Addressing Challenges in Rig-Based Drilling Advisory System Deployment

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Sophisticated drilling-analysis software can help drillers set and modify weight on bit (WOB), rev/min, and other drilling parameters, but achieving acceptance of these software-based recommendations by a driller is complicated. Additionally, acceptance of changes to drilling techniques and modified work flows by a driller on one test rig is insufficient. The challenge is to scale buy-in across a mixed rig contractor fleet. Many projects fail when the change-management process is not properly executed. The complete paper presents a process used to successfully implement a rig-based drilling advisory system (RDAS) across a mixed group of rig contractors. The paper documents the direction and effort taken to implement change from the rig site to the office, along with management support.

Change-Management Process

Many drilling performance projects fail, not because of technology, but because of factors such as the lack of consideration given to how the project will be perceived by those it affects (stakeholders), and the lack of thought given to the project’s scalability. To address these issues, change-management principles must be applied consciously.

The list of stakeholders may include drillers, wellsite supervisors, drilling contractors, drilling engineers, managers, and others. Once this list has been compiled, mapping of the stakeholders on a grid that gauges their influence and interest is beneficial. Stakeholder management involves determining how best to engage individual stakeholders to move them to the high-interest side of the grid. High levels of interest and engagement from stakeholders lead to good feedback, which, if incorporated properly into the system, leads to even higher interest and subsequent permanent adoption of the technology.

The best way to ensure permanent change is to ensure that each stakeholder has benefitted from the project in some way, a goal accomplished through continuous monitoring and tracking of stakeholder interest level.

RDAS Overview

To address shortcomings in existing industry approaches to using both low- and high-frequency data to improve drilling performance, and to achieve a scalable, economic drilling advisory system, Apache developed an RDAS that is agnostic to any high-frequency data stream—surface or downhole—including those from rig-control systems. The RDAS consists of data-acquisition hardware and scalable off-the-shelf software, with an open API layer and a plug-and-play back-end software that runs both physics- and data-based analytical models at the rig site on reasonable computing power.

The RDAS displays new advisory information in the driller’s cabin, running real-time pattern recognition algorithms to detect drilling dysfunctions. When a drilling dysfunction is encountered, a change in drilling parameters is suggested. Additionally, drilling parameters from offset wells are made available automatically for the driller’s use on the drilling screen. Through this process, the operator entrusts field personnel with a slightly higher level of technical responsibility. The team has improved the system iteratively using feedback from drillers who used the RDAS.

The complete paper focuses on the adoption of a new addition to the RDAS with a human/machine interface (HMI) touch screen mounted near the driller’s chair on the rig floor. The HMI allows the driller to easily view and assess information presented by the system. The user interface (UI) allows the driller to directly interact with the RDAS to adjust settings and access features. Drilling data are automatically analyzed to enable the driller to view current drilling parameters against parameters from offset wells, and to determine the presence of drilling dysfunction and to recommend corrective action. The offset well-drilling-parameters comparison feature reduces or eliminates the engineer’s need to provide a drilling-parameters roadmap because the driller is now equipped with the pertinent information to make the most informed choices.

Operator’s Change-Management Strategy

Much of the complete paper discusses the operator’s change-management strategy to ensure successful adoption and scaling of its expanded RDAS. The team understood early on that change management has much to do with stakeholder identification and management. The team divided the process into four key steps—goal identification, stakeholder identification, stakeholder management, and tracking and monitoring—that were not meant to be rigid or followed on a specific timeline, but to serve as guidelines of which the execution team had to be aware as they changed the process. A conscious procedural method was followed to maximize the probability of success.

The goals of the project were as follows:

  • Have drillers use RDAS through the HMI to make better real-time model- and data-driven decisions by themselves.
  • Reduce time and effort spent by both engineers and wellsite supervisors to constantly monitor and advise the driller.
  • Improve the ability and knowledge level of the driller though RDAS-supported training.
  • Allow engineers and wellsite supervisors more time to investigate ways to further improve drilling performance.

Stakeholders were identified and mapped onto a Power/Influence and Interest/Engaged grid. Three main stakeholders were identified as the drilling engineer, the wellsite supervisor, and the driller.

Making RDAS available in the driller’s cabin changes the traditional task of drilling engineers in disseminating drilling parameter information to the rig. They now have to perform minor upfront work to choose offset wells for rig personnel. Some drilling engineers embraced the data-driven approach to drilling-­parameter selection and the ready availability of the information to the field. Others believed the program would overshadow their engineering efforts, and preferred methods of identifying optimal drilling performance themselves.

Wellsite supervisors often deem themselves the foremost experts in drilling performance through observation and experience gained through years of rig operations. Because of the amount of influence the wellsite supervisor has over the operation, obtaining his or her buy-in to the plan is crucial. If the wellsite supervisor does not believe in the system or does not see the benefits from using it, the drillers may not be compelled to use it and may even prevent its use. For this reason, a relationship needs to be established with all wellsite supervisors early in the process.

The driller was identified as the primary stakeholder for the project because the system implementation effects him or her substantially more than the other stakeholders. This dynamic not only changes the standard work flow for the drillers, but also brings with it a more technical approach to drilling, with new concepts for both experienced and new drillers. Before RDAS was introduced, drillers relied heavily on input from the wellsite supervisor, not making changes to the drilling system unless told directly to do so. Drillers with more experience may be given leeway with a window of parameters to operate within, but still needed verification and oversight from the wellsite supervisor when drilling was not ideal.

The problem with wellsite supervisors giving the key directive in this situation is that they are not always available to provide guidance. They may be managing other aspects of the operation that prevent them from being involved directly with the drilling parameter selection, leaving it up to the drillers to use their best judgment with limited information. The implementation of RDAS solves this problem by providing the driller easy access to information necessary for better decision-making. With this increase in information also comes an increase in responsibility for drilling performance. This rise in responsibility, coupled with the fact that the driller is directly manipulating the rig, makes the driller critical to the successful operation and implementation of RDAS. Keeping drillers actively engaged and working to increase use of RDAS is a high priority.

Fig. 1 provides an approximate representation of where the three categories of stakeholders stood at the start of the project. The strategy of moving the stakeholders to the high-interest grids was a conscious effort, and necessary for the success of the project. The first task was to identify the major steps critical to the successful deployment and adoption of the system’s driller-specific feature. In addition to the four-part change-­management method, the strategy included planning for the resources needed. Talent, knowledge, and attitude of the team driving the change was deemed critical, as was ensuring that appropriate hardware, fast software updates, and training were in place.

Fig. 1—Stakeholder mapping at the start of the project.


Two rigs were selected to test how drillers and wellsite supervisors use the system. Feedback from these rigs revealed the need for customization on a well-by-well basis. With the help of drilling engineers on the test rigs, modifications were then made to the system to address the onsite team’s needs and preferences. For example, a wellsite supervisor wanted the system to ignore mild stick/slip in a short drill section in which a rigid system with no customization could not provide an adequate solution. Being adaptable improved acceptance as the driller began to see the RDAS as a support tool.

Agile software development was critical to success, and the rig personnel appreciated the quick modifications to the system. Comparison of drilling performance from wells before and after deployment provided a way to quantify benefits. Seven total systems were deployed over a 5-month period. To date, the operator has moved 50% of the stakeholders from the low-Interest/Engaged section of the grid to the high-Interest/Engaged section. The operator will continue to deploy to additional rigs until all active rigs are covered.

This article, written by JPT Technology Editor Judy Feder, contains highlights of paper SPE/IADC 194184, “Change-Management Challenges Deploying Drilling Advisory System,” by Michael Behounek, SPE, Blake Millican, and Brian Nelson, Apache, et al., prepared for the 2019 SPE/IADC Drilling International Conference and Exhibition, The Hague, 5–7 March. The paper has not been peer reviewed.

Addressing Challenges in Rig-Based Drilling Advisory System Deployment

01 February 2020

Volume: 72 | Issue: 2

No editorial available



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