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Here’s What’s Trending: SPE Automation Workshop – Insights from our SMEs

December 5, 2022

The SPE Workshop, Impact of Digitalization on Drilling Operations, was two days of discussions surrounding digital technologies in our industry. Subject matter experts from operators, rig contractors, and service companies presented on the adoption of automation within their organizations and how these technologies can be incorporated into the global vision of implementing and adapting digital and IR 4.0 technologies.

Nabors was one of the many companies showcased at the workshop this year. Our exceptional team presented on sustainability challenges that are transforming our industry and how Nabors is tackling them, the value of drilling automation technologies and robotics, fuel management systems and engine optimization to reduce emissions and improve efficiency of drilling operations, and how data analytics and artificial intelligence drive real time drilling optimization.

We asked a few of our presenters and subject matter experts to give us their take on the workshop. Check out the Q+A below with insights from our Director of NDS Operations, Austin Groover, our Senior Director of Energy Transition, James Hall, and one of our Product Line Managers, Patricia Zarate.



Q: What areas of discussion during the conference interested you the most?  

Austin: The two sections that interested me the most were the Drilling Automation section and the section on Rig Performance Improvement Through Data Analytics. Several of the service providers are working on solutions to solve problems around consistency in execution and avoiding trouble time. This is indicative of what our customers are asking for and a key focus for us at Nabors. It’s good to see the industry recognizing the need for process automation, ROP optimizers and the need to remove people from the red zone. When it comes to data there were several questions around how to trust the data, the analytics, and the sensors. To me this just highlights the need to only have one aggregator and one sensor per piece of equipment on the rig. We must all consume data from the same source and share that data amongst parties (contractor, directional service provider, mud logger, operator).  This way we can share in the QC of the data, the calibration of the sensors and make sure all data is being shared between parties.

James: Of particular interest to me were the presentations covering competing products to our ET portfolio and learning how our competitors are choosing to address the problems in comparison to how we are. The questions that were asked to both the panel members and presenters were very informative and really helped to gain an understanding of the asks of our customers with regards to our ET portfolio.

Patricia: Here are a few of the key takeaways I took from the workshop:

  • Digitalization and automation are the present and future in our industry. The new language that will unify everyone is technology.
  • There is a need for collaboration for data standards within sensors, channels and reported KPIs.
  • Automated data cleaning process are of utmost importance to make sure the decisions taken are the right ones. AI models will not be good otherwise
  • It is a goal of KSA to rank amongst the top 5 countries in the application and utilization of AI by 2030 as per His Royal Highness – Prince Mohammed Bin Salman
  • Oil and gas need to run lean and efficient operations, engineers will now need to have domain knowledge not just in petroleum but in data science
  • There is a need for better edge analytics
  • Reservoir data is highly guarded preventing for collaboration but for new energies there is not as much secrecy so information will flow

Q: Was there anything discussed at the conference that made you think differently about your work at Nabors? 

Austin: One of our peers talked about shifting away from speed KPIs to utilization KPIs for the operations team. This is interesting because we want to encourage the use of automation and sometimes a speed metric inspires the team to try and compete with the automation versus just use the automation. The data clearly shows that a well-trained crew with automated systems works better (safer, more consistent, faster on average) – so why not change the narrative?

James: There was a very clear theme from the audience that solutions covered at this workshop require a level of disconnect from existing platforms. The ability for digital solutions to be rig system agnostic was a key take away that confirmed that we are on the right path with our standalone RigCLOUD® Edge Lite product as an agnostic platform for deploying new digital solutions such as SmartPOWER™. 

Patricia: We need to make sure that we communicate with our customers how we are calculating things to build transparency and trust. It’s important for us to develop things not only for the US, but for the needs in the EH as there is a lot of potential there. And lastly, everyone is looking for continued improvement processes where lessons learned can be easily captured and shared.

Q: What were your key takeaways from Austin Groover’s presentation?

James: Austin did a great job with his presentation. He was the first technical presenter and did a great job of setting the theme for the workshop. The presentation showed how our technology can work with our rigs as well as others, bringing process automation and efficiency improvements. The presentation was well received, with several questions and discussions revolving around our robotic rig floor solutions and rig agnostic control system architecture.

Patricia: I thought that Austin’s presentation was great and showed that process automation allows for easy implementation and scalability. There’s an architecture built to make it easier to create the right recipes and sequences to trigger machine tasks and execution. He also emphasized that while engineers can built the best well plan, the execution depends mostly on human factors which are hard to tell in after action reviews. Process automation helps eliminate that missing piece.

Q: What were your key takeaways from James Hall’s presentation?

Patricia: James’ presentation was very informative in explaining how sustainability challenges are transforming our industry and the ways Nabors is handling these challenges. One piece was on how you can reduce emissions through engine management and the benefits this has. He also spoke on the importance of automated reporting and the benefits this has to drilling operations.

Q: What were key takeaways from Patricia Zarate’s presentation?

Austin: The main point I hope most people walked away with is how using granular KPIs, targeted at specific operations you can always find areas to optimize. This is especially powerful when you have a control system running process automation with inputs that can be changed based on the data and KPIs you have collected. I think her example on casing running proved that point.

James: Patricia’s presentation was excellent, she engaged with the audience brilliantly, especially as she was introduced as a Mexican to a crowd of Saudi representatives on the same day that they met at the World Cup! Patricia’s presentation very clearly covered how we as Nabors can deliver a very detailed data analytics solution which again is agnostic of any current rig eco systems.

Q: What are topics that you’d be interested to hear more about in upcoming conferences?

James: In future conferences/workshops, I would be very interested to see real world case studies of the technologies that were presented. It was not entirely clear from the presentations given which products/solutions were commercially available, and which were development projects. In future conferences it would be very interesting to see more data on how the products showcased have been commercially successful.

Patricia: In this conference we heard mainly from the point of views of engineers and management. I’d love to have more takes from the needs of actual people in the field. I also think it would be interesting to learn more about data on things like on edge analytics, better WitsML technologies, and data standardization and curation.