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Innovating for Efficiency: How Advanced Simulation Training is Revolutionising Well Intervention

By Max Wyndham, Head of Business Development 

Like the rest of the oil and gas industry, the well intervention sector has suffered from a significant loss of experienced personnel because of events in the last ten years. As we emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic and the unprecedented impact it had on commodity prices, recovering market conditions created short-term pressure on oil and gas operators to increase production to take advantage of the strengthening oil and gas prices.

This momentum has continued, as has the pressure to grow the operational skills pool to support it.

Companies have had to accelerate learning and competency development. Perhaps in comparison to historic market upturns, the post-pandemic era has seen most companies look to a more blended learning approach to help them accelerate training. Online learning content, virtual training courses and other tools are now commonplace. While these provide an excellent complement to well-established on-the-job training methods, well service companies sometimes turn to traditional practical training formats that are not always an effective way to accelerate the training and preparedness for emergency and non-routine scenarios.

For example, many well service companies may use test wells for training well intervention crews. While training in real equipment should always form a part of the overall blended learning experience, well service companies recognise the limitations of this. Test wells often focus on routine scenarios and usually do not offer the operating envelope needed to create scenarios that truly prepare people for operations. Even if the pressures and conditions in a test well could be controlled, this brings its own challenges in relation to maintenance costs, safety precautions and a practical limitation of the equipment used. As the industry ramps up operations, the lack of availability of real equipment and the knock-on effect on the scheduling of training courses brings an additional complication.

We have seen many examples where companies have turned to advanced, immersive well intervention simulation to overcome these challenges. Using a simulator, the instructor has gained full control over the equipment including surface equipment, pressure control equipment, BHA components and many others. The simulator has allowed trainees to experience and prepare for scenarios that could never be replicated on a test well and that they hope to never experience in the field.

For the organisations that have taken this step in enhancing their training and competency programs, the impact on operations has been notable. One oil and gas operator reported a 50% reduction in non-productive time of well operations because of simulation-based training for supervisors and engineers.

Successful applications are being reported at a range of levels too. Other companies have applied simulation to trainee programs, where junior personnel can learn about different equipment and the process of rigging up before they get hands-on in the yard. The following day the same simulator can then be used to train more experienced personnel in non-routine operations. An area of focus is being able to efficiently onboard experienced personnel from other companies, as they have to learn new operating practices that can vary significantly between service companies.

The pandemic also triggered a decentralisation of training programs, with workforces more limited in their ability to travel to different continents to access training courses as their companies’ learning centres. A demand to localise training because of these restrictions had some unexpected consequences beyond simply cost savings. For international well intervention companies, localising training programs allowed for more input from the operations team in the region. This meant a greater emphasis on the training needs of the region. Simulators have been customised to meet these needs in several ways. 3t Drilling Systems has added additional operations ranging from different milling operations using coiled tubing, fishing operations, well head change-out and many others. Simulator user interfaces have also been customised to align with the specific equipment used by crews in a particular region. These bring significant value to the training experiences of regional crews and the positive impact on operations is unquestionable.

Regional talent pools and training within international markets can’t be discussed without mentioning local content requirements and the ever-present push by governments and industry to build capacity. Creating local jobs for local people increases the prosperity and livelihoods of communities while reducing the cost of reliance on the import of experienced expats. Local content legislation introduced in Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and other regions continues to drive demand for localised training infrastructure. Instructors, training syllabi and equipment such as simulators.

The picture is of growth: growth in the industry, growth in the deployment of simulation and growth in the number of training applications that simulators can serve. While the well intervention sector continues to proactively invest in new ways of delivering value through the enhancement of training and competency programs, the industry awaits news on future requirements for practical assessment for regulatory well intervention pressure control certification. 3t Drilling Systems continues to monitor this closely and offers the industry and its stakeholders the unrivalled technology, expertise, and experience to meet whatever comes around the corner.