Very few drilling contractors can justify setting up a training center, but the On-the-Rig (OTR) simulator mitigates this need, as it can be installed anywhere and has functionality built in to replace an instructor. This means the competency of crews to be assessed at the work site, however remote the location. Designed by Drilling Systems, part of the 3T Energy Group, the OTR is a mobile simulator system that can replicate a range of different rigs including drillships, semisubmersibles, jackups and land rigs. The main advantage of the OTR is that it is a fully functional simulator, with an instructor-free learning management system, yet compact enough to be transported anywhere.

Allowing crews to practice on a simulator as opposed to real equipment means more time can be spent assessing crews and a wider range of scenarios tested beyond basic system operations. This allows companies to get a deeper view of competency beyond purely a certificate and enables the appropriate action taken on the development of staff.

When done in the field these benefits are amplified. Training on site in the workplace is where people are proven to learn more, be more engaged and where information is retained and used more regularly.

Being able to step off a simulator and straight into live operations allows personnel to conduct an operation much more efficiently and safely. Improved competence and reduced human error equals optimized drilling and higher safety levels.

Functionality and flexibility
The functionality and flexibility of the OTR system enable it to assist in optimizing drilling operations in a variety of ways:

Familiarization of systems and common practices: This applies for new hires, recent promotions or crews that have been in a nonoperational mode. The OTR allows crews to regain confidence and competence in a safe environment, resulting in better drilling operations and a more confident and focused crew.

Preparing for specific upcoming operations: The OTR can be configured to practice for a specific upcoming job. This way the crews can be familiar with the job before actually implementing it. This is especially helpful for operations not conducted frequently.

Case study
Stena Drilling is one of the companies using the OTR system to prepare its personnel for faster, smoother and safer rig reactivations and operations.

“We’ve used the Drilling Systems’ OTR simulator as part of the reactivation on some drillships, including the Drillmax, Forth and Icemax, and are currently getting ready to install the OTR system on Spey and Carron,” said Stuart Greer, operations manager for Stena Drilling. “We’ve taken this approach following an extremely successful pilot project with the Stena Don.”

According to the company, the rig had been warm-stacked since November 2016 with a reduced crew. The rig needed to be reactivated in March 2018 after a major contract had been secured.

“We had new personnel joining, along with some of the existing Stena Don crew,” Greer said. “We wanted to ensure all of our personnel were fully competent and able to cope with any eventuality.”

Stena Don rig
The Stena Don is a harsh environment, dynamically positioned Class 3 semisubmersible drilling, completion and workover vessel for worldwide operations. (Source: Drilling Systems)

Working with Drilling Systems, a three-phase approach was developed to prepare the drilling and lifting teams, according to the company.

“We used the OTR simulator alongside individual coaching sessions,” Greer said. “This meant the crew could familiarize themselves with well control situations and procedures as well as the operational running of equipment in a controlled, safe environment.

“Because the functions and graphics are very representational of the actual cyberbase system, crew members gain experience and confidence. We’ve kept it in situ to enable continuous training and development for the crew,” he said. “The Stena Don project helped us test and verify our crews’ skill levels in a safe, fast and highly effective way, and by rolling out the approach to our other drillships, we can give our clients assurance that we are operating at the highest levels of safety and competency.”

What’s next?
One of the key challenges facing the oil and gas sector moving forward is further improving efficiencies and bringing down production costs. Technology holds the key.

Traditionally, the sector has been slow to embrace new technologies, but this is changing. A recent report by oil and gas training body OPITO recognizes that 10,000 new jobs will be created by 2035 to accommodate the increase in digitalization across oil and gas.

Digitalization and cloud computing will help to ensure that the right data-driven decisions are made to cut operating costs and maintain high safety standards. Digital twin projects, which involve producing a virtual model to replicate the real environment, are advancing and will help the industry learn lessons in the virtual world that can then be applied to the real world.

The value of simulation cannot be underestimated in these technological advances. Increasingly immersive graphics and tools, such as virtual and augmented reality, are helping the industry analyze and test systems, prevent problems and spot opportunities. Ultimately, this technology will transform the industry beyond all recognition.