In an exclusive interview, Kamil Zakirov, CEO of WellsX LLC, developer of ECO Digital Drilling System, discusses the benefits of the ECO System end-to-end digital platform for the full lifecycle of the well, and the importance of adopting a holistic approach to digitalisation
From AI to machine learning and digital twin, the buzzwords around digitalisation are thrown around with abandon, with unreal expectations and misleading information abounding in the industry on the possibilities of digital.
A holistic, thoughtful and consistent approach to digitalisation is what is required. It was with exactly that vision that Kamil Zakirov, formerly a VP at Weatherford, established ECO System.
“ECO stands for ‘Efficiency, Control, Optimisation’, but it is so much more than that,” Zakirov explains. “It is the digital ecosystem of the well, from planning to abandonment. It brings a single holistic approach, addressing the potential disconnects and missing information that can be caused by the involvement of different people and stakeholders at different times through the lifetime of the well. It is easy to use and understand, flexible to deploy and work with, smart and stable.
“The key lies in its ability to analyse the entire well and its operations in real time, and provide all users and stakeholders with seamless access to aggregated data, from the drilling crew to the engineers to the client. It not only gives information on the current status of the well, but also warns of potential hazards, predicts trends and compares different wells and crews, thereby facilitating the fastest and best decisions and enabling the well to run to maximum efficiency.
“An important point is that that the positive impact is cumulative rather than immediate; it is a foundation for continuous improvement.
At the heart of ECO is the digital twin. “The digital twin is your well-planning tool that runs full analysis every second and compares it with the planned ideal well. In our system, we call it a live digital twin; it is a self-calibrating system that adjusts itself to the actual current condition of the wellbore, formation, drillstring, fluids and rig. This is what differentiates us from the crowd.
“This system provides a clear and transparent view of what is happening here and now. Measurements, analyses, comparisons and operational instructions are made in automated mode simultaneously, and are accessible to all parties. All users see the same picture, and become focused on the real task and objectives, working together towards a common goal. So it really promotes collaborative operations.”
ECO is the true foundation for fully automated drilling, says Zakirov.“If you like, it’s a brain of the future intelligent and self-contained rig.”
He adds that ECO is currently capable of controlling separate rig modules in fully automated mode, but in the future the aim is to make the rig unmanned.
Implementing digitalisation programmes is not without its challenges, however.
“Some of our technologies are so advanced compared with the traditional approaches and practices, that clients are sometimes sceptical that they will work and can be reluctant to accept them.
“A bigger problem is that the oil industry is traditionally quite conservative, and the price of failure is very high. Furthermore, adopting new technologies is not an easy path. The key to win the argument is competition, because the companies that are reluctant to change will eventually lose out to their competitors.”
This is perhaps not such an issue in the Middle East, where Zakirov notes the receptiveness to innovative technologies.
“It’s a pleasure being in the Middle East; businesses in the region are very open to new ideas and technologies and we would certainly like to be an integral part of this fast-changing dynamic. We are yet to prove we are capable of bringing these technologies to the region and making them work. But it is something we really want to do.”
So how does Zakirov see things playing out in the future?
“The world is full of machines. The next frontier is to make those machines not just work for us, but to be self-sufficient. And in doing so, to ensure harmless and safe operations. That’s where we see our mission, in the bigger picture. We want to be able to make truly automated machines that can perform difficult tasks – and drilling, as one of the most difficult tasks, is a priority.
“In the short term, ECO will soon support the whole lifecycle of the well, from concept through planning, drilling, completion, production and intervention, all the way to quality abandonment.
“This word abandonment is very important – because it is something the industry tends to forget, since at that stage, we are losing money, not making it. The industry has drilled hundreds of thousands of wells globally, potentially causing big damage to the planet. We need to start rectifying this; without an understanding of the well and its behaviour from the very beginning, it is impossible to do the proper abandonment. So it is part of our plan to ensure that the lifecycle of the well is covered fully, up to the last moment of abandonment.
“Another area we are working on is geothermal power generation. We are involved in several projects and initiatives such as a project in South Texas with Sage Geosystems, where our task is not just to build and monitor wells, but also to harmonise the heat extraction with the power generation up to the moment of sending the power to the grid. This is a big task, and we have not yet seen it done using such a harmonised approach. So this is where we are heading in the future.”
WellsX is participating in the technical conference at ADIPEC, taking place from 2-5 October in Abu Dhabi (www.adipec.com).