Automated Drilling Rigs?

Automated drilling rigs have been around for many years now, but what makes them “Automatic”? We think that “Automatic” derives from the auto-drilling method and not the general operation of the rig. What has become increasingly evident across all industry is the need to remove human interaction with machinery where repetitive/heavy and accident prone tasks are present. This is where human interaction cannot compete with the consistency of a well designed automated piece of equipment. Looking at factories and production lines this is apparent, but the drilling industry has lagged. In most instances a drilling rig is reassembled on each location in nearly the exact configuration as in the previous location. Is there a difference then between a drilling rig and a mass production plant? A drilling rig performs many repetitive tasks; drilling, tripping, casing and cementing. Drilling crews come and go while the equipment remains the same. From a management point of view it would be much better for the knowledge to remain on the drilling rig with personnel and not move with them, but as this is nearly impossible to maintain, the next best goal is to design the equipment to provide the consistency. Proper implementation of automated components and systems on rigs not only increases the level of operator safety but also the speed of operation. If a drilling contractor knew with 100% accuracy that his triple rig could trip 35 stands an hour no matter the weather outside, or 70 joints per hour on a Range III Single they would be able to accurately maintain their bottom line. Currently drilling rigs in the industry are mechanized, meaning that people pull levers and the machinery acts. What if we flipped that thought process 180 degrees? What if the personnel acted as the support for the machinery? Is the land based drilling industry ready for this change?


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