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The exploratory drilling rig Leiv Eiriksson off the coast of Greenland in the Davis Strait between Canada and Greenland, Arctic.

The story behind rig intake services over a volatile decade.

Having comprehensively evolved rig intake services since the acquisition of inspection leaders ModuSpec in 2008 and WEST Engineering Services (2012), we share some global insights on the changes over the last ten years.

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Rig activation needn’t be a gamble

Phases of boom and bust, and somewhere in between, have shaped the offshore drilling business over the last ten years. As the market remains fragile, and unpredictability is the norm, lessons learnt have been established to help the industry with its future challenges. The downturn that commenced in 2014 was brutal, resulting in a sustained period of low drilling activity globally. Rigs were stacked, with reduced maintenance. Crews were laid off and personnel numbers started to dwindle, as a result of retirement or taking their skills to other industries. As the fragile market recovers slowly, increasing numbers of drilling rigs are coming back on-line. Facing a shortage of operational ‘hot rigs’, non-operational rigs that require reactivation from a state of ‘warm’ or ‘cold’ stack are being contracted. The trend toward shorter drilling campaigns, once 4–5 years in length and now typically only months, only further clouds the long-term rig supply picture and undermines investment in new capital projects.

Stacking conditions matter, bringing a set of different challenges around rig reactivation. Warm stacking will require a reactivation process and recruitment of crew. Cold stacked rigs and equipment will show no state of readiness.

For either option, there’s no leeway to get rig intake wrong, calling for more than a standard equipment inspection or tick-box exercise. When the pressure on costs are extreme, issues with rig condition or the competency of the crew on board will quickly put a drilling project over budget. Even in a subdued market where drilling assets are cheaper to procure, avoiding hundreds of thousands of dollars because of project delays, non-productive time or unexpected costs will be a key priority. The benefits of getting rig intake right aren’t seen when drilling operations run on time, to budget and smoothly, but a small investment upfront in rig selection and activation is now a tried-and-tested approach, delivering significant savings later.

A rig intake process can be extensive and unpredictable, so this cannot come down to a number on a procurement spreadsheet. Understanding the technical and regulatory challenges helps operators successfully and cost effectively tender, select and accept a non-operational rig onto contract. We have seen this time and again, having supported over 500 clients to intake 15,000 rigs. There are five main steps that should make up any rig intake process.

  1. Undertake a desktop review of the rig’s status
  2. Review jurisdiction compliance
  3. Audit and implementation of the management systems
  4. Identify and manage risk from People, Systems and Equipment (PSE)
  5. Testing for rig acceptance
Diagram showing continuous improvement around people equipment and systems.

Rig optimisation requires the big picture

Drilling rigs have advanced technically over the decade, spurred on by the emphasis to drill wells more quickly, safely and cost effectively than ever before. Software controlled robotics
and automatisation have emerged, as well as more complex downhole tools, improved dynamic positioning systems, extended capabilities and multi-purpose vessels.

With increasingly complex operations and systems, it can be difficult to strike the right balance between business risk and operational targets.

  • People are unfamiliar with new rig and equipment types.
  • Systems and their associated safety and regulatory requirements are more demanding.
  • Equipment innovation has seen a move away from iron-roughnecks to pipe handlers, with the use of automated drilling systems adding the complexity of cyber security and software issues to everyday operations.

Challenges also arise from more complex well design, advanced drilling techniques, reduced flat-time expectations, reduced crew and out-of-date drilling KPIs.

The focus needs to be on a holistic PSE approach to understand the efficiency of drilling operations and streamline inspections to achieve reduced non-productive time, improved performance and enhanced safety of assets, personnel and the environment.

You can do more for less with big data

The move from a manual to a digital offshore world is arguably the biggest breaking story in a decade, with the application of analytics to various data sets augmenting our engineering expertise, from the front-end analysis of a project to help with financial modelling to ongoing technical support and condition-based monitoring of assets and equipment. Today’s predictive maintenance solutions are helping operators to avoid unnecessary expenditure, downtime costs and pollution penalties.

Over the next decade, new digital efficiencies will continue to drive optimisation initiatives, proving central to meeting tough operational targets. Whether for the super majors or new entrants, To be most effective, the exploitation of data must bring together expertise across all sides of the drilling business, from asset and operational integrity to well operations.

We take the pain out of rig selection and intake by ensuring the rig you select is fit for operation, helping you avoid failure and delay to your drilling campaign.


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