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The industry landscape is very different than it was even just a few years ago. Climate change has brought the industry’s license to operate under scrutiny while a more volatile market has resulted in operators exerting far more capital discipline over their spending. The confluence of these and other factors has resulted in industry mandates for more sustainable drilling and well construction operations and higher levels of efficiency and performance.

Schlumberger’s recently released Transition Technologies portfolio, which is aimed at decarbonizing its customer operations, includes several drilling and well construction technologies. The company is also leveraging digital to sustainably improve drilling and well construction performance while working toward a fully autonomous bottomhole assembly (BHA) that will transform how the industry drills wells.

Reducing emissions per foot drilled 

Schlumberger recently announced its commitment to achieve net-zero greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions by 2050. A key part of this commitment is the Transition Technologies portfolio, which includes two directional drilling technologies, NeoSteer at-bit steerable systems (ABSSs) and PowerDrive Orbit G2 rotary steerable systems (RSSs), and cementing services. These technologies were qualified using a robust quantification framework aligned to eight attributes, including emissions and energy consumption reduction, that support the U.N.'s Sustainability Development Goals. 

NeoSteer ABSSs and PowerDrive Orbit G2 RSSs drill the vertical, curve and lateral in a single run, eliminating the need for multiple trips. Both technologies reduce drilling time and decrease energy consumption or fuel use at the rig site, resulting in fewer COemissions. 

Cementing services reduce environmental impact because they contain a reduced amount of embedded CO2 from their manufacturing process, minimizing upstream emissions footprint.

Leveraging digital

A key focus for Schlumberger is using digital to optimize conventional drilling and well construction workflows. Digital applications, such as its DrillPlan coherent well construction planning software and DrillOps on-target well delivery software, enable better planning and execution efficiency, improved performance and minimized environmental impact through collaborative workflows and predictive analytics and sustainability metrics, such as emissions forecasting.

Another area where significant progress has been made is in remote operations. Schlumberger’s Performance Live digitally connected service transforms the conventional remote operations model of real-time monitoring to live remote operations control, enabling engineers to perform their mission-critical tasks from offices in town, reducing CO2 emissions from personnel logistics, onsite housing and equipment transportation. It also centralizes executional decisions to a smaller number of people while expanding access to domain experts from around the world, increasing collaborative opportunities that enable faster, better decisions that drive improved drilling performance.

The journey toward autonomy 

Schlumberger’s vision is a fully autonomous BHA drilling every section of a well. This system will constantly analyze its position, formation characteristics, conditions and trajectory to optimize steering and well placement.

The company’s journey toward full autonomy and increased system cognition can be aligned to six successive degrees. The baseline is defined by full human control and no automation, and the final step is fully autonomous systems.

The industry is deploying systems capable of performing single-workflow autonomy, where the system autonomously prioritizes and responds to simultaneous events. Some of the technologies that Schlumberger has recently released fall into this category. One example is autonomous directional drilling, which leverages closed-loop downhole workflows to reduce human intervention and continuously improve drilling performance in any section of the well. This technology was deployed with an RSS to autonomously build the curve on seven wells, reducing downlinking by 42% and increasing the overall ROP by 39% compared with similar intervals drilled in the manual mode for offsets. 

Autonomous directional drilling is already bringing a step change to efficiency, performance and thus environmental footprint reduction for today’s operations. As autonomous technology continues to evolve, it will bring new levels of efficiency and sustainable performance to the industry.