In the recent years there is a tremendous push for drilling automation and the drilling industry is trying to move from rig mechanization to partial rig automation. While the industry moves toward an automated drilling system, not only has comprehensive 360° engineering optimization become extremely important, but the fusion of data analytics into the system has also become increasingly essential. Even though it might sound like a futurist’s dream, the exponential technologies in other industries provide a catalyst toward accelerating the realization of such a drilling system. With many technologies advancing at the same time, the future is to create the layered evolution of the advisory system to rig controls and get into position for the final automation, even if the driller is on the rig floor, at which point the auto driller should go beyond conditional automation and drill autonomously. Geometric models coupled with mechanical models are important not only to describing the system but also to understanding downhole drilling automation and providing effective simulations to enable dynamic motions under different modalities. A new paradigm is evolving while the drilling system learns, unlearns, and relearns and while the driller learns how to drill a well on a drillerless drilling rig.
"The brain is wired to think linearly when technology is growing exponentially. Advanced technology can revolutionize the drilling process with robotics, automation, artificial intelligence, and deep cognitive science"
Effective methods are absolutely necessary to blend the unique decision-making strengths of humans and machines. Computational models are necessary to thread the machines to efficiently infer the mental state of human teammates, thereby collaborating with people by richer, more flexible methods. We think of history and space in straight lines and tend to project advancements occurring in 10 years by looking back to what has occurred during the previous 10 years and try to extrapolate it in a linear fashion. The brain is wired to think linearly when technology is growing exponentially.
Figure 1 shows one line representing calculations per second per USD one thousand overlaid by the second line representing the percentage of horizontal wells drilled in the US. The lines are different in scale—one is exponential and the other is linear—but it is proof of the change occurring in the industry. The initial one, which is mostly conventional oil and gas, was flat and unconventional gas, which is nonlinear, is at the end. The double inflection tipping point occurred during the unconventional oil boom, which produced more data and an automation-driven oil/gas boom. The exponential technology and its adoption is provided as
Figure 1— Horizontal Wells in US
When the exponential technology is zero, there is no exponential growth and will be stagnant; when there is zero exponential thinking, even with exponential technology, growth will tend to align with the technology but will tend to remain flat. As seen in Figure even though technology may not be well aligned with the exponential technologies but definitely it is not stagnant but growing and the industry is conducive to innovation by cross assimilation of ideas from other horizontals.
It is good to gauge the health of the industry using knowledge versus time (Figure 2). Bifurcation in any industry consistently occurs—some are long and some are quick with the tipping point of knowledge on the time scale. The industry observed initial vertical drilling and began punching vertical holes, and then directional drilling and horizontal drilling occurred. Once we started punching horizontal holes, the industry became bifurcated. We are currently at the tipping point to advance to the next level—automated drilling. Bifurcation occurs when there is contraction in the space, evident during the 1980s and currently. The total number of rigs is overlaid on the plot. The major downturn during 2014 was driving the second bifurcation point. Exponential technologies in other industries drive the industry after the bifurcation point, depending on how knowledge is assimilated (exponential thinking), which is called the “exponential surprise factor.” Further, it can be observed that, when the industry is in an upswing, we tend to produce bigger and more inefficient tools, resulting in suppressed innovation.
Figure 2— Knowledge Growth
Advanced technology can revolutionize the drilling process with robotics, automation, artificial intelligence, and deep cognitive science. A physical cyber drilling system can be highly interconnected with intelligence greater than the compiled encyclopedia of knowledge gained so far when combined with the power of exponential technologies. The future begins now because disruptions and advances in drilling wisdom have occurred. We must take advantage of time and opportunities, use them, and then invest them in learnings to redefine the industry landscape and unleash it from the status quo. Based on linear thinking, we believe it is too difficult and will not happen during the near future, but we should provide nontraditional solutions for traditional problems and be able to look at all operational details on the palm of our hand on the go everywhere, anywhere, and all the time (Figure 3).
Figure 3—Data on the Go