OTC 2019: Transocean CEO describes future drilling rig technology

May 8, 2019
Offshore drilling rig technologies continue to evolve in response to increased demand for safer and more efficient systems. 

Offshore staff

HOUSTON – Offshore drilling rig technologies are continuing to develop and evolve in response to increased industry demand for safer and more efficient systems, said Transocean CEO and President Jeremy Thigpen at the Offshore Technology Conference on Tuesday.

While the market downturn of the past five years led many companies to sacrifice their R&D budgets, Thigpen explained that this was the wrong approach. “It’s important to keep offshore innovation going,” Thigpen said. “We need to transform the offshore industry so that it can compete effectively with shale, improve drilling efficiency, and accelerate first oil.”

Thigpen’s presentation, entitled “Rig technologies of the future,” described eight drilling technologies that Transocean has or expects to deploy on its rigs in the foreseeable future.

The time is now to support these technologies, Thigpen said. “The offshore environment is favorable. Breakevens have been reduced from $65/bbl in 2016 to $40/bbl in 2019, and even lower in some cases.” And the number of offshore FIDs has tripled from 2016 to 2019, he noted.

Still, the economic environment has changed, he allowed. “How do we make the industry profitable at $50/bbl?” New drilling rig technologies, he suggested, would play a large part in that.

Thigpen selected just a few of the upcoming technologies for his presentation. They included:

* Well control package – this involves an enhanced kick detection device that is being developed by Enhanced Drilling Co. of Norway. “This is the key,” Thigpen said. He also noted that this system is “less invasive” than a managed pressure drilling system, but added that it did not take the place of an MPD system, which could also be added on the rig.

* aShear – this is a new blowout technology being developed by Kinetic Pressure Control, which is producing a technology called “aShear” – “which can shear anything,” Thigpen noted. This new shear ram, he added, “is a blowout stopper,” and can be retrofitted to any depth.

* Automated drilling control – This involves use of a wired drill pipe developed by IntelliServ, a joint NOV/Schlumberger venture, which provides real-time downhole data that can be used to make adjustments during drilling. The technology has been deployed by Equinor off Norway for the past year on six Transocean rigs. Thigpen noted that Equinor has been “very pleased with the results.” He added that Transocean was sharing the costs of this new technology with Equinor.

* Human machine engineering – this involves sensor technologies and cameras which are placed on worker vests, as a safeguard against injury during drilling operations. The technology includes a warning system which alerts workers to proximity to dangerous equipment; and even shuts down the equipment, as an additional safeguard, if the worker gets to close to it.

* Hybrid power packages – this technology enables the drilling rig operator to manage the rig’s power more efficiently, reduce fuel consumption, and produce a lower carbon footprint. Thigpen noted that this technology has been deployed on the semisubmersible rig Transocean Spitsbergen.

* 20k drillship package – This technology, which has been in development by the industry for the past 15 years, will soon be ready to deploy. It will have a 20,000 psi well control system, a three-million-pound net hookload, and a 10,000 psi mud system. Thigpen noted that Transocean has been working with Chevron on this front. In December, it was announced that Chevron would deploy a newbuild Transocean drillship equipped with these capabilities in the Gulf of Mexico, in the second half of 2021.

* Remote monitoring and prognosticating – these technologies remove people from the rig, thereby improving safety and lowering costs; they will also include remote dynamic positioning capabilities.

* Data and health prognosticating – this technology will enable drilling rig operators to monitor and analyze critical systems so that they can plan maintenance activities, and thereby prevent or reduce downtime.

“These are just a few of the technologies we are working on,” Thigpen said.


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