By Mike Bethea and Stretch Kuykendall
OTC’s digital pressure testing service, OTC Greenlight, has traditionally been delivered as a combination of equipment, software and a technician placed on an offshore rig that is carrying out oil and gas drilling, completions, production or decommissioning operations.
As a result of widescale operational changes forced by the global COVID-19 pandemic, OTC worked to adapt that model in order to work safely around the restrictions imposed on personnel and equipment movements. The result is that now, what was normally a hands-on delivery model can now be carried out fully remotely, with no requirement for any personnel to set foot on the rig. Now, our clients’ software and equipment can be shipped around the world and appropriate remote training materials developed to equip personnel, including those whose first language is not English.
OTC’s Vice President of GreenLight, Stretch Kuykendall, drove the remote transition process by developing a multitude of tools that assist in remote installation, training, operation of the software, and remote support afterwards. The new remote capabilities will prove to be of lasting value beyond the restrictions of the pandemic, offering convenience during periods of bad weather when rig access is risky, and when other constraints prevent regulators from accessing a rig.
OTC has always possessed the capabilities to accommodate remote monitoring, but it was the pandemic that shifted them to the forefront. In early 2020, Stretch created a quick start guide, known as the “Start Up Wizard,” and proceeded to put it into action with customers in Trinidad, Singapore, Myanmar and Japan. Once the equipment was in the hands of these clients, they only needed to be checked in on by OTC bi-weekly or bi-monthly, and they consistently reported that the system was working wonderfully and the provided documentation was very straight forward and intuitive.
The Start Up Wizard is a step-by-step process that features a series of simple questions designed to eliminate any guesswork from the pressure testing decision making process. These questions range from, “What region of the world are you in?” to “What is your test pressure?” Screenshots visually guide the user through what they should expect to see, via a series of easily navigated steps. Ultimately, the user is made to feel confident in their ability to operate the software before it even arrives onsite. During OTC GreenLight equipment use, the user is provided with various flags, hints and prompts to help them stay the course, such as, “You indicated that you would like to be at 6000 psi but you are only at 5800. How would you like to proceed?”
The operational implications of the pandemic on the offshore oil and gas industry reached beyond drilling contractors and service providers to regulatory authorities, whose job it was to monitor rigs in the Gulf of Mexico to ensure they were continuing to adhere to safe practices. Since 2020, there has been a tremendous influx from permissions requests from the U.S. government, seeking permission to access OTC’s software Atlas, a cloud-based depository that is able to provide them with eyes on the action without physically being on the rig. There has subsequently been a great deal of communication between the rigs and the regulators, who are able to see every test step, observe the pressures and the comments that are entered into the software. Prior to the pandemic, these requests for access did not occur, as the rigs were fully accessible.
Unfortunately, not every location has the bandwidth and the communications stability to fully support remote operations. For those locations in which adequate provisions exist for remote communications, there are significant cost savings to be realized in removing personnel travel expenditure, from flights to lodging to the necessity for onsite personnel risk mitigations. The ability to have personnel on the rig will always be the best insurance against a loss of communications affecting remote support capabilities, but with OTC Greenlight’s new Start Up Wizard, much of that risk is overcome through the remote training that is provided to rig staff, enabling them to personally run the software with confidence. The pandemic was the catalyst for change, but now remote delivery is set to become an industry norm in places where the communication requirements can be satisfied.