What are the potential outputs of the OptiDrill project?
Deep drilling is very similar in many ways as embarking on a long journey without a very good map or very limited information on the problems you may face on your journey.
Most of us now have Satellite Navigation systems installed in our vehicles or Smart phones. We simply type in where we want to go and a mass of very clever technology, kicks into action and guides us as quickly as it can to our destination. It can even see problems that lie ahead and make suggestions as how best to avoid them and still get us there safely.
Within the OptiDrill project our aim is to develop a system that goes a long way to achieving the same outputs as a Satellite Navigation system.
Through the use of novel downhole sensor packages that can collect and transmit a wide variety of data, that has direct impact on the overall efficiency of deep drilling operations. With data being transmitted in realtime, the drill crew can make better informed decisions, that can avoid major issues both whilst drilling and as importantly when pulling out of the well or running back to bottom. Knowing there may be an issue before it becomes a problem means the progress of the well is optimised, with reduced costs and faster pay-back.
This is coupled with Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence, that reinforces the current data with training data gained from other drilling operations in different geological settings and most importantly from wells that have utilised a variety of drilling technologies, that “teach” the OptiDrill system to better interpret new data and inform, rather than perform actual drilling tasks.
What has been achieved in the first 9 months of the project?
As with most projects that are aiming to make technological advances, it is necessary to understand what it is you are trying to solve, what problems you need to address, what would be the ideal outcome and how you can build upon existing technology and how you can improve it, where it has weaknesses.
The OptiDrill team is a collection of outstanding professionals with a wide background of skills, including drilling, well engineering, sensor technologies, mechanical engineering and advanced ML & AI techniques, strongly supported by technical specialists in data management and dissemination.
In the first 9 months of the OptiDrill project we have gathered together drilling and well data, that is being used for training the ML & AI, we have identified where the weaknesses and strengths are and we are building a “what-if” scenario planning strategy that will challenge any/all data, to ensure that when the system is in the real world, it will present the driller with reasoned scenarios, gained from a global network of information.
The first 9 months are like learning to stand-upright, walk unsteadily, but gain confidence with every step taken, getting ready to run.
During these 9 months, what are the challenges that you have faced?
The predominant difficulty is getting sufficient and varied data. ML & AI, are by their very nature, data hungry and never satiated. Whilst there are many databases that have open access, they often lack the drilling data essential to the success of the project.
However, within our team we have many routes to data and we are continually interacting with those that produce the data and are gently persuading them to share their data, securely and anonymously.
Other than that, progress has been very positive, but if anyone out there reading this has data they would like to share, don’t be shy!
What are the next planned activities for the OptiDrill project?
Continuing to collect data, train and validate the system, couple the system with the data sensors and put it through its paces in both simulated and field drilling trials.
All of the time we aim to build relationships with those that will gain the most from the technological outcomes of the project and get them to feedback data, so that the system gets stronger and more intuitive, helping drill teams increase efficiencies and optimise their operations for the benefit of everyone.
In the near future we will be running a number of dissemination events, to engage with stakeholders and the public, to further promote geothermal energy resources and other mitigation strategies to achieve the goals set out in Paris and continually talked about. We will also engage with all those that are looking to use the sub-surface to keep advancing renewable energy technologies and lower CO2 emissions.