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Editor's note: This article appears in the special OTC edition of the E&P newsletter. Subscribe here.

Keeping up with diverse, fast-paced managed pressure drilling (MPD) technology has too often been a complex, inefficient and dead-end task. In a marketplace dominated by an array of proprietary technologies that typically do not play well together, integration of MPD systems can suffer from many barriers and constraints.   

The NControl MPD platform developed by AFGlobal eliminates these traditional barriers with a universal communication hub that links subsea and surface MPD equipment, the rig’s drilling control system, and third-party equipment and software. 

This open-architecture flexibility vastly improves the ability to configure MPD systems to the rig and the job, and it enhances the management and operation of systems comprising components from a mix of vendors. 

Flexible integration avoids obsolescence and clears a path to the future by making it easier to replace components and upgrade to take advantage of new technology. It also provides the basis for future high-level integration, including digital twins, cloud-based systems and the Internet of Things. 

OTC simulations

Simulations presented by AFGlobal at the Offshore Technology Conference (booth 832) will showcase the features that allow the field-proven NControl MPD platform to integrate a full scope of AFGlobal and third-party technology. The presentation includes a look at AutoACD software, the latest evolution in active control device (ACD) technology for a simpler system that requires less operator intervention. 

Field-proven technology

The flexibility of the NControl platform is illustrated in the field by the diversity and successful use of many different MPD systems on various rigs to meet unique objectives and demands. These systems were designed and commissioned by a AFGlobal control system engineering team to help customers configure the MPD solution to their specific requirements.

The first wells drilled using the NControl platform were from a drillship in Bulgarian waters. The MPD system combined an AFGlobal manifold with third-party hydraulics modeling. 

The challenge was posed by the drilling contractor’s desire to use a specific hydraulics model that proprietary vendor MPD equipment would not work with. The NControl platform’s open architecture offered the only option for seamlessly integrating third-party equipment. 

Multiple MPD wells were successfully drilled using the system, and the contractor subsequently purchased a second rig system for work in the North Sea.  

In the Gulf of Mexico (GoM), NControl with AutoACD functionality is integrated with third-party manifolds and hydraulic models on two drillships. Multiple MPD wells have been drilled using NControl software to control and integrate a system that includes an MPD manifold and hydraulics model and AFGlobal subsea equipment, and surface HPU and lubrication skid. 

GoM applications also include a turnkey solution using NControl and AutoACD technology along with AFGlobal hydraulic modeling software and surface and subsea equipment. This first use of a full AFGlobal MPD system successfully drilled a three-well campaign. The operator remarked that the debut performance was commendable with an easy startup and transition to drilling ahead. 

The turnkey application benefited additionally from software designed for the hardware, which made a more robust system, improved crew familiarity with the entire system and consolidated vendor support.

(Source: AFGlobal)

A recent retrofit of a Brazil drillship used NControl and AutoACD software with a third-party manifold and hydraulic model. The system is installed, commissioned and pending the first well spud. 

All of these installations aboard different vessels used the NControl platform to successfully integrate a wide variety of equipment and software from multiple vendors.

Flexible control opens doors 

The NControl MPD platform fully integrates monitoring and live-data analytics with MPD system control and rig automation. It interfaces with AFGlobal and third-party MPD equipment to safely and effectively operate in applied surface backpressure, pressure mud cap drilling, riser gas handling and conventional drilling modes.

The AutoACD software package simplifies the use of ACD technology and requires less operator intervention. Integrated with the NControl platform, it constantly monitors and adjusts parameters to provide faster, better well decisions. 

The predictive system commands and minimizes downtime, reduces the crew workload and enhances safety.