Precision Drilling to demonstrate ‘highly encouraging’ rig automation tech

Precision Drilling is gearing up to show the investment community the “exciting” automated capabilities of a new rig the company completed in the first quarter—capabilities CEO Kevin Neveu says can be bolted on to its entire Super Series fleet.

Commercializing automation and efficiency-driven technology across Super Series rigs is one of Precision’s three strategic priorities for this year.

The company says it is working with partners to achieve this, in a technical evolution that targets the development and field application of drilling equipment process automation coupled with closed loop drilling controls and de-manning of rigs.

At a May event in Houston, Precision will introduce investors to its new Super Triple 1500 Rig 609, which in addition to the deep, extended reach and pad walking capabilities of its existing units features rig process control automation, high speed downhole data transmission via the drill pipe and directional drilling advisory software, the company says.

“We’re comfortable rolling this out to the investors now because we’ve seen the results in the field,” Neveu told the company’s first-quarter results call on Monday.

A news release from Precision reported that the technologies are currently in beta-style field trials, but Neveu said some systems are more advanced than others.

“[On] directional drilling advisory software, we’ve got several years of very good experience behind this so the ‘beta’ term might be a little bit late, but on the automation technology and some of the data transmission technology we’re still in the beta phase, but we’re really encouraged with what we see and we believe there is meaningful value for our customers, meaningful competitive advantage to be gained here and we’re anxious to tell you more about it.”

Precision’s competitors are also rolling out improvements in automated drilling technology.

Nabors Industries says it continued working on these initiatives last year despite the challenging economic environment.

“We started to turn our NDS [Nabors Drilling Solutions] vision into a reality and increased our market lead in rig automation and integration,” William Restrepo, Nabors’ chief financial officer, said during a Q4/2016 conference call.

“We expect to accelerate NDS growth and deliver on our goal of fully automating our rigs and the drilling process through increased integration. We plan to complete the upgrading of our U.S. fleet into the most modern and capable in the industry.”

Ensign Energy Services, a long-standing frontrunner in the development automated drilling rigs, plans to further reduce—or at least maintain—operating costs on its deeper high-specification drilling rigs by investing in “improvements where returns are justified.”

CEO Bob Geddes told the company’s first-ever investor day in Toronto earlier this year that the future of drilling innovation is about better use of existing tools.

For example, he said Ensign has started the process of moving up the value proposition with integrated directional drilling and controls onto its rigs.

“We do believe the next innovation is not a machine or a component innovation, but how one coordinates and interrelates a machine and downhole operational data, creating algorithms that think and help drillers replicate best wellbores on a continuous basis.”

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