Commentary: Technology becoming safer, cleaner and more efficient

By Clay Williams

The long standing tradition of innovation in the oil and gas business is alive and well in our industry today, as dramatic shifts are driving better ways to safely provide clean and reliable energy.

National Oilwell Varco’s mission to transform our energy future is supported by investments in new technologies and creative people, designing new ways to make oil and gas operations safer, cleaner and more efficient. Our goal is simple — to protect people, assets and the environment we share.

The simplest way to protect people is to remove them from harm’s way.

Automated pipe handling systems accomplish this by applying robotics technology to the potentially dangerous (and previously manual) activity of tripping pipe, which happens frequently in drilling operations. These systems have become standard technology on modern offshore rigs.

As an experienced supplier of pipe handling systems offshore, NOV recently introduced a new land pipe handling system.
The Stand Transfer Vehicle (STV) takes the derrickman out of harm’s way and has the capability to immediately stop drill floor equipment if a machine or pipe has the opportunity to come into contact with other machinery. This additional safeguard, the Pipe Interlock Management System, tracks the location of drill floor equipment and intervenes if necessary.

Advanced drilling controls provide additional capabilities to monitor and manage a fully automated rig through integrated electronic joystick controls, to remove humans from the path of the heavy machinery while simultaneously improving drilling efficiency.

Our disconnectable turret mooring systems on deepwater floating production vessels enables these, too, to get out of harm’s way if a hurricane threatens. Operators are able to disconnect the turret system and vessel so the crew can travel to safety.

Once severe weather has passed operations can restart with minimal downtime.

Modern rigs employ highly sophisticated software that monitors and reports patterns of equipment activity, and can predict the need for equipment maintenance. New managed pressure drilling techniques coupled with sophisticated software allow micro-second monitoring of wellbore conditions to detect dangerous kicks and report to the crew in real time. And for the first time, we can determine exactly what is occurring at the bit through wired drill pipe that utilizes high-speed telemetry from downhole measurements.

Technology also helps minimize environmental impact of drilling operations. New quick move land rigs and pad drilling shrinks the size of the drilling location that must be prepared to support operations.

Sophisticated wellbore tools maintain the desired path of the drill bit to drive efficiency gains, smoother wellbores and a reduction in the amount of drill cuttings produced, sometimes as much as 30 percent. This diminishes the volume of cuttings requiring treatment, the fuel consumed, and the drilling fluids employed, all reducing the contractor’s costs while simultaneously reducing the environmental impact. Advanced centrifuges and shale shakers separate drill cuttings from expensive drilling fluids, permitting the reuse of these on multiple wells.

New technologies are focused on cleaning and recycling water, including the patented membrane-based desalination technology NOV is bringing to the market. This system converts produced water into potable-quality water, and complements NOV’s award-winning Aqua-Ves™ mobile treatment system. New technology can allow produced water to be recycled into fracture stimulation jobs and other uses, avoiding the need to source new, frequently expensive freshwater sources.

The world needs the industry we serve to continue to provide safe and reliable sources of energy. Our customers depend on us to help keep their employees and our environment safe. Together with our valued suppliers, the NOV team is proud to invest in and build upon a legacy of finding smarter ways to make this vital industry safer, cleaner and more efficient.

Clay Williams is president and CEO of National Oilwell Varco.


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