Drilling Ahead: Digital transformation kicks into high gear on offshore rigs
By Linda Hsieh, Managing Editor
On 22 February, Noble Corp announced that it had launched, in collaboration with GE, the world’s first digital drilling vessel. It is a remarkable milestone in the drilling industry’s ongoing digital revolution as offshore drilling contractors – still plagued by a weak market and miserable dayrates – seek innovative and sustainable methods of cost reduction.
Under the new project, seven pieces of critical equipment on the Noble Globetrotter I drillship – including the BOP system, top drive and drawworks – now have digital twins. These digital replicas of physical assets are then combined with advanced analytics to detect abnormal behavior, providing early warnings on problems before they actually occur – up to two months in advance, early results show.
The company stated in a February news release: “Thanks to vessel-wide intelligence, personnel both on the vessel or onshore can gain a holistic view of an entire vessel’s health state and the real-time performance of each piece of equipment onboard.”
It’s a long time coming
Drilling contractors have been moving toward data-driven solutions for years, but it was never a priority when the rig market was booming. But now, there are no more excuses. In fact, it could be argued that companies who can’t or won’t adapt to the digital world will not survive.
Operators like BP, for example, are already way ahead of the digital curve when it comes to managing their own assets. They’re also urging their suppliers to align with new technologies and new ways of working. “New challenges demand different responses from us. We need to modernize,” Jim O’Leary, VP of Wells Africa for BP, said at the 2018 IADC Drilling Africa Conference in Lisbon on 20 February.
“Digital technology is making everything more flexible,” he added. “Last year, on just one BP field, the Atlantis field, through the reprocessing of algorithms, we identified 200 million barrels of extra reserves that were accessible. It’s just one example of how digital technology can fundamentally change how we operate… Digital technology is a game changer, and it’s coming at the right time for us.”
On the Globetrotter I, the new digital solution has already been connected to multiple control systems onboard, including the drilling control network, the power management system and the dynamic positioning system. Data is collected through individual sensors and control systems, then centralized on the vessel before transmitting in near real time to GE’s Industrial Performance and Reliability Center for predictive analytics.
Over time, Noble expects this data-driven approach to asset management will lessen its reliance on individual skills and expertise, resulting in more consistent performance.
The ability of the digital twin to predict machine behaviors will also improve as more data is gathered. “As the digital twin continues to acquire information, we will be able to learn from analytics results, which will shed new light on maintenance effectiveness, as well as help us explore other possibilities to further improve drilling efficiency in marine settings,” said Andy McKeran, General Manager for GE’s Marine Solutions.
Beyond the Globetrotter I, Noble is already working to digitally link three additional rigs. Once that work is complete later this year, the company expects to achieve a 20% reduction in operational expenditures for the targeted equipment across all four rigs.
“The potential of digitalization will go beyond a single vessel, opening the door to transforming our entire fleet,” Bernie Wolford, Senior VP Operations for Noble, said. “The data backbone paves the way towards autonomous drilling, and digital technology is facilitating a new era of drilling and asset performance improvements that are unprecedented.” DC