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SPE/IADC 163466

Autonomous Robotic Drilling Systems


Kenneth Sndervik, Robotic Drilling Systems AS

Copyright 2013, SPE/IADC Drilling Conference and Exhibition


This paper was prepared for presentation at the SPE/IADC Drilling Conference and Exhibition held in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 57 March 2013.
This paper was selected for presentation by an SPE/IADC program committee following review of information contained in an abstract submitted by the author(s). Contents of the paper have
not been reviewed by the Society of Petroleum Engineers or the International Association of Drilling Contractors and are subject to correction by the author(s). The material does not
necessarily reflect any position of the Society of Petroleum Engineers or the International Association of Drilling Contractors, its officers, or members. Electronic reproduction, distribution, or
storage of any part of this paper without the written consent of the Society of Petroleum Engineers or the International Association of Drilling Contractors is prohibited. Permission to reproduce
in print is restricted to an abstract of not more than 300 words; illustrations may not be copied. The abstract must contain conspicuous acknowledgment of SPE/IADC copyright.

Abstract
Over the last decades we have seen many improvements in drill floor automation. Common for many of these have however
been more in line of make a machine to duplicate manual labor. This is about to change. Over the last 5 to 6 years more and
more companies and resources have been focusing on creating fully automatic systems, and in the last couple of years we have
seen the introduction of fully robotized systems.
This paper will highlight some of the vast improvements seen in Health and Safety as well as efficiency measured in both time
and money when using robotics in the drilling operations. This will be true for most, if not all, drilling structures designed for
land or offshore operations either used for drilling for hydrocarbons or not.
We will discuss how fully robotized drill floor, and even small partly intelligent tools can make a big difference, for both
safety and cost savings.
This effectiveness and safety aspect will be further improved when using autonomous decision making systems. With
autonomous system we mean that the systems itself will have the ability to decide how to perform a given task more safely and
with a higher efficiency than a preprogrammed task.

Introduction
The word robot was popularized by Czech author Karel apek in 1921, creating the word from the Czech word "robota",
meaning servitude.
The history of robots has its roots as far back as ancient myths and legends. Al-Jazari (11361206), an Arab Muslim inventor
during the Artuqid dynasty, designed and constructed the first programmable mechanism. Al-Jazari's robot was a boat with
four automatic musicians that floated on a lake to entertain guests at royal drinking parties. His mechanism had a
programmable drum machine with pegs (cams) that bump into little levers that operate the percussion. The drummer could be
made to play different rhythms and different drum patterns by moving the pegs to different locations. (Wikipedia)
But it was not before during and after the Second World War and the invention of the computer that robotics took off.
Unimate, the first industrial robot ever created began work on the General Motors assembly line in 1961; the machine was
conceived in 1954 by George Devol. The introduction of robotics in the general industry has transformed the way we live.
Products can now be produced safer, faster and cheaper. Population of industrial robots for 2012 is around 1.2 million (IFR).
The introduction of highly effective electric motors and accurate software / hardware to run these motors, have given us the
fast and accurate robots we see today. The use of electric motors has many advances over hydraulic systems. These could be,
but not limited to:

Accurate readings for better anti collision

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Acceleration / retardation to improve life expectancies


Easy maintenance
More cost effective to produce over pneumatic / hydraulic systems
Faster and more cost effective to install
Faster and more cost effective rebuilds of existing structures
Higher efficiency / less energy consumption

By removing some, or all, of the operations done manually today on a drill-floor it will be perceived as a safety feature
compered to manually performed operations. However, this is only a fact if the machines can perform a safer job than a human
worker. It can for instance be argued that heavy lifting is dangerous for rig personnel and thus will be done safer by a robot.
This will only be true if the robot does not harm or destroy either personnel or equipment. Because of this we will briefly
touch robotics in general, surveillance systems as well as autonomous decision making robots in this paper.
We will discuss how both single robotic components as well as fully functional robotized drill floors can benefit from this
technology, both in safety as well as in time and subsequently cost savings.
The sheer size and complexity of a fully robotized drill-floor would be difficult, if not impossible, to present in one paper. It is
however our believe that this paper will give a rough outline of a coming technology, even though most components
mentioned in this paper would benefit from being presented as a standalone SPE paper.

Single robotic components


For an end user it is imperative that introduction of new technology either enhances safety or decrease spending, and hopefully
both. A large number of machines used today on drilling structures have increased safety and decreased hard manually labor
by mimicking the way a human would perform a specific task. Sadly this has in many cases not done much for efficiency and
savings. We believe that by introducing single robotized machines we can further enhance the safety aspect as well as
decreasing the cost per well. For instance a multiple size elevator (Pict 1) will not only enhance safety due to limit work in
dangerous zones, but save an estimated 15 minutes per elevator insert change. For arguments sake we will estimate the
following:

Rig operational cost 1 000 000 mill US$ / day


o = 40 000 US$ per hour
17 section, one trip to TD
12 section, one trip to TD
8 section, two trips to TD
3 different pipe/BHA sizes per section

This can potential generate a savings of

per well.

Introducing robotic aids like this will however also have negative influences of freedom to choose. Whereas with conventional
equipment different elevators and / or inserts could be ordered for all different sizes and tool specifications, introducing
multiple size tools can limit the engineers choice without deciding to change elevator inserts or elevator on the rig. This will
however still be better, safer and more
economically than standard tools available
on the market today.
Over the years we have seen, and
demonstrated, quite substantial safety
improvements when running a single robot
on drill floor. A drill floor robot (Pict 2) will
have the ability to lift small to medium
weights tools and deliver this at a
predesignated area. For instance bringing a
drill-bit to well center for makeup while
drilling commences (red zone) without
risking personnel injury. Other task could be
remotely controlled like using the robot to

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bring a radioactive source to MWD / LWD packages, or installing components for wire line equipment.
By incorporating interchangeable tools multiple specialized tasks can be performed by the robot. Safety will for instance be
heightened by making it possible to remotely operate the robot connected to a fire hose, giving the crew the chance to reach
safety while still battling a fire. Other tasks could be to manually manipulate valves etc. during an emergency.
Incorporating more machines will further enhance safety but will be dependent on software and hardware tracking the motions
and progress of each machine correspondingly. The information from the robots are used to determine time spent on each task
by letting all robots report their position to each other at any given time. In other words a fully robotizes drill-floor can
visualize and simulate any operation and predict time within a second. Using the robots own software makes it possible to test
multiple iterations for best operational procedures before executing the operation(s). In fact it will be possible to test the entire
drill-floor setup before it is even built by using the control software this way.
But to really harvest on a full robotized drill-floor the robots needs to be given some form of autonomy. In robotics autonomy
mean independence of control. In other words we need to let the robots decide (within boundaries) how to perform a task. So
how does this work in reality? Lets say that the following is taking place on the drill floor. Pipe robots are picking up pipe and
making up a bottom hole assembly. In the meantime a deck robot has picked up a stabilizer according to the BHA setup. When
this robot is getting close to the well center it will detect other activities and ask the other robots what they are doing. The
system will then decide which task is the most important. The system will see that according to the plan they will need an
additional 30 feet of drill-pipe before attaching the stabilizer and will then ask the deck robot to stay in position and wait.
This will not only generate better health and safety, but
also generate less waiting time and subsequently
reduce the overall cost of the well. It can also be given
a learning capability so that it will remember how it
performed a specific task and develop safer, better and
faster procedures for next time. In figure 1.1 and 1.2
we show this by having the robotic drill-floor handle
multiple tasks over time versus how a human drilling
crew would handle the same tasks. Figure 1.1 shows
that in the beginning over a specific 24 hour period the
manual drilling crew outperforms the robotic drillfloor by managing more tasks per hour. However, after
fine-tuning the robotic drill-floor, we are able to reduce
time spent on each tasks subsequently generating more
task per hour as shown by figure 1.2.
The system will also report back to the operator how it
performed this specific task and will recommend other
robotic systems (on for an example a sister rig) how to improve a specific task. This will also create a continuous improvement
gradient whereas the system will outperform itself every time. Furthermore it will not be necessary to look at variation in
drilling crew performance when planning specific tasks. A robotizes drill-floor will be able to accurately predict time spent on
every operation for better and more economically planning. The system will also be able to monitor itself and the status of the
robots by checking for damages, monitor life expectancy on specific parts and reduce stress on itself if it detects trouble with
for example an electric motor or a gear.
For heightened security a second surveillance system will be incorporated to monitor and verify robotic movement and path
against actual and expected movement.
So how do we achieve a fully robotized drill-floor?

Fully robotized drill-floor


We define a fully robotized drill floor as a drill floor fully independent of human workers. From this we derived at designing
the drill floor as a specific factory cell, and generated a list of tasks and equipment to handle this. Multi task robots have been
produced to reduce the number of robots needed and we have found that a fully robotized drill-floor needs the following
machines:

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Pipe handling robot


Iron roughneck robot
Hoisting mechanism robot
Deck robot
Elevator robot
Robotic slips

As briefly discussed all of these robots can be used as standalone machines, but it is
when we bring them together we see a huge increase in Health and Safety, time and
money spent. Different iterations of these machines can be used either on existing- or
new build drilling structures. The testing facilities (Pict 3) shown here is a single pipe
robotic drill-floor that has been run over 200 times over the last two years, and
multiple settings have been tested for best possible run data. From this data we have
simulated other drill floor setups using the machines capabilities to find optimum
parameters on different drill floor layouts. The system (Pict 4) is also used for
visualization during operation.
When set up as a standard
drilling module we see little or
no improvement in time spent
tripping. The best manual crews
on manual rigs have shown faster
tripping times, but often with a
huge accidents potential. A fully
robotized drill floor will, due to
the removal of personnel, reduce
that risk to a minimum. This can
further be reduced to close to nil by introducing down-hole / topside
measurements and drilling software.
For todays automated drilling structures a higher efficiency can be
expected when changing out equipment with new robotic drill-floors.
There will however be savings in reduced rig crews. Multiple scenarios
can be looked at, from land drilling where technicians can be split over
different rigs in proximity of each other, to reduced single crew on an
offshore installation. For instance one position removed on the
Norwegian continental shelf will add up to 6 people (2 weeks on rig, 4
weeks off). A conservative estimate of cost per person will be 300 000US$ / year per person (including salary, transportation,
accommodation, pension etc.) yielding a potential saving of 1 800 000 US$ per position.
The author see the danger of discussing potential savings with robots removing manual labor in the drilling industry, but from
our discussions with partners and other contributors, it is my believe that we will not see a reduction in workers when these
new systems are implemented. Cheaper drilling cost will make it possible to drill for more hydrocarbons in either areas that are
too expensive or too difficult to drill today, putting even more strain on available rigs on the marked and increasing new
builds. The jobs needed to be performed on a robotic drill-floor will be different, but we estimate that we will over time need
more skilled personnel than there is available today.
Finally it is when we go towards the more complicated designs
that we see the highest time / cost savings. By introducing double
pipe handling system with top-drive retardation we have
calculated theoretical tripping speeds of over 3000m/hrs. using
conventional hoisting mechanism and speed. The fully electric
system is set up to deliver drill-pipe (and other components) from
two places, removing all waiting time from picking up drill pipe
to hoisting the block. The only bottleneck for the machines will
be how effective we can make the iron roughneck and or drillpipe threads.

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Conclusion
It is our believe that the drilling industry will over the next few years introduce robotic tools and that fully robotized drill
floors will be installed all over the world. This step will not only have a great impact on health and safety but will heightened
the effectiveness and reduce overall cost of the drilling operation.
The control software will make it possible to run iterations before deciding how to perform a specific task for better time
management, and will even let the operator simulate entire drill-floors before being built.
All electric machines have a higher efficiency for reduced energy consumptions as well as reduced sound mitigation. Better
control over the machines with better tolerances will let operations go smoother, saving time, equipment and the environment.
Together with more effective and smarter drilling tools it will not only be possible for systems like this to increase
effectiveness on the drill-floor. By letting the down hole tools tell the rig what to do and what to expect, vibration mitigation
for instance can be handled within seconds to save bottom hole assemblies and improve drilling efficiency.
From the general industry we have seen that by using robotics to reduce production and manufacturing cost often result in
more employees due to higher production rates. We believe that the oil companies will drill more wells when cost per well is
reduced to further enhance the worlds growing need for hydrocarbons, generating more jobs to the industry.

Acknowledgments
We would like to thank Statoil, Shell, Conoco Phillips and Odfjell Drilling for their support during the development of this
technology.