As a consequence of global energy markets characterised by increasing demands and at the present time decreasing profits, drilling companies are also challenged with reducing the overall cost structure of their drilling operations. Especially offshore drilling operations require a highly qualified workforce, and are also faced with high operating expenses. Offshore workers need to be especially certified, which translates into substantial labor costs. They frequently need to be transported to and from the platform by helicopter, which results in high transportation costs. Another factor is the time needed until the first gas or oil is actually pumped. The shorter this time, the more profitable the drilling project will be. There are also environmental issues that call for efforts to minimise the footprint of the operation, reduce the amount of energy needed and prevent accidents that might have a detrimental effect on the environment.
Reducing manual operations
Robotic Drilling Systems (RDS) developed a drill floor solution that allows fully unmanned operation. The system is designed to automate the complete drilling process. It handles the pipes and tools required, and can be integrated into new or existing onshore and offshore installations. The system basically consists of drill floor robots, robotic roughnecks, multi-size elevators and robotic pipe handlers.
Handling robots not only require intelligent motion control. They also need a complex automation system to seamlessly work together in order to handle a complete work process without human intervention. RDS has teamed up with Siemens, tapping the comprehensive know-how of a world leader in industrial automation and industrial communication, and applying this wealth of expertise to the oil and gas industry. As a result, the electronic equipment of the system consists entirely of Siemens products. The same is true for the drives.
Each of the robots is equipped with its own digital control system accommodated in a control cabinet. Here is where Simatic IPC’s with Simatic Step 7 software interpret sensor signals, translate process commands into motion control sequences and coordinate the interaction of related robots. They provide the digital intelligence required for handling pipes, positioning and attaching tools and the drilling operation itself.
At the machine level, Siemens drives are combined with Sinamics 120 frequency converters, Simatic S7–300 controllers and Simatic ET 200 distributed IO systems. They form a decentralised machine control system that links all the mechanical processes on the drill floor to the digital world. In the control room, WinCC Advanced is used to visualise all of the processes via Simatic HMI panels, and allows especially trained drilling technicians to monitor and control the ongoing drilling operation without manual intervention.
The communication between the control room and the robots and between the robots themselves is established using communication products from the Scalance S and Scalance X range. The Scalance Industrial Ethernet switches ensure that data is reliably transmitted between the various automation, drives and visualisation components. These switches are designed to be deployed in extremely harsh environments and support critical applications such as drilling operations. The Scalance switches comply with a broad spectrum of approvals required in the oil and gas industry, e.g. Atex, FM, IECEx and UL HazLoc approvals as well as ABS, BV, DNV-GL, LR for marine applications.
The security modules of the Scalance S family have been specifically designed for use in automation environments, yet connect seamlessly with the security structures of the office and IT world. They ensure security, and meet the special requirements of automation engineering. For instance, existing systems can be simply upgraded, installation is straightforward and downtime is minimized in the event of a fault. Various security measures can be combined depending on the security requirements.
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Fully automatic and unmanned operation on the drill floor
Picture: Robotic Drilling Systems
Managed Scalance X switches for seamless communication between robots and the control room
Picture: Siemens AG
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