You are Home   »   News   »   View Article

Challenges to successfully implementing real-time Drilling systems

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Implementing systems to gather real time data from drilling rigs can be problematic, if you don't even know the rig's drilling schedule. Wipro's David Reed explains some of the challenges.

Installing a system to gather and communicate real time drilling data from a rig can be a 'very complex undertaking,' said David Reed, lead for drilling completions and wells real time solutions at Wipro.

He was speaking at the 2012 Digital Energy Journal forum in Aberdeen, 'IT infrastructure for the digital oilfield'.

Wipro (and its acquired company SAIC) around 10 years experience in designing and implementing real time data systems for drilling, he said.

The real time data system (RTDS) technology stack includes data acquisition and aggregation systems on the rig, local network devices, communications back to shore, and office based storage and analytic systems.

There are increasing calls for real time drilling data to; monitor and underpin safety, optimise decision making, meet regulatory requirements and run simulation models.

Generally the best return on investment for these systems can be achieved through globalised deployment programmes.

David summarised some of the challenges that can impact a successful real time deployment project such as; rig infrastructure constraints; service companies using different versions of WITS/WITSML, the drilling data communications standard; variation in workflows for rig types and well types, different demands of stakeholders; variations in maturity for real time drilling data systems; and difficulty forecasting project costs and timelines.

Many deployments have often been based on 'loose or ambiguous architectural standards,' he said.

'Use of real time drilling data globally would benefit from architectural consistency and where appropriate mandates, with a clearly defined business case,' he said.

Also, for the system to be useful, the data generated needs to 'support the business case, and functional/non-functional requirements' he said.

'There's a wide variation between how these systems are used in operator's collaboration environments,' he said. 'Some will have a significant portion of their workflows based around the data, whilst others may make no direct use of the data and use it merely as an overview to drilling progress.'


'Implementing multiple real-time projects consistently with a standardised design can be difficult to achieve,' he said.

'Rigs come in all shapes and sizes,' he said. 'The infrastructure facilities, space, network provision, power provision, all vary considerably.

'Stakeholders, on shore and offshore, vary considerably. They may have different ways of doing things.'

'Workflows vary considerably between rigs, maybe a totally different process,' he said.

'What projectdesign worked with one asset may not necessarily work well in another. '

Unpredictable jobs

There are many unpredictable factors in a project to gather real time drilling data, which can make costs of the project unpredictable.

Rigs vary considerably in design and often a rig environment can appear to be organised chaos.

'A robust architecture and governance framework can significantly reduce the time it takes to integrate real-time systems into rig infrastructure and acquisition systems,' he said.

'Without architectural governance there is varying degree of control into deployment design, making it hard to ensure a consistent quality of service. '

'Often a standardised design [template] falls down when faced with exceptions, which are highly likely in a rig environment.'

'In the end, the organisation may end up with a design that is difficult to support consistently due to its bespoke nature.' he said.

Also there is often very little documenting of how and why decisions were made, how systems were installed and what was learned. 'Very often information is poorly formed or missing,' he said.

With better processes for recording lessons learned, future projects get easier, designs become more standardised and projects reap the rewards of economies of scale.

'Rig surveys are often inconsistently carried out, and often done too late in the drilling schedule,' he said. 'People carrying out surveys may not always be adequately trained to focus on areas that are vital to Real-time drilling systems.'

A good rig survey will make the difference between a well informed and planned deployment to a chaotic, reactive deployment.

Late start

Another problem is that real-time drilling projects are not initiated early enough in the well project life-cycle.

The real time data system generally has to be implemented before spud (start of drilling), 'or we may lose the benefit of having the system in,' he said. 'Projects therefore very often start on the back foot.'

'This means the project is reactive. There's very little time to tend to the problems and exceptions that you're inevitably going to find.'

In one example, a colleague once had to physically weld a server into a rack, because the fixings were not available and there was no time to get them delivered.

If a real-time drilling project starts early in the well delivery lifecycle, then requirements, exceptions and designs can be effectively and consistently managed, he said.

Defining the project

Organisations may sometimes surfer from a lack of consistent 'joined-up' view on what kind of system they want. This can be down to individual asset work-flow requirements or the perception for these systems.

'Whist RTD systems may be deemed a necessity to supporting workflows in one asset requiring higher availability, in others these systems may have a lower importance. This can create a disparity in service and availability requirements'.

Availability and service levels need to be standardised and '…be realistic, reflecting the environments the system is used in, aligned with the business requirements and part of a clearly defined business case' he said.

There are many different people with a stake in the project, and they sometimes change during the life of the project. 'It makes it difficult to carry out consistent and repeatable deployments' he said.

It is important to have a clearly defined and communicated business case and financing model for real-time deployment programmes, he said. 'A centrally sourced global programme may struggle to achieve a good return on investment due to push back from assets.'


Many oil companies have done a lot about data security but not so much about the physical security of systems at the rig-site; sometimes servers are located under desks or in open offices.

'It may not be a problem with file and print type services, but we are seeing more and more requirement to connect to process control systems some of which may be safety critical' he said.

'Without a consistent approach, a clearly defined governance framework and [security] architecture then the overall security model will suffer from inconsistencies and gaps.'


Mr Reed was asked how far he thinks the industry has come in terms of drilling optimisation, if we are halfway there or if we have just started.

'It depends what organisation you talk to,' he said. 'I think we've still got a way to come. Maturity levels vary considerably.'

'In some organisations the whole business understands the importance of these systems, in others there are only a few key evangelists who support it.'

Some organisations may still rely solely on service companies to provide data to them.

What would help?

One oil company delegate asked Mr Reed what he would find most helpful.

Mr Reed said it would be helpful if system integrators (such as Wipro) could get a closer relationship with the business with the organisation, this would allow the business and integrator to better understand the impact of RTD designs and allow deployment programmes to react quicker to business requirements.

Also it would be very helpful to have advance knowledge of global rig schedules. Many operators are reluctant to share this data with a 3rd party company, however the information can be highly useful in proactively planning a global deployment programme' he said.

Associated Companies
» Wipro Limited


To attend our free events, receive our newsletter, and receive the free colour Digital Energy Journal.


Latest Edition Mar-Apr 2024
Apr 2024

Download latest and back issues


Learn more about supporting Digital Energy Journal