Nabors [NYSE: NBR]: Simplified Drilling through Technology

Sri Valleru, CIO & Chief Digital Officer Historically, the drilling industry has lagged behind other industries in terms of innovation; however, drilling contractors are changing the way wells are drilled as technology proliferates across the entire well delivery process. Over the past decade, the drilling rig has transformed from “dumb iron” to an incredibly powerful controls, data aggregation and processing machine.

As a result of this technological transformation, a group of oilfield services such as directional drilling, tubular running services and managed pressure drilling are evolving. In the past, operators contracted rigs to perform drilling operations, while another company was contracted for directional drilling or tubular running services and so on. Given the need for specialized equipment and skilled labor, this business model made much sense. However, this approach introduces redundancies and significant inefficiencies. Using today’s technological capabilities, a superior well delivery model is a reality.

Today’s oil rigs have sophisticated software and control systems, automation mechanization and streaming data. These features allow rigs to be used as a platform for delivering oilfield services that were traditionally outsourced to third-party providers. The drilling contractors of today can leverage technology to become the ideal integrated service provider, disrupting the well delivery process of the now aging service-oriented business model.

With a long history of innovation, Nabors [NYSE: NBR] was the first drilling contractor to put computers on land-drilling rigs in the '90s."We were also the first drilling contractor to launch a portal for customers during the dotcom era in the year 2000. Today, our customers can log in from anywhere to access their rig data. The portal also helps us to deliver analytics and alerts that keep their rigs turning to the right,” informs Sri Valleru, Chief Information Officer and Chief Digital Officer of Nabors. Founded in 1952, Nabors owns and operates the world's largest land-based drilling rig fleet and is a leading provider of offshore platform workover and drilling rigs around the world.

The company has since been using a bimodal IT approach, as it enables innovation, while at the same time, maintaining the sustainability of the operation

More than two decades ago, the company began looking at its rig’s operating control system's code as software. Other companies would implement a task and write software code specific to that task using Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs). “PLCs are, by nature, not designed to update frequently. We had to come up with a conscious way to do that while implementing new features that had to be deployed on hundreds of rigs,” says Valleru. Nabors has since been using a bimodal IT approach, to enable future innovation, while at the same time, maintaining the sustainability of operations.

“With more than 400 onshore and offshore rigs in 28 countries, it is not always easy to deploy new forms of technology,” said Valleru. “The strategy we embraced many years ago of investing in a base software platform for our global rig fleet has positioned Nabors to integrate and expand technology on both new and existing rigs more efficiently than our competitors”.

The Harbinger of Change

“Nabors’ strategy is to use our rigs as a platform for delivering automated oilfield services, such as directional drilling and tubular running services. This technology will disrupt well delivery.” said Valleru.

Directional drilling is not as simple as just pointing the drill straight down into the earth. It requires a specific plan based on the geological formation that enables the driller to extract the most oil and gas. In general, the process requires a downhole motor to create an angle, telemetry provided by a tool providing information about a drill string’s location and an execution cycle on location. This process is repeated every 90 feet downhole and requires complicated calculations that are typically manually performed offline by specialized subject matter experts.
Nabors’ new directional drilling software solution, Navigator™, automates these complex calculations using sophisticated algorithms. For years,directional drilling experts have sat over the driller's shoulder to observe and process downhole data in their minds. They monitor pressures, where the bit is facing and give verbal commands on what the driller should do. NaborsROCKit® Pilot system automates this entire process using Machine Learning. It processes the data much faster thanpreviously possible, and provides automated corrective controls and steering logic in the PLC to auto steer the downhole motor toolface.

When combined with RigWatch®, the Navigator™ software allows drillers to visualize the downhole position of the drill string in relation to the planned well path and automatically calculates directional drilling instructions needed to keep the well on an acceptable course. The ROCKit® Pilot system then automatically implements those instructions during slide drilling operations. This technology can ultimately eliminate the need for a dedicated directional driller on location.

Valleru said, “Consistent with other industries, increased automation has changed the type of work, as well as the type of person required to fill key positions. The new business model is more technology-driven, less labor intense and requires more analytical thinking among our rig crew members.”

Looking Forward to the Future

In the latter part of 2018, Nabors will introduce a new application and data analytics software platform that will enable the company to host, both internal and external applications directly at the wellsite. This will make it extremely scalable and integrable with other non-Nabors drilling applications, while also enabling non- Nabors rigs to utilize these solutions.

In today’s performance-driven environment, major oil and gas exploration and production companies are seeking greater efficiencies in response to the industry’s prolonged challenging market conditions. Due to its long history as an industry leader in providing innovative technologies, Nabors is well positioned to help its customers maximize efficiencies and achieve greater well productivity through increased automation of the entire drilling process. Valleru concluded, “As we enter a new era of drilling, the strategy we embraced many years ago and our culture of innovation will continue to be a competitive advantage for Nabors.”

Nabors [NYSE: NBR]

Houston, TX

Sri Valleru, CIO & Chief Digital Officer

Owns and operates one of the world’s largest land-based drilling rig fleet and is a leading provider of offshore platform workover and drilling rigs

Nabors [NYSE: NBR]