Drilling a well is a complex mix of overwhelming data and tasks in need of constant attention. To address the challenge of repetitive complexities of machine and process control, the NOVOS process automation platform was launched by NOV after an extensive development period.

The system provides a common platform for the control, monitoring, scheduling and optimization of drilling operations. This enables drillers to focus on what is important while they consistently execute repetitive drilling activities to achieve the well program by integrating the best of human and equipment capabilities.


The structuring of data and defining activities through process automation enables engineers to develop lessons learned and apply best practices across regions and rig fleets, regardless of rig specifications or location. The system is scalable, not custom-built, so it does not require extensive R&D for it to work with each new deployment.

NOVOS is simply dropped on top of the existing NOV control system, creating a quick and rapid deployment. The scalable installation enables the system to be easily placed on rig fleets, which increases overall consistency, enhances the performance of the entire fleet and gives the end user the ability to plan ahead.

The system is equipped with applications that immediately allow the rig to drill faster, safer and more effectively. It also has the capability to incorporate customized applications for specific drilling requirements.

A software development kit allows developers to create and deploy their own optimization applications that use sensor data to control rig machines. Third parties are provided with safe access to a wide variety of functions within the system and encouraged to develop applications that address their unique challenges. Those applications can then be layered, prioritized and partitioned to provide simple flexibility of control and monitoring in ways that were previously unachievable.

There are five major operators and service companies working to develop applications compatible with the platform, with development pending with nine more companies.

The platform today

Years of development were spent to ensure NOVOS was built with a foundation of stability, flexibility and ease of scalability to be valuable in bringing practical automation to the drilling process.

In the years since its launch the platform has successfully been installed and commissioned on 19 land rigs. There are five additional installs scheduled but pending rig availability. The system is installed on rigs in Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas and Canada. Precision Drilling currently has the system installed on 18 land rigs. In second-quarter 2017 a system was purchased by Beaver Drilling for installation on its Rig 15.

The NOVOS team is actively training drillers on rig location depending on rig and resource availability. During the training process drillers are easily picking up the system and becoming even more proficient over time.

Value in the numbers

NOVOS was recently deployed during a rig move for Precision Drilling. The early results showed the company’s drillers achieved consistent bottom-to-bottom time savings—a 10% improvement bottom-to-slips, 18% faster add-stand and a 67% improvement slips-to-bottom—yielding overall time savings of 41% per connection.

To evaluate connection time improvements, NOV compared the five best consecutive bottom-to-bottom cycles for conventional drilling against five consecutive cycles of NOVOS-enabled drilling. There was a reduction in average bottom-to-bottom time from 7.91 minutes to 4.67 minutes using NOVOS, demonstrating a significant improvement in Precision’s performance. The increased consistency created by automating repetitive tasks resulted in an increased awareness of safety and successful delivery of the overall drilling operation.

Assuming six wells per pad and 20 total days of drilling time per well, connection time savings translated to nine hours saved per well and 2.25 days saved per pad on average, enabling the drilling contractor to better plan service delivery, allocate resources and move quickly to the next pad. The total savings added up over time yielded higher profits and rates of return on the customer’s initial investment.

Next steps

As NOVOS begins to make its way on to several rigs, the surface is just being scratched on how the automation can be used. There are many repetitive functions that are still performed manually that can be brought into the control system. Right now, consistent and repetitive tasks are automated on the drill floor, but there are other areas on the rig where repetitive tasks could be automated.

Features added since the release of NOVOS include, but are not limited to, reaming, rocking, torque and drag, and a downlinking interface. The ease of updates and enhancements further shows the flexibility of the NOVOS platform. As for next steps, an improved user interface based on driller feedback also is being developed. The additional features and new user interface are scheduled to be released in third-quarter 2017, and work toward finalizing offshore capabilities for gel breaking and envelope protection are underway.