Aramco pioneers camera-based well technology through Aberdeen Technology Office

Through its specialist upstream office in Aberdeen (UK), Aramco began work towards deployment of its patent pending ‘camera-based well space out system’, which utilises analytics to provide advanced control, to support both efficiency and safety on drilling rigs.

In conjunction with the company’s renowned upstream centre, EXPEC Advanced Research Center (EXPEC ARC), and portfolio company FogHorn Systems, the Aberdeen Technology Office (ATO) realised the potential value of such technology in making impactful gains to frontline operations and their safety at work.

ATO senior petroleum engineers co-authored initial patent applications and defined the solution with respect of ‘emergency well shut-in’. “We came up with the initial project idea, following discussions with FogHorn, a member of our global Energy Ventures portfolio,” said senior engineer Michael Affleck. “ATO provided invaluable support to EXPEC ARC’s Drilling Technology Team in Dhahran and Aramco’s upstream operations then carried this forward in a major way, making the concept a reality.”

“Just as emergency braking systems operate in AI based vehicles, when sensors indicate an imminent crash, this technology is designed to make our colleagues in the field safer,”

Khalid Al-Noaimi, Head of the Aberdeen Technology Office

Live image data coupled with the power of edge computing are processed and interpreted using advanced AI models. This allows suitable high-speed advisory alerts, designed to support crews through the most challenging moments, to improve a drilling rig’s safety and performance.

The Safe Seal technology was successfully deployed due largely to the invaluable support received from Aramco’s Drilling Engineering and operation departments. The pilot system has now spent nearly two years collecting data and optimizing the hardware and software needed to realize the successful development of this technology.

The technology marks the first-ever deployment of an edge-based platform on a drilling rig in Saudi Arabia. Safe Seal was conceived as a proof of concept for EXPEC ARC’s ‘Drilling at the Edge (DATE)’ program, a major technology initiative where existing operations on a drilling rig are coordinated around real-time information, accelerating decision making. “Leveraging advancement in DATE processing technology empowers not only the drilling industry, but also the petroleum industry in making time-sensitive, critical decisions in real-time, in the field, closer to operations,” said Ashraf Al-Tahini, manager at EXPEC ARC, who underlined the Center’s ongoing commitment to building a sustainable, world-class digital ecosystem at Aramco.

In September last year the deployed technology was also awarded the Best Internet of Things (IoT) Energy Deployment Award, at the IoT’s virtual World Awards ceremony. Considered one of the largest IoT conferences in the world, the event also tops the technology calendar in California’s Silicon Valley. Aramco was one of 80 companies and the only oil and gas entry shortlisted from over 600 nominations – winning one of the 16 categories for the camera based innovation. The technology was also awarded the 2019 Middle East Oil and Gas Technical Innovation of the Year award, and was selected as a finalist at both the 2019 IoT Global Awards and the 2020 Global Energy Awards.

In addition to continuing the development of Safe Seal, the Drilling at the Edge Team is working on other innovative, valuable and exciting technologies that are being developed then tested on rigs in Saudi Arabia throughout 2021.