Automation visionary

Dr Keith Millheim, managing director of Nautilus International, a distinguished professor who has also worked with Conoco, Amoco Production, and Anadarko Petroleum, was one of the first to see the potential in automating oil fields.

Back in 2008, when automation was by no means a sure thing, he suggested a competition between a normal drilling rig and a completely automated rig to see which could drill to 10,000ft the fastest. He was certain that the automated rig would drill three times as fast with only three workers in attendance. It did.

“If I could drill twice as many wells for the same budget, the existing solution would not look as attractive,” he said. Meanwhile, the focus should be on determining what humans can’t do very well, and letting computers do it.

As Millheim says, “If [one organization] can do with only ten rigs what they could previously do with 40 rigs, what it will mean to them?”

Drilling more oil wells on the same budget makes not only technical sense but financial sense as well.

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