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Major Innovations in Oil & Drilling Technologies

Oil and Gas | May, 2023

The world's demand for energy and the transition towards hydrocarbon harvesting is accelerating at a rapid pace. This is a result of a convergence of technological advancements, environmental concerns, and development priorities. As the electrification and living standards grow, the demand for fossil fuels is expected to peak through 2050, despite the growing importance of renewable energies. In 2021, 52% of the world's energy requirements were met by oil and gas. According to IEA predictions, oil and gas will still provide 47% of global energy needs in 2050. However, the share of renewable energy in the world's supply will rise from 12% in 2021 to 29% in 2050. Oil demand, which was 94.5 million barrels per day in 2021, is expected to increase to 102 million barrels per day in 2030 and remain at 102 million barrels per day in 2050, according to the IEA. However, the oil & gas sector is one of the biggest contributors of greenhouse gas emissions, which threatens the future of the industry. Hence, the ever-increasing quest to identify, secure, access, and operate oil continuously and the unprecedented geological, climatic, technical, and operational challenges have necessitated the development of revolutionary oil drilling methods.

Drilling activities have made significant technological progress in recent years in order to produce safe, ecologically friendly, and economically viable wells with improved performance. Early developments in drilling technology that aimed to improve drilling efficiency were founded on three fundamental principles: safety, minimum hole size, and usable hole. The current drilling goal is to quickly reach deeper objectives while minimizing costs and continuously improving operating efficiency without sacrificing environmental, health, or safety standards. These elements have made drilling operations susceptible to reliable methods and cutting-edge technologies for a precise understanding of potential hydrocarbons to be drilled. Technique, material, equipment, autonomous processes, and sophisticated technology advancements have all contributed to the advancement of economically recoverable subsurface resources and the reduction of environmental effect both above and below ground. Modern drilling technologies includes both surface tools and downhole tools that put far less impact on the surface and subsurface environments.

Fully Automated Drilling Technology for Offshore Oil Industry

The trend towards automation has increased the possibilities of downhole tool technologies, increased drill bit performance and lowering vibrations during drilling. This development is driven by the use of 3D visualization tools. A variety of cutting-edge technologies are helping to speed up production, assist with environmental compliance, and reduce costs for the oil and gas sector.

  • Robotic Drilling Systems (RDSs)

For both onshore and offshore operations, robotic drilling systems (RDSs) provide robotic technology for a completely unattended drill floor.  RDSs may manage machines with rotating operations, handle pipes and tools, and take the place of casing workers and tongs.  Modern drilling technology also provides self-movable automated drill rigs that may be moved from one well location to another inside an oil field.

In-pipe inspection robots (IPIRs) are able to spot corrosion, fractures, and other serious flaws in pipes that might cause failure and stop output.  Nondestructive testing sensors are installed inside the pipeline network by these robots, which are equipped with them. IPIRs now function on their own. They can communicate data and control signals; for instance, IPIRs are fitted with wireless sensor networks (WSNs) that can detect fluid leaks, sand accumulation, pipe damage, vandalism, and theft in addition to monitoring pipeline integrity. WSNs are made to interact over the relay node and transmit information to a single base station.

The Steer-At-Bit Enteq Rotary Tool (SABRE) is one of the new evolutionary alternatives to the conventional rotary steerable system (RSS). It steers away from the drill bit face using internally directed pressure differentials, providing genuine "at-bit" geo-steering. Based on the positive results of the early testing, the instrument provides a strong, dependable, straightforward, and affordable alternative to the present RSS choices for directional drilling, minimizing downtime and maximizing reliability and drilling speeds. The tool utilizes a novel concept of internally directed pressure to steer at drill bit and removes the need for traditional pistons and pads, which are vulnerable to rapid wear and reliability issues.

Haliburton unveiled their iCruise product, an intelligent push-bit RSS that enhances steerability and drilling performance for precise well placement. Through speedier drilling, dependable performance, and predictable results, this instrument is automation-enabled for precision steering and correct well placement, assisting operators in shortening well times.

Motive Drilling Technologies created a leading directional drilling bit guidance system that automates decision-making at the rig to help with decision-making during drilling operations. As part of the system's benefits, drilling time can be cut without sacrificing wellbore quality, which boosts productivity. Using the most recent downhole computer technology and an enhanced data-driven automated decision-making algorithm, the bit guidance system was created. There are many variations of this intelligent RSS available, such as the Baker Hughes i-Trak drilling automation and others with high-speed processors and advanced electronics for tool prognosis and diagnosis that assist directional drillers in making effective drilling decisions and managing vibration in real time. 

NOV created the SelectShift downhole adjustable motor, which permits greater surface RPM, improved hole condition and cleaning, minimizing spiraling/tortuosity, and enhancing ROP, to achieve the borehole total depth (TD) with little drag and less tortuosity at the well's end. The Schlumberger OptiDrill real-time drilling intelligence tool is another cutting-edge BHA optimization technology. It can gather a variety of surface and downhole data, uses sophisticated algorithms, and provides event detection and customized reporting. This method was created to help users decrease risk, prevent early tool failure, and increase downhole drilling efficiency.

Automated well control solutions were created by Safe Influx to lower well control risks. This system's ability to help the driller has been successfully proved, significantly lowering our exposure to hazards from human factors. The system is capable of detecting the presence of a fluid influx condition in a wellbore and then automatically launching an initial well control protocol that leads to safely shut in. Compared to traditional methods, this cutting-edge technology can reduce the magnitude of an influx. This suggests a decrease in operational challenges, expenditures, and delays when returning to drilling.

According to TechSci Research report on “Global Drilling Tools Market By Type (Drill Bits, Drilling Tubulars, Drilling Motors, Drill Reamers and Stabilizers, Drill Collars, Drill Jars, Drill Swivels, Mechanical Thrusters), By Application (Onshore and Offshore), By Company and By Geography, Forecast & Opportunities, 2027”, the global drilling tools market is projected to grow at a formidable rate during the forecast period. The market growth can be attributed to the rising technological advancements and increase in shale gas exploration activities.

  • Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

Unmanned aerial vehicles are proving to be a vital asset to oil & gas companies. They are making inspection, surveillance, and leak detection faster, cheaper, and safer. Hence, firms are capitalizing on the new opportunities provided by drones. Here are some of the important applications of drones in the oil & gas sector.

Aerial Inspection

Traditionally, surveyors had to climb tall ladders, walk along catwalks, operate large cranes, and reach great heights with harnesses for manual inspection of oil wells and offshore rigs, which put them in close contact with harmful chemicals and dangerous equipment. Hence, unmanned aerial vehicles provide a safer solution for inspection as drones can fly to great heights and through toxic chemicals with ease, which eliminates the risk of putting any personnel at risk. Besides, drones can also quickly inspect hard-to-reach areas, check on flames, flares, and smokestacks. Since drones are equipped with advanced cameras, they are able to zoom up on areas to snap images and record videos, produce crystal clear images with unmatched detail as well as perform multiple tests in one flight. Some drones are also equipped with infrared cameras and omnidirectional obstacle avoidance sensors to prevent crashes.

Leak Detection

Around 2.3% of the nation's total gas production is lost to methane leaks from the oil and natural gas supplies in the US. That amounts to 13 million metric tons of methane wasted each year. Gas leaks are obviously extremely inefficient for the supply chain. However, they also seriously endanger the local populations and habitats. Prior to the invention of drones, the oil and gas industry attempted to find leaks by installing permanent detectors at high-risk locations in facilities and along pipelines or by having inspectors sporadically examine regions with portable detectors. These conventional leak detection techniques, however, can be expensive and ineffective.

O&G companies are equipping drones with laser-based sensors to detect and identify any compromised material. This way, drones can lower potential of clean-up costs by as much as 90%. Drones can even stop structural collapse and take care of possible problems before they endanger personnel and infrastructure. For instance, wells also pump generated water, sometimes known as saltwater, along with oil. It is an oil extraction byproduct that needs to be separated from the oil and properly disposed of, although it frequently leaks. To proactively find saltwater leaks and stop major damage, use drones.

Accurate Data Collection

Gathering data with close proximity to oil drilling equipment and infrastructure, drones enabled with sensors facilitate better data collection. These unmanned aerial vehicles are able to recognize trends undetectable to humans as they produce better visuals. Uploading data to the cloud quicker with mapping software, drones can process topographical and geographical data to create models of the potential oil & gas drill sites. Besides, drones can calibrate repeat missions, which eliminates the manual process of configuring flight routes every time you fly a drone and thus perform regular, automatic spot checks, and collect routine data.

Emergency Response

During the event of natural or man-made disaster, it is important to have a strategy in place to prevent any major accidents. Drones can help executives to respond efficiently and quickly to such occurrences. Besides, the speedy deployment of drones eliminates the time that pilot of the manned aircrafts might take. Some drones have been used to assist during fire tanks and can withstand extreme temperatures. They are able to zoom in on the location of tank holes and broadcast information to emergency personnel. Firefighter hose crews may then direct their foam spray precisely where it is needed. Additionally, drones may check on the foam blanket's integrity, letting you know how much new foam to apply as the old foam degrades.

Disasters caused by oil spills can also be lessened. The worst oil leak in history, for instance, was caused by BP's Deep Water Horizon marine platform. A total of 210 million gallons of oil were leaked into the Gulf of Mexico and the vicinity. By flying the perimeter and providing first responders with pictures, live video streams, and GPS coordinates, pilots would be able to find and assess a spill's effects quickly. Additionally, a lot of drones feature long-lasting batteries that enable them to hover for hours. By making before-and-after maps, drones may also evaluate how effective containment measures are succeeding.

The most recent developments in 4D seismic data collecting and computational capacity are assisting O&G firms in capturing more accurate subsurface geology for finding fossil fuel resources, in addition to the usage of smart sensors and machine connectivity.

A number of businesses, including Statoil, Enegi Oil (Nu-oil), The Wood Group, and China Offshore Oil Engineering Company, are concentrating on operations to access additional minor reservoirs. Small reservoirs are those with recoverable reserves of less than 20 MMBOE. Enegi Oil indicated that buoy technology, for instance, may be used to explore 88 fields in the North Sea that have less than 15 MMBOE. Others are beginning to pay attention to the region that "may contain about 30% of the world's undiscovered gas and 13% of the world's unexplored oil reserves" north of the Arctic Circle.

Using ocean and subsea technologies, remote sensing, and autonomous underwater vehicles, Statoil and Husky Energy in Canada are investigating drilling of oil and gas deposits located in deep-water, far-offshore oil 500 km off Canada's east coast. In conclusion, automation and digitalization may provide the oil and gas sector with advantages in terms of operations, productivity, environmental performance, public health, and investment. O&G firms to alter to be competitive given how drastically the processes in which energy is generated, used, and delivered have transformed.