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Safe Influx successfully trials pioneering automated well control technology in North Sea



Independent supply company Safe Influx has completed the field trial of the world’s first automated well control system.

Safe Influx intend to provide automated well control solutions that will reduce the potential for human error and prevent blowouts - improving safety and cost efficiency on offshore wells
(Image via Safe Influx)

The company claim that the technology will improve the safety, environmental and cost performance of drilling.

Over the past year the Aberdeen based company - founded by two engineers with a combined 60 years experience in North Sea Oil & Gas drilling - has been developing a proprietary technology that aims to reduce human error in well control and prevent blowouts. 

Field testing took place at the Weatherford land rig at Bridge of Don, Aberdeen, where the company achieved the milestone of demonstrating the Minimum Viable Product. 

Safe Influx announced:

“At 15:10 on Tuesday 8th October 2019, the “Drilling Module” was successfully implemented and proven on the Weatherford land rig at Bridge of Don, Aberdeen. The system was interfaced with a traditional rig and performed Automated Well Control: ie. influx detection, spacing out, stopping of the mud pumps, stopping of the top drive and then shutting-in of the blow out preventer.”

A loss of well control, resulting in blowouts, is one of the key major accident hazards for upstream activity. Studies and reports have estimated that up to 67% of all blowouts have been due to human error. Safe Influx’s technology aims to eliminate this human error by using sensors and process controls to fully automate influx detection and shut-in sequences, thereby reducing the influx size to a minimum at an automated controlled speed. 

The Safe Influx Automated Well Control technology will allow continuous monitoring and execution of offshore well control operations, recognising an influx during all phases of a well’s operation, and enabling very early kick detection and shut-in activation. 

“Safe Influx is delighted to bring Automated Well Control to the industry. Our successful field trial demonstrated that automation can provide support to the driller, dramatically reducing our exposure to Human Factors,” said co-founder and managing director of Safe Influx, Bryan Atchison.

“The technology also provides a significant safety, time and cost advantage on day to day drilling operations, as influxes or kicks can be shut-in more quickly thus resulting in much smaller shut-in volumes and therefore much more manageable well control incidents.”

“This technology is a tool for the driller, providing peace of mind for the drilling contractor, operator and regulator.”

The proprietary system being tested in Aberdeen
(Image via Safe Influx)

The real life well testing of the technology at Weatherfords involved a week’s worth of activities, including:

  • Interfacing the Safe Influx Automated Well Control system with the 40 year old land rig.
  • Commissioning the system to ensure correct interfacing.
  • Running the system to demonstrate functionality and training the Driller.
  • Performing a series of system tests to demonstrate and prove up the functionality under different operational requirements.
  • Performing system demonstrations for the benefit of Lloyd’s Register inspectors. This will enable the existing Lloyds Register Technology Qualification Certificate to be extended to traditional land rigs.
  • Demonstrating the technology to the industry press.
  • Demonstrating the technology to a cross section of over 30 industry VIPs, including operators, drilling contractors and well engineering companies.

Having proven the technology using real world equipment, the next stage is to engage with operators and drilling contractors to perform extended field trials on modern cyber rigs and traditional rigs operating in the North Sea.

Atchison praised the team’s “unique collection of skill sets”.

“We have the passion and drive to make this happen and without that it just wouldn’t happen,” he added.

“That unique situation, inside the university environment where we’ve got the time and space to do this, I cannot think of another environment where that would happen.

“The accumulated knowledge we have, and the accumulated skill sets we have, and being able to apply them to deliver this wonderful technology that’s going to be of benefit to the sector is extremely enriching – if we’re successful, it’ll be a great success story for the north-east of Scotland.”

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Safe Influx successfully trials pioneering automated well control technology in North Sea - Time to read 4 min
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