A few years ago, MPD technology deployment was mainly considered when drilling wells with particularly challenging pressure profiles, tight pressure tolerances or similar well/wellbore challenges.
Building and proving a business case for a broader application of MPD has been a challenge due to the nature of the technology. A key argument in favor of utilizing MPD is increased safety by e.g minimizing or eliminating kicks and losses.
However, how do you prove non-events and quantify that something did not happen?
Today, use of MPD technology is gaining traction across the drilling industry. An increasing number of drilling campaigns require MPD technology to be used in their drilling programs. So, what happened?
MPD technology has proved itself
Over the last few years, the drilling industry has been struggling with low rig utilization and very low day rates. Oil companies have prioritized cost discipline and maintained tight control over their CAPEX. This challenging regime may have helped increasing MPD technology acceptance.
Obvious and easily quantifiable MPD advantages include:
- The capability to navigate tight drilling windows (including drilling a well that could not be drilled conventionally).
- Potential reduction in number of casing strings.
- Extend horizontal reach
- Mitigate mud losses
- Overcome drilling issues related to depletion.
However, issues related to reduced cost/increased efficiency (reduction in Non-Productive Time (NPT)) and increased safety have also been brought to the forefront.
As an example, MPD technology can reduce “hidden NPT”. In conventional drilling, changing the mud weight could require a stop in drilling. This will not be recorded as NPT because it is part of a planned operation.
With MPD, the wellbore pressure can be adjusted by other means, e.g applying pressure at the surface (e.g. by choking the mud return) by use of a Rotating Control Device (RCD), and the NPT is avoided.
The industry has also become increasingly aware of increased safety by use of MPD technology.
Kicks, mud losses and flow anomalies can be detected almost instantly and significantly faster than can be done with conventional drilling (at least 1-2 minutes faster), enabling the drilling crews to take appropriate and immediate action to avoid a potentially dangerous and unintended incident.
Mud losses can also represent a significant cost when drilling a well.
Reports have shown that use of MPD has reduced mud losses on an offshore deepwater well with 70%, compared with previous wells drilled in the same area. Translated into dollars, the saving in mud alone was almost 3 million USD for this well. The reduction in mud losses means less damage to the reservoir and increased production.
As a final example, a state of the art MPD system was deployed on 6 critical wells in the GOM. It was reported that the use of MPD technology enabled the operator to save USD 90 million compared to the budget which was based on similar wells drilled in the same area. A significant time reduction to drill the wells contributed to the savings.
Suggested reading: How Updated Handling Systems Can Give Your Rig a Competitive Advantage
MPD technology variations
Different MPD technologies exist. Pressure can be adjusted in the wellbore by applying pressure at the surface (top of the riser) by use of a RCD. Pressure can also be applied by adjusting the mud level in the riser, using a submerged pump (Controlled Mud Level (CML)).
These two variations of the technology co-exist and both have its preferences among oil companies and drilling contractors. However, common for both technologies is the need for efficient deployment and connection/disconnection to the riser when drilling a well.
Automated MPD ClickStab® handling arm connecting mud return and control umbilical to riser flowspool.
Connecting mud return lines, control lines (electrical and hydraulic) to a riser on a rig in operation, are typically a time consuming (meaning increased NPT) and hazardous operation involving manual work over open sea.
Today, most MPD systems are connected and disconnected manually to the riser. However, an automated wirelessly controlled system (the MPD ClickStab® system, see below) is developed and has been in operation since late 2019.
Suggested reading: Read more about our Handsfree Gooseneck Handling System here
Safety - The automated MPD handling system
Connecting or disconnecting the mud return and electric and hydraulic control lines is a time consuming and weather dependent operation, performed each time the BOP is run or respectively pulled. The operation is performed in/over the moonpool area, arguably the most hazardous and weather exposed area of an offshore drilling rig.
Most offshore rigs connect/disconnect the mud return lines and control lines by using winches, sheaves, oversea man-riding/basket operations, temporary arrangements and manual work with risk for personnel. Connecting the mud return (i.e. 5” or 6” heavy duty hoses) and control lines, may take up to two days, or even more depending on weather conditions. It involves a dozen personnel directly in the operation. Additionally, comes work preparations, including safety preparations and rig up/rig down.
Due to its inherent risks, the safety aspect related to operations over open sea and in the moonpool area is of particular concern for the rig owner and its client (typically an oil company). Especially in harsh environment drilling operations, performing connect/disconnect of utility lines will require strict adherence to operational safety procedures and company safety standards.
The automated MPD handling system is based on the ClickStab® system and is an automated, handsfree MPD handling system, which means there are only one person operating the system – from a distance and in a safe position.
The MPD ClickStab® system connects mud return and control lines in just a few minutes, typically reducing NPT, exceeding 90% for this operation, while eliminating safety hazards.
Connection of mud return and control lines will typically take 10 minutes with a MPD ClickStab® system, compared to up to 12-48 hours with a manual operation. Based on a rig day rate of 300.000-450.000 USD/day, the CAPEX investment for a MPD ClickStab® system will be justified in increased rig efficiency after a few BOP runs.
Reduces overall cost
An offshore drilling campaign requires additional services (supply vessels, anchor handlers, helicopter services, etc) to be performed to support the drilling rig operations. The oil company, ultimately responsible for the drilling campaign, will foot the bill for the complete operation. Their daily cost for these offshore operations, often called “spread cost”, will normally total 2-3 times the daily drilling rig rate. Needless to say, the oil company is the prime beneficiary of contracting a drilling rig with a MPD ClickStab® system installed.
Reduces need for personnel involved
While a manual operation to connect/disconnect utility lines may directly involve up to 10-12 persons for up to 12-48 hours, a MPD ClickStab® system operation will involve 1-2 persons for minutes. In a manual operation additional time will be spent on Safe Job Analyses (SJA’s) and other formalities to prepare the operation. A MPD ClickStab® system will also free up valuable manhours for other tasks.
Increases weather window
A manual operation to connect/disconnect utility lines will inevitably require personnel to work in a hazardous area and over open sea from work baskets/exposed platforms or hanging in riding belts. Obviously, these activities represent a risk to personnel and narrows the weather window in which these operations can be performed. In a worst case scenario, the weather can prevent the rig from executing this operation alltogether, postponing it until the weather conditions are acceptable. A MPD ClickStab® system will eliminate all work over open sea and hence increase the weather window for running/pulling the BOP.
Improves working area conditions
A MPD ClickStab® system quality that is often understated is its ability to improve moonpool area working conditions in general. The moonpool area is a congested area which reduces efficiency and creates work hazards. With a MPD ClickStab® system installed, mud return and control umbilical will be arranged and parked in a convenient position not to obstruct other operations.
Reduction in CO2 emissions
A MPD ClickStab® system significantly increases efficiency (and safety) and therefore will reduce the time required to complete a well and maintain drilling operations and its supporting activities, ref above.
Reduced operating time means reduced emission of e.g CO2 to the environment.
Stable and reliable system
The MPD ClickStab® system is robust and easy to inspect and maintain. All parts and lubrication points will typically be available from platforms/deck and no riding belts/work basket operations are required. This results in improved safety and a low maintenance cost for the system.
Minimized downtime during installation
The system can be installed while the rig is at quayside, on an offshore location and even offshore while the rig is in operational, depending on the nature of rig operations. This flexibility is valuable in any respect and minimizes lost revenue for the rig owner, and thereby reduces cost for an oil company if the rig is on contract. The system is also designed to be relocated from one rig to another.
Mud return & control umbilical manifold connected to riser flow spool in minutes.
The MPD ClickStab® system is part of a larger MPD system installation comprising e.g, software, manifolds, pressure control equipment and more. It’s a proven system and its capabilities of improving rig efficiency and safety are well documented. Furthermore, the rig itself becomes more competitive.
With respect to safety and efficiency, rig operators have characterized it as a “game changer”, compared to a manual handling system.
MPD technology has, over the last years, proved its worth with respect to safety and efficiency. The total investment for a complete MPD system has been challenging to justify in the extreme liquidity/cost focused environment the oil industry has experienced over the last years.
However, with rig utilization increasing, rig rates improving, liquidity positions improving and MPD benefits proven, building a business case to invest in a state of the art MPD system which includes the MPD ClickStab®, should be significantly more straightforward than it has ever been.