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Introducing standards could increase the value added by mechanization technologies

By Kelli Ainsworth, Editorial Coordinator

Creating standards for mechanized casing running equipment could increase the value this equipment adds to an operation, Scott McIntire of Weatherford said at an IADC Drilling Engineer's Committee Forum on 9 November in Houston.
Creating standards for mechanized casing running equipment could increase the value this equipment adds to an operation, Scott McIntire of Weatherford, said at an IADC Drilling Engineer’s Committee Forum on 9 November in Houston.

Implementing mechanization on drilling rigs has made many processes, like pipe handling and casing running, much more efficient. However, the casing running process has been mechanized in silos, where each individual step is mechanized, but not the entire process, Scott McIntire, Research and Development Manager at Weatherford, said at the IADC Drilling Engineers Committee’s Tech Forum, held on 9 November in Houston. Standardizing mechanization equipment for casing running could allow the industry to mechanize the entire process, rather than individual steps, which would increase the value mechanization provides, he added.

When the industry first began mechanizing the casing running process, Mr McIntire said, it did so in baby steps. Each individual component was mechanized, from the casing elevators, to the spiders, to the tongs. Each of these individual mechanized systems can require a separate control cabinet and HPU. “We’ve got all this additional equipment that we’re bringing onto the rig floor every time we run casing,” Mr McIntire said. “That’s all added cost.” It can also take a lot of time to rig up all of this additional equipment when it’s time to run casing, he added.

It can also be a challenge to fit this additional equipment on the rig without cluttering the rig floor. “As you look at your rig floor space and you look at what technologies and equipment are available, not everything fits,” Mr McIntire said. “So you’re limited on your choices and you have to select what fits, not what’s optimized for your applications.”

Often, the control systems that run the individual components of a mechanized casing running system are not integrated with one another, particularly when a system is made up of components from different suppliers. “We have a hard time as an industry integrating across company lines,” Mr McIntire said. The lack of integration and communication between system components means that contractors have to fall back on human communication, which can be imperfect. If an error in communication occurs during the casing running process, he said, safety could be compromised.

Standardization could eliminate all of these challenges, allowing companies to get more value from mechanization. “We’re creating our own headaches because we don’t have standards,” Mr McIntire said. Standard connections for mechanized casing running equipment could reduce rig up and down time, as rig employees would be able to perform the same rig up and down procedure regardless of what supplier’s equipment they’re hooking up.

In addition, developing standard interlock requirements would enable better integration between different suppliers’ equipment. “We do a good job with Company A’s spider and elevator working together with its positioning system,” Mr McIntire said. “But when we start to combine Company A and Company B and maybe Company C, the control systems don’t always work together because we don’t have a standard to interlock them.” Such and standard would enable mechanization of the entire system, not just each piece of it. At the same time, if different suppliers’ control systems can be integrated, then there’s not a need for individual control cabinets, he added. “We’d have reduced equipment. That’s less cost.”

Adopting standards for mechanization equipment could also give companies a wider range of equipment choices. They could select technology that meets their needs, not just what fits on the rig, Mr McIntire said. “This will facilitate industry progress, because we’ve got interchangeability and compatibility of equipment,” he said. “If you brought in a new tool, it can just hook into the standard setup.”

Mr McIntire pointed to computer mice and printers as an example of the type of standardization the industry should strive for. Any mouse or printer will work with any computer. No computer accessory is complicated for a user to connect to their computer – they all hook up via USB or Bluetooth.

IADC committees, including the Drilling Engineer’s Committee, could provide a venue for suppliers to come together and begin creating standards, Mr McIntire said. “If we do this, we’ll start mechanizing the process and not just individual gadgets or steps.”

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