Proceedings of the

The 33rd European Safety and Reliability Conference (ESREL 2023)
3 – 8 September 2023, Southampton, UK

Automated Well Control Improves Reliability and Reduces Risk in Well Construction

Bryan Wade Atchison1 and Muhammad Abbas Bhatti2

1Managing Director Safe Influx Ltd, Aberdeen, Scotland.

2Well Engineer, Safe Influx Ltd, Aberdeen, Scotland.


The operation of drilling is a process which has traditionally been manually controlled. In all well operations the major accident hazard of losing well control resulting in an un-controlled flow of reservoir fluids to surface and subsequent fuel fed fire, or blowout, can occur. The process of controlling this hazard has also been manually controlled and is therefore subject to significant human factors' issues. Well control is a safety critical function in upstream operations. Automating the function of well control is perceived as a significant improvement in reliability and reduces risk for drilling operations. Traditionally, well control was reliant on a human reliably and accurately detecting an influx and shutting-in the well. However, the human condition means the Driller can be distracted, or unexpectedly influenced by extraneous factors. An Automated Well Control system has been designed to fully automate influx detection and shut-in sequences enabling a fail-safe condition to be automatically achieved. A comparative study has been performed which determines the reduction in exposure to human factors by automating the process of well control. The results indicate a reduction of 94%. The system has received a Technology Qualification Certificate for cyber and traditional rigs and awarded a patent by the UK Patent Office. Other systems in use on rigs, such as Managed Pressure Drilling and Early Kick Detection Systems, can also benefit from linking directly with the Automated Well Control system to facilitate a fast and effective shut-in. The paper describes system design, functionality, rig trial results and qualification.

Keywords: Automated well control, Well control, Human factors, Well Construction, Drilling, Automation.

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