The first fully automated drilling systems will appear within the next few years, an oil and gas industry chief said today in Aberdeen.
Walt Aldred, former research director and scientific adviser at Schlumberger, said field trials were already being carried out and that the challenge for industry was to work out how it would take advantage of the technology.
“The first automated drilling systems will appear within the next or so,” Mr Aldred said at the SPE Intelligent Energy conference.
“They’re not five to 10 years away – they’re here and are now waiting and they are going to be pervasive across industry.
“There have already been field trials. Now we need to look at how we’re going to use them.
“What efficiencies are we going to get from them that will let us get into those new assets (undeveloped oil and gas fields).”
Mr Aldred also said a joke about a driller and a dog had been thought up reflecting the diminishing role of humans in the upstream sector.
“The driller’s job is to feed the dog and the dog’s job is to bite the driller if he touches anything,” he told the audience at the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre.
However, Mr Aldred said there would always be a place for humans, and that in many ways their roles would change for the better.
He said new systems would free up people to focus on other aspects of the job.
Mr Aldred said during the conference’s opening session: “Really, a football team is just a group of autonomous systems working together.
“We’re just replacing some of those autonomous systems with something better.
“Machines can do coordinated, high speed things. It’s not just low level communications.
“Now you can tell a machine you want to drill to a certain depth and it has the ability to make its own decisions, which allows you to do other things.
“The question now is what value companies are going to achieve from that.”