SPE/IADC 2021: Equinor driving digital route to faster well planning

March 9, 2021
Equinor has adopted a three-pronged strategy to improve operations through digital well delivery.

Offshore staff

LONDONEquinor has adopted a three-pronged strategy to improve operations through digital well delivery. Arne Sigve Nylund, senior vice president Drilling & Well, outlined the company’s goals in his keynote speech today at the 2021 SPE/IADC Virtual International Conference.

The program encompasses all aspects of drilling, from well design to execution, and involves use of digital technology, AI and robotics, all applied in close interaction with engineers.

“Our ambition is to close the gap towards autonomous operations,” he explained, “where the building blocks are automated drilling control, digital well planning, and operations support. These projects will allow us to improve safety, ensure closed loop learning, standardize on best practice and drive performance and by that, close the gap to the perfect well we all hunt for continuously.”

One of the key enablers, he continued, is rig automation. “Automated drilling control is a set of technologies that use real-time data from rig sensors to achieve automated, iterative operations that provide early warning of typical drilling issues before they occur – like adopting cruise control in a car.

“With our rig owners and contractors, we have implemented the technology on 14 rigs so far.”

Another area of special focus for Equinor is digital well planning, “automating the planning process and smarter use of data. The key is for the computer to support the engineer with data and smart systems so that the engineer can really spend time on true engineering tasks and continuous improvement activity related to planning the ‘perfect’ wells and optimizing safety and efficiency – instead of on time-consuming tasks involving handling of data.

“By improving our well construction process and combining this with smarter use of well engineering software, we believe we can reduce the time spent planning the well by around 50%.”

Operations support and operations management is Equinor’s third focus area for digital well delivery, with various pilot programs now under way.

As for the environmental impact of drilling operations, the company plans to introduce stronger emissions requirements for its new rig contracts, Nylund said. “We also need to connect more of our installations to the electrical grid, where possible, and to support development of green fuels, hydrogen and ammonia [for rigs and support vessels].”

He also highlighted the Northern Lights subsea CO2 storage project in the Norwegian North Sea, which Equinor is leading, in partnership with Shell and Total. This will involve building the world’s first low-emission vessels for bulk transport of CO2 produced onshore to the offshore storage site.

There could be further opportunities for drillers, he added, as new types of wells and technologies are needed to support subsea CO2 storage.