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Simulators aid training and improve safety in drilling operations

Forbes interviews Chief Operating Officer for Drilling Systems, Clive Battisby, on the significant impact of simulator technology.

Clive Battisy discusses simulator technology with Forbes following the launch of Norway’s most advanced simulation centre.

The full article is available on Forbes’ website, and you can read the highlights below.

High-quality, realistic simulators have been a stable of the gaming community for many years, but they are rapidly becoming a vital tool for the industry as well. The oil and gas sector is one area that this technology is making a significant impact, particularly when it comes to delivering faithful training environments.

“We have always believed that more hands-on time is required. There should be more focus on the human factors, with situational awareness, decision-making, communication and similar methodologies integrated into the teaching environment.”

Clive Battisby, Chief Operating Officer, Drilling Systems

Linking training to operational efficiency

According to Clive Battisby, chief operating officer at Drilling Systems who supplied the simulator, cost reduction is the biggest driver in the current market. “It’s always hard to directly link dollar performance with training and ultimately as a business that’s what drives a decision to invest,” he says. “When a modern drilling rig costs millions of dollars the decision is often much simpler.  We see a growing gap in the skills base. Many skilled people have left the industry and simulation training, combined with an automated competency testing system, is a very cost-effective way to close this gap.”

On the job training

Battisby explains that for drilling the current training is usually conducted out on the job. “There are drilling courses available, and several of our customers are offering excellent vocational drilling training programs, but in general it’s all on the location with hands-on experience,” he says. “For well control, this is very different. Currently, this is a mandatory two year renew program, consisting of classroom theory, simulator practice and written exams, which can bring with it the adverse effect of ‘knowledge fade’ over the intervening years.

“However, we have always believed that more hands-on time is required. There should be more focus on the human factors, with situational awareness, decision-making, communication and similar methodologies integrated into the teaching environment to get the best from the trainees. You have to people in these uncomfortable situations they would not expect in normal operations – it’s the best way to learn.”

Increasing realism

Technology improvements have resulted in ever-increasing realism in simulators with developments such as simulation fidelity and improved 3D graphics. There are also many more rig and drilling operations available on the simulator today. As well as riser running, Lower Marine Riser Package (LMRP) operations and emergency disconnect, operators can learn from simulations in casing operations, high-pressure high temperature (HPHT) drilling operations and managed pressure drilling. Simulators also offer true digital twins of the drilling rigs to aid rig start-ups and focus operator training.

“Originally, we used the same simulation engines as the military, but this became too restrictive so nowadays, we are using the latest gaming engines, like those you would expect to find on an XBOX or PlayStation,” Battisby adds. “This allows us to recruit the very latest talent to ensure our platforms are as good as they can be. This is especially true with computer graphics, which are advancing all the time. These technologies also allow us to integrate virtual reality and augmented reality into our simulation environments to produce a truly immersive experience, as found in our vLearn products.”

Developing bespoke learning experiences

Drilling Systems work with hundreds of companies and academic institutions across the world. These installations range from full mission large-scale, simulator training environments to smaller in classroom systems. “We have an in-house design team that can assist with getting the very best out of the space for the learning experience,” Battisby adds. “Just two examples are RGU in Aberdeen and Stena Drilling.

“The technology for the simulators has been developed over many years of research; however, we are always looking for using the best from other sectors. Currently, we are focused on cloud-based simulation delivery to reduce the total cost of ownership of hardware platforms and allow this to be deployed to a much wider audience.”

Drilling Systems also offer offshore crane training simulators, coiled tubing operator training simulators, slick line and wireline operators’ simulators amongst others. Any job that requires a high level of human involvement and is safety critical is an ideal candidate for simulation-based training.

“The trainees can be put through a wide range of emergency scenarios in a safe environment,” Battisby continues. “With professional supervision, the trainees can enhance their knowledge and skills to be better prepared should that event happen for real on the rig.”

Future developments

Drill the Well On the Simulator (DWOS) is starting to show benefits to the industry clients. This brings the drill crew and onshore engineers together to drill the next well or section and then explore what happens when things do not go to plan.  They must work as a team and deal with any problems they encounter. “It’s really very powerful and can make a significant difference to the drilling campaign,” Battisby adds.

Further developments are afoot with On-the-Rig (OTR) simulators that allow self-learning in the actual location. Competence management systems that are integrated directly into the simulator and cost-effective training delivery methods such as mobile, virtual reality and augmented reality. “We have been working on ways to bringing a high-quality, virtual reality learning experience to the classroom and beyond,” Battisby concludes. “Employer dashboards which allow a real-time view of the crews training competencies across their fleet.”