ensures that all data are available in the quickest possible manner with limited latency. 

Importance of digital solutions. Digital solutions have become critically important in today’s world, due to their transformative impact on various aspects of our lives and industries. This is true in the energy industry, where there is a constant push to reduce the cost of producing a unit of energy safely and efficiently. Digital solutions enable us to not only improve things but also ensure that we maintain efficiency gains over many years of operation. The oil and gas industry is facing what is called the big crew change; in essence, folks with years and years of experience are retiring or leaving the industry. So, how do we overcome this and ensure we do not lose this experience? 

One option is, of course, training the next generation of engineers and helping them lead us forward. However, there are often still gaps in experience, so how do we limit those gaps and help our engineers succeed? DBA provides the ability to capture and codify this experience into a digital tool kit. This digital tool kit has been designed to support field and town personnel and allows them to act earlier, with confidence.  

The solution is not there to replace engineers but to be there as an automated tool that can make the right people aware of when things are trending in a direction that could lead to a potentially negative event at the rig. By arming our personnel with DBA, we can ensure that the tool is doing the heavy lifting and that engineers are paying attention to what is important, removing analysis paralysis and keeping things as simple as possible. 

Fig. 2. Example of a DBA decision tree.

How it works. DBA is an AI-driven solution that uses Bayesian models and decision trees to utilize all the available data to create a probability of an event, Fig. 2. These AI-driven methods are complex, but the outputs are simple and easy to understand. The use of the minimum readily available data set ensures that we can always gain the required data and create accurate outputs. 

DBA requires the following data: 

  • Surface instrumentation real-time data 
  • Bottomhole assembly/bit  
  • Casing  
  • Survey stations 
  • Mud properties 
  • Mud pumps/block weight. 

DBA will not only use the core data but also process data rapidly and use the calculated outputs as factors in its outputs, providing many inputs that increase the accuracy of the DBA outputs. 

DBA beliefs. As explained above, a DBA Belief is a probability index that can be used to show trends, based on factors determined during computation. Each belief has an easy-to-understand data scale of 0-1: 

0 = This is not happening. 

1 = This is happening. 

Fig. 3. DBA washout—trending.

The outputs of the beliefs will change and trend, allowing users to set limits and alerts when data increases or decreases over a threshold, Fig. 3. In short, this means that instead of looking at many data points and variables, DBA system users can look at a single channel that considers all the data, allowing them to act earlier with confidence. 

Using all available data. Engineers often find themselves spending a significant amount of time on data management. This can often delay data inputs and load up personnel with data input tasks. DBA removes the manual workload by pulling data automatically from operational reporting systems. This means that whenever the data are updated, the DBA outputs automatically adjust, based on the changes. This applies to beliefs, models and other engineering calculations. 

For solutions such as torque/drag and swab/surge, this is vital for multiple reasons: 

  • It can take time for engineers to update the models. 
  • Changes in the inputs can quickly invalidate the outputs. 
  • Model data can be used to help detect multiple operational dysfunctions, so these must be valid. 

The DBA workflow ensures that the models are always up to date with the latest parameters automatically, meaning that analysis of these data is easier for engineers and that other uses of this data benefit from accurate outputs. DBA has removed a data problem that has existed for years; we use all the available data. 

Edge computation. NOV operates what we call the “Edge-First Approach.”  In short, we calculate and provide solutions at the remote site first and then transmit the outputs of the computation back to the office/town for personnel not on-site. This is done using Max Edge technology, which is a powerful, tailor-made energy data processing unit. 

The benefits of this approach are: 

  • We can offer the solutions directly to the rig personnel, such as drillers, company men, tool pushers, etc., and provide access via existing HMI, eliminating the need for additional screens. 
  • If communications on-site go down for any reason, the rig personnel still have all the DBA solution outputs available. 
  • We can offer the rig full product capabilities, including the beliefs, models, engineering outputs and complete visualization. 
  • Folks on-site and back in town see the same screens and outputs in real time. 

Not only can NOV use the above method to provide the DBA solution, but using Max Edge, we can also host solutions from our customers and third parties. In short, DBA and Max Edge digitally enable customers to be ready for future data processing and solution hosting needs. 

Game-changing workflow. Traditional workflows usually see data collected at the rig and transmitted back to the cloud or data center. Once the data are available back in town, they are then analyzed, using software and solutions. This traditional workflow has many setbacks, such as: 

  • Delays in the data analysis, due to latency during transfer. 
  • If communications drop at the rig, the data processing can be further delayed. 
  • The focus of this workflow is on the folks in town, not on the rig. 
  • Depending on your data loads and system use, computing costs can increase significantly.  
  • Often, there is a lack of collaboration between rig and town personnel, due to differing views and data. 

DBA follows NOV’s edge-first approach, which sees all data processed and analyzed at the rig and provides a workflow where, no matter where personnel are, they are using the same data in the same views at the same time. The company’s data transfer method is proven to reduce bandwidth consumption, decrease latency, and support high-speed data streams. This means that you can elevate your use of the data provided with rapid updates and computation abilities. 

Fig. 4. Rig and cloud displays.

Unified visualization. DBA is designed, so users will no longer ask, “Why does your screen look different from mine?” Using the company’s latest systems guarantees that everyone is looking at the same data in the same way. Figure 4 shows the approach that ensures a common view of data using RigSense 4.0 at the rig and WellData 4.0 in the cloud and on-premises deployments.  Not only does this common view make it easier to interpret data in a familiar interface, but it also ensures that teams at the remote site and in the office/town are all looking at the same information in the same way. 

The ever-increasing number of screens on the rig can overwhelm rig personnel. With RigSense 4.0, customers can easily navigate from traditional EDR screens to EDR 4.0 screens, which will show the latest and DBA-specific interfaces in a single, integrated EDR solution. So, whether users are looking at traditional screens or wish to review channel readings for torque and drag or potential drilling dysfunctions, they can easily switch without the need for another screen. 

DBA support model. To ensure the quality of data DBA consumes, the company offers a “data concierge” solution that provides around-the-clock data monitoring by the company’s global customer support centers. This ensures data quality and that someone is always on hand, should you have questions or require support. The DBA support team uses a range of automated checks and alerts to ensure that if a problem does present itself, it is quickly addressed, often before customers are aware. Training and full onboarding sessions are essential to ensure success with any new tool and for you and your teams to always get the most out of the product. 

Cone Drilling. DBA brings a concept called Cone Drilling, which is an advisory system that will update in real time during rotary and slide drilling. Instantly reacting to the data in real time, Cone Drilling summarizes current rotary and sliding performance. The Cone Drilling Gauge helps improve the performance and/or efficiency of the drilling process by providing recommended drilling parameter changes. The recommendations are qualitative, not quantitative. This means that DBA will suggest increasing or decreasing parameter(s) but does not suggest by how much, allowing the drillers to adjust and set things based on thresholds and known limits. 

Fig. 5. Cone Drilling display.

When the gauge displays a circle in the center of the axes, this is an indication that DBA does not detect the potential for improvements by changing the parameters and suggests that the user maintain current parameters, as shown on the far left in Fig. 5. This solution reacts in real time and will consider the DBA beliefs and any active dysfunctions or opportunities to improve the drilling process. This gives folks on the rig and in town a holistic view of the drilling process and a measure to help them confirm that they are in an optimal state. 

The optimal use of this concept will see a driller with this loaded on the HMI screen and monitor this in real time. The driller can then review any known limit and adjust the set points accordingly to see how the cone reacts to support the reduction of active dysfunctions and optimize rate of penetration (ROP) performance. Cone Drilling is used as an overall summary of drilling and sliding operations, giving an instant view and idea of the current state. 

Optimal Drilling Index. One of the solutions generated within DBA provides specific output channels for Rotary and Slide Optimal Drilling Indexes. These channels show a simple value that allows the user to understand if there are any triggering potential dysfunction beliefs. Like a car engine warning light, data trends show users as they near that dreaded illumination. With DBA, users can see the trends drop, drill down, and take any necessary mitigation steps to prevent the matter from escalating. With the vast number of data channels and screens to pay attention to, DBA and solutions such as the Optimal Drilling Index provide an easy way to interpret the data and drill down when needed. 

Max platform. The key component of DBA is Max Platform, which enables the aggregation, standardization, computation and rapid delivery of the data, along with the data store and visualization methods. Max is made up of three core components: 

  • Max Edge. Collect data from anywhere, support NOV or third-party solution deployment, and deliver data anywhere. 
  • Max Data Services. Securely store all data and easily connect to this data through the NOV systems or third-party solutions through the Max API. 
  • Max Portal. Access to a wide range of NOV and third-party applications through a web browser that allows users to monitor their data and systems with ease. 

The Max Platform is data-agnostic, meaning that it can be applied not only to oil and gas applications, such as DBA, but also to any other application, such as renewables, mining, etc. The workflow that Max enables opens a world of opportunities for our customers and partners. The Max Partners program brings our customers’ applications and solutions together, providing data interoperability and streamlined workflows. The platform enables us to support users’ growing and changing portfolios and provide continuity, ease of use, and a platform that you can trust. DBA is part of the Max Drilling suite of offerings, which includes the latest EDR and remote drilling monitoring solutions. 

Conclusion. DBA has 10 years of engineering behind it and is out in the field today on many land and offshore rigs. Supported by Max Platform, we provide a robust, secure and trusted solution. Using the DBA offering, customers have been able to:  

  • Detect multiple washouts and pull out before the loss of equipment in hole. 
  • Detect bit balling in advance, mitigate and avoid the loss of ROP and associated increased costs. 
  • Detect vibrations and adjust drilling parameters to optimize ROP. 
  • Detect bit wear and degradation in advance and adjust parameters to optimize the current drilling situation. 

This holistic offering provides numerous possibilities. It helps users focus on the use of a single system that provides all the information they need to act earlier with confidence, time and time again. DBA is a step change in how data are used to support field and town personnel. The solution has been built to ensure continuous improvement, with the constant addition of new beliefs, models, and calculations, such as a full stuck pipe module in Q1 2024 and other plans in the pipeline. This digital tool kit allows field and town personnel to focus on what really matters. 

With a repeatable workflow and NOV’s collaborative approach, we are excited to expand this and other digital edge compute solutions with our customers in the IR 4.0. 

About the Authors
Gary Hicken
Gary Hicken is business development director, digital strategy and commercialization, within NOV’s M/D Totco business unit. He is a data management professional with 19 years of experience, including expertise in real-time energy data handling, analysis and digital products. He is actively working on developing NOV’s Max Digital Platform, with a focus on the Eastern Hemisphere. With field experience and multiple international posts in countries that include Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia and the U.S., Mr. Hickin has worked with some of the world’s largest operators and service contractors on digital innovations. He is also involved in multiple digital and data governance initiatives and is a participating member in OSDU and Energistics.
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