Precision named Energy Excellence Awards Champion for Alpha digital suite

The second annual Energy Excellence Awards(EEAs) program, presented by the Daily Oil Bulletin, uniquely recognizes energy excellence and focuses on the advancement of collaboration within Canada’s energy industry.

For 2020, the DOB received close to 90 nominations in four broad awards categories — Project Execution Excellence; Innovation & Technology Excellence; Environmental Excellence; and Exporting Excellence — recognizing work completed last year. The nominees were further broken down into 12 subcategories across the four groupings, before being judged by a committee of industry leaders.

In the following days we will present the champions in each subcategory. Today, we feature the champion in Innovation & Technology Excellence in the subcategory of Digital Oilfield.

The Champions stories are compiled here, and access all the Finalists stories here.




Champion Announcement Podcast: Listen to our podcast announcing the champion of this category and a panel discussion on what makes organizations and technologies within this category stand out as it relates to productivity, savings in time, financial management, safety, and changes to environmental performance.

Leading the discussion is Wendy Ell, director of strategic partnerships and industry development for Glacier Resource Innovation Group, which publishes the DOB. Joining her is Mark Guirguis, Account Manager for Spartan Controls, which is the Silver Sponsor of the Energy Excellence Awards, as well as Douglas Freel, Managing Director of Oilfield Service for ARC Financial Corporation.

Click here to listen.


When Precision Drilling Corporation faced a challenge to sink what would be a record 5,000-metre horizontal well section while reaching total measured depth of 8,500 metres, it turned to its newest digital oilfield technology to automate drilling connection activities and ensure the well’s success.

The result was the longest well drilled for Shell Canada Limited, including the longest horizontal lateral section, in one drilling and casing run. Precision’s new Alpha suite of technologies enabled the new standard setting well construction, automating 96 per cent of all drilling connections. The high level of system utilization produced fast and highly consistent weight to weight times throughout all sections of the well, said Precision.

“Utilizing AlphaAutomation technology enabled the reduction of variations on several key drilling processes which contributed to saved time and reduced overall costs for Shell Canada. One specific process relates to connection times whereby utilizing AlphaAutomation saved half a day of drilling time.”

The company, selected Energy Excellence Awards winner for top Digital Oilfield technology implementation, commercialized the technology last fall after years of development.

“We started this journey three years ago with our first field trial and demonstration installations with the aim to be the first mover. It was clear to us that automation and digital technologies held the potential to significantly transform drilling rig efficiency and lower well costs,” said Kevin Neveu, president and chief executive officer.

Precision’s Alpha product suite, which includes AlphaAutomation, AlphaApps and AlphaAnalytics, drives performance through its core strength of integrating data insights, human ingenuity, automation consistency and smart algorithms to drill better wells, the company said.

AlphaAutomation helps bridge the gap between the drilling engineer’s well plan and execution by ensuring compliance to the drilling envelope. During execution over a dozen different built-in core apps enable Precision to automate all of the major drilling activities.

“The level of optimization this system offers is unparalleled in the industry for a few very good reasons,” explained Shuja Goraya, chief technology officer. “First, a seamless integration between the rig equipment and the software, as both of these components are built by the same technology provider. Secondly, an open collaborative platform for anyone to be able to write apps. And third, with its broader reach, it has the best land and offshore safety and drilling practices baked into the system.”

In a company podcast, Goraya explained AlphaAutomation is a reflexive system, which means like a human reflex, it can execute a series of actions depending on the environment. Its built-in apps can handle most of the drilling activities, and it offers endless customization capabilities through the ability to configure 122 different set points for every action, allowing each activity to be fine-tuned and repeated in precisely the same manner.

“The drilling optimization process is simplified by [the] system’s ability to learn from the most optimized sequences as performed by the driller, in the exact details with the right situational awareness. Once learned, AlphaAutomation performs them over and over again with impeccable consistency.”

As a result, instead of drillers focusing on multitasking and operating several different pieces of machinery at the same time, they can now focus on figuring out the safest and most optimized execution of individual drilling activities, he said.

“Teaching these to the system, which in turn executes them flawlessly every time, the same optimized sequences are portable to other rigs with AlphaAutomation, enabling a broader learning network of rigs, thus resulting in significantly reducing learning curves and improved drilling efficiencies across our fleet of rigs servicing the same customer.”

Precision estimates it has to be using the system more than 70 per cent of the time to be able to start creating real value. That means the system must be capable of handling most of the exceptions most of the times.

“One of the testaments to the robustness of our system is that its utilization is well above 90 per cent on most of the jobs. In other words, the system is capable of handling most situations and the driller does not have to intervene. In our experience this level of utilization results in performance improvements of 25-35 per cent for each of the automated sequences.”

The next phase of its digital strategy was to further improve execution by delivering the right information, to the right people, at the right time to make the best decisions — a job for AlphaAnalytics. Precision is streaming 4,000+ channels of high-fidelity data in real time from both the automation platform and the drilling equipment control system. To enable efficient data aggregation and real-time processing, it implemented a big data ingestion platform on both the Edge and the Cloud.

Precision Drilling now has the largest install base of process automation control systems and has drilled more than 1,000 wells on the AlphaAutomation platform. Its rig crews complete an intense training program on Precision’s Alpha-enabled training rigs and are supported around the clock by its Alpha Remote Optimization Center.

In another case study, Precision was challenged to shorten the performance learning curve of deploying a new rig for Chevron Corporation. Utilizing Precision’s 1500 Super Triple rigs fitted with AlphaAutomation technology, routine drilling activities were automated around auto-driller’s setting and drilling connections, including transitioning from bottom to slips, slips to tagging bottom, reaming, surveying and friction testing. AlphaAutomation enabled Chevron to rapidly spread standardized drilling practices across its fleet, demonstrating immediate savings with no costly learning curve to meet the performance of an established operation, said Precision.

“In oil and gas drilling, technology transformations have been a key industry feature for decades. In these transformations, the first movers win — they gain market share, they redefine the industry rig standard and they generate strong and sustainable financial returns while the rest of the industry struggles to keep pace,” said Neveu.

Over the past three years Precision has been sharply focused on field hardening the technology platform with both software enhancements and extensive training of rig crews and customer representatives, he said. “Achieving full buy-in at the field level was essential to our success.

“We believe our blueprint bringing together drilling automation, drilling apps, data analytics with our highly skilled crews and standardized super triple rig fleet will increase demand for our services and boost our utilization, market share and the bottom line.”

While the recent downturn will slow adoption of the technology across the company’s fleet, Neveu said in a recent first quarter conference call that Precision continues to “generate the expected commercial returns with our AlphaAutomation systems, and we’re making good progress introducing AlphaAnalytics and the AlphaApps to the field.”

It increased its AlphaAutomation coverage in the quarter by adding six rigs to bring the total to 40 rigs, while partnering with a U.S. customer focused on natural gas drilling to trial AlphaAnalytics on its group of Precision rigs. “We believe the efficiency improvements are already being acknowledged by the customer, and we expect to fully demonstrate the value of this service as the trial progresses.”

Indeed, Neveu said he expects the company’s digital technologies “will be differentiators during the trough and absolutely during a rebound. The performance will be notable on those rigs.

“We expect that when the rig market stabilizes, our customers will shift their focus back on capital efficiency, drilling efficiency and overall well construction cost improvements,” he added. “And there’s no question that digital technology will lead these efficiency gains and cost efforts, and Precision is very well positioned as a drilling contractor first mover.”



The Champion Series is brought to you by Fluor Canada, our Gold Sponsor, and Spartan Controls, our Silver Sponsor.

Fluor Canada: Since 1949, Fluor Canada has been involved in the engineering, procurement and construction of a wide range of energy related projects that are spread across the Canadian landscape. Fluor provides local, regional and international clients with full-service capabilities, which include economic evaluations, conceptual engineering, feasibility studies, program management, detailed engineering, procurement, transportation and logistics, modularization, fabrication, direct-hire construction, construction management, commissioning, start-up, operations and maintenance.

Spartan Controls: Spartan Controls was founded in 1963 and is an employee-owned company with people and infrastructure in 14 towns and cities across Western Canada. Spartan Controls provides a very broad range of industrial automation products & solutions to all the process industries.

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