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Sekal - supporting drilling with real-time data and physics

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Sekal, a start-up company in Stavanger, is commercialising real-time solutions that advise drillers upon how best to progress their drilling program within the operational limits of the well bore and down hole equipment.

Sekal, a start-up company based in Stavanger, has developed real-time solutions that help drillers drill as efficiently and safely as the well bore and down hole equipment will allow.

Using real-time data gathered at the rig site, the real-time solutions maintain coupled calibration and modelling of the hydraulic, mechanic and thermodynamic parameters, giving a consistent and complete overview of the drilling operation in the well bore.

This includes modelling of the ECD (equivalent circulation density) based upon the physical conditions within the well, including the mud rheology, temperature and density, physical dimensions of the drill string and bottom hole components, the well bore, accelerations and movement of the drill string, accelerations of the mud pumps, current pump rate, and much more, providing the drilling crew with 'real time measurement' of the ECD for all drilling operations and downhole flow rates.

Sekal's solutions will help drillers to drill according to the current physical conditions of the well bore, rather than the capacity of the drilling equipment and/or the estimated drilling prognosis.

The real-time solutions have been used in the ConocoPhillips Eldfisk A and Eldfisk B fields, Statoil's Grane, Statfjord C, Tyrihans fields and BP's Clair field. After two years of field-based trials it is now ready for commercial rollout, the company says.

There are two software solutions available from Sekal: DrillTronics, which runs on the offshore rig and integrates directly with the sensors and control systems; and DrillScene, which provides a broader onshore overview of remote drilling operations.

Both DrillTronics and DrillScene gather data from many different rig site data sources (including from service companies on the rig), to build up an integrated picture of what is going on in the well.

DrillScene - systematic real-time analysis of downhole conditions

DrillScene systematically analyses the real-time data in order to monitor downhole conditions, as the mechanical, hydraulic and temperature models are combined to calculate the predicted hook load, surface torque, stand pipe pressure and ECD for the complete well bore in any drilling condition. The coupled numerical models are automatically calibrated. The modelled drilling parameters and their minimum and maximum boundaries are then applied as a backdrop in the graphical user interfaces for the real-time measurements to detect the development of poor downhole conditions. Automatically generated messages can be sent to key personnel who can evaluate the potential problems and take necessary actions.

In a number of offshore field trials, the DrillScene software managed to notify drilling teams of potential problems in the well bore long before they became critical, giving the drilling crew time to take steps to avoid the problems, the company claims.

DrillTronics - both passive and active management of drilling operations

The DrillTronics solution from Sekal is designed to operate in both passive (advisory) and active mode.

The passive or advisory mode is similar to the red band on the revs per minute gauge on your car, telling you that you are pushing the equipment to the edge of its limits.

The active mode is when the machine makes the decision for you - the equivalent of a F1 car's rev limiter or alternatively, your car's anti-lock brake system (ABS).

DrillTronics can actively control (or passively provide advice upon how to control) the draw-works (the hoisting machinery on the drilling rig), top drive (which rotates the drilling equipment within the well bore) and mud pump performance, taking into account the dynamic behaviour of the modelled ECD in the complete well bore during drilling, tripping and other well operations.

DrillTronics can manage the drillstring movement, pump startup, friction testing, reciprocation (moving the drillbit up and down) and safety triggers for over-pull (when the amount of force being used to raise the drillbit is higher than the weight of the drill string, indicating that something is going wrong within the wellbore).

DrillTronics provides safety triggers for maximum torque, maximum set down weight, pack-off (where the wellbore gets plugged around the drill string and fluid can't escape), mud pump operations associated with pack-off, and compensation for rig heave due to wave and weather conditions.

As an example of how Sekal's solutions can help: rig personnel routinely perform regular friction tests in the wellbore using the downhole drilling equipment, to try to spot well problems in advance, such as poor hole cleaning or a borehole that isn't completely straight (known as borehole tortuosity). Drillers then use charts which predict the hook load and torque for a given bit depth and mechanical friction factor. An abnormal torque and hook load observed at the surface can indicate a problem downhole.

The Sekal software solutions, on the other hand, include a computer model of all drilling parameters including hook load and torque that are calibrated in real time, providing the drilling expert an improved view of the drilling process and enabling him to detect abnormal down hole conditions earlier and more consistently than with conventional methods.


Sekal was established in May 2011, commercialising technology that had been under development at the International Research Institute of Stavanger (IRIS) over the last 20 years.

Statoil, BP, ENI, the Research Council of Norway and Demo 2000, a Norwegian research organisation, funded the technology development.

Statoil announced in September 2011 that it was making a further investment of undisclosed size in the company.

"As an owner, Statoil will be able to contribute with relevant experience of current operators' requirements for solving the drilling technical and safety challenges, during more and more challenging drilling operations,' said Asbjørn Sola, managing director of Sekal, at the time of the investment.

Norwegian investment company SåkorninVest, a company with NOK 340m capital, has also invested in Sekal.

The principal owners of Sekal AS are Statoil Technology Invest, PV Invest 3, SåkorninVest and IRIS.

The company is based in Stavanger, and Sekal is setting up commercial offices in Aberdeen and Houston. The Aberdeen office is headed by Nick Gibson, a past Sales Manager for Kongsberg Oil and Gas Technologies.

Associated Companies
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