Software: Drilling Engineers’ Eyes

Oil well drilling is one of the most fascinating engineering collaborations I have ever come across. It requires efforts from drill bits, tubulars, motors, mud and the list goes on. Most impressively, all of the drilling processes take place under the ground, probably tens of thousand of feet, maybe horizontally, away from the rig.

To keep drilling operations under control, people have developed many technologies that incorporate electronic, magnetic, and radioactive methods in order to understand the formation and downhole conditions.

The following picture shows a giant, floating iceberg. For a typical iceberg, only 10% of its mass is visible above the water. The remaining 90% is immersed in the deep blue.

It is difficult to estimate its underwater shape; hence, we say “tip of iceberg“ meaning the starting sign of problem.

Similar situations exist on rig floors. Drillers have limited information, which include hook load, surface torque, etc. However, they do not know the axial force along the string, whether the pipe is buckled or not, or if the torque on the pipe connection exceeds the makeup limit. Experienced drillers may sense the downhole problems through the combination of brake vibration, noise or pump pressure, etc., but what we need is something to bridge the gap between what we can see and what we cannot see.

Drilling software servers as this bridge!

Over the past 20 years, drilling engineering software has become an indispensable engineering tool in design phases, real-time monitoring and post job analyses. Using known operation parameters such as ROP, RMP, mud weight, drilling string configuration and well path trajectory, software like TADPRO can predict pipe buckling, hook load, surface torque, etc.

In other words, software is becoming drilling engineers’ eyes. Equipped with software, we can not only understand what we see (why certain hookload, surface torque), but also see the otherwise invisible happenings.

Do you have “eyes“ for your next well?

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