Proceedings of the

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

Challenges and Opportunities of Implementing the Operators' Perspective: Experiences from Automated Drilling Projects

Siri Mariane Holen1, Asbjørn Lein Aalberg2,a and Stig Ole Johnsen2,b

1Department of Industrial Technology Management, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway.

2Safety and Reliability, SINTEF Digital, Norway.


In this paper we highlight experiences from two cases of drilling automation, emphasizing the importance of understanding work and human factors in the design and implementation of automated systems. Automation is advancing as a means to increase efficiency, quality and safety in various industries, including petroleum. However, there has been limited sociotechnical studies of automation in the petroleum industry. Experiences from other domains indicate that gradual automation in collaboration with users has improved efficiency, safety and user satisfaction. Using thematic analysis of interviews with technology providers, consultants, drilling operators, and project leaders, we found that from the outset of the projects, a balance between technology optimism and understanding of human limitations and experiences was critical. Furthermore, we identified several challenges and potential remedies in areas such as user involvement, system integration and alarm handling, use of appropriate methods and standards, sensemaking of automated systems, and competence and training of operators. The case studies illustrate a need for improved management of human factors in the development and implementation of automated technology in the petroleum industry. The concepts of work-as-imagined (WAI) and work-as-done (WAD), and the potential gap between these, are useful to highlight the importance of applying the appropriate human factors expertise and methods for such development.

Keywords: Safety, Human factors, Design, Drilling operations.

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