Oil and gas safety training services were already in a state of rapid evolution before the pandemic began. However, COVID-19 highlighted the urgent need to digitally transform these services to provide the industry’s workforce with the appropriate safety training through the more flexible models that digital tools can provide.
A key area in this accelerated evolution is the increasing relevance of simulation and simulators, which can accurately model specific drilling and well control scenarios to train workers and managers in the delicate art of managing an offshore crisis. This focus on simulation represents a milestone for the evolution of both safety training services and also the industry’s safety culture as a whole.
Mark Denkoweski, Drilling Services Manager for the Gulf of Mexico at international safety training and equipment services provider RelyOn Nutec, has spent 16 years of his oil and gas career working offshore in North America, Southeast Asia, the Middle East and West Africa for companies that included GlobalSantaFe, Transocean and Frontier Drilling, including a decade-long sting at the International Association of Drilling Contractors (IADC). “All of my past combined experiences have helped me understand the industry’s safety culture and how it has evolved over the years,” he said.
Simulators enhance a mechanism that has always been prominent in safety training: role playing. In course packages, such as IADC’s WellSharp Plus and International Well Control Forum’s (IWCF) Enhanced Drilling Well Control, simulators are used to take accredited role-playing well control courses to the next level of precision and realism. “Unlike other courses in this category, which end with the well control test, these courses begin with students taking and being expected to pass the well control knowledge test and skills assessments,” Denkowski said. “With the test and skills assessment completed, students spend time simulating increasingly difficult well control incidents.”
Denkowski is also quick to point out the technological possibilities of simulators. “In a full-size simulator, an accurate rendering of a client's rig floor and equipment can be created to offer a more realistic experience for students.” This means that simulators can play a role that goes beyond training. “We are able to create digital twins of individual wells, which allows us to tailor training options to the exact customization needs of individual operators.”
Operators have used RelyOn Nutec’s full-size drilling simulators to test their drilling plans and to pre-drill difficult downhole sections. Through the use of simulation, operators are able to verify the accuracy of the well designs and risk profiles and are able to adjust their drilling plans as needed, saving a lot of time and money in the process.
According to Denkowski, several operators are taking a position that they will not drill new wells without testing their well plan and coaching drill crews on a drilling simulator. This leads him to make an intriguing parallel: “In this sense, the offshore industry is beginning to adopt the practices of the aviation industry. Commercial and military pilots spend many hours in simulators as part of their initial training as well as for refresher training. Offshore operators are beginning to view simulators as a powerful tool in the same sense that aviation companies do.”
While RelyOn Nutec does not yet have these kinds of well control simulator facilities in Mexico, Denkowski believes that their arrival in the country’s offshore hubs is highly probable given the increasingly important role they are playing in the industry. “Drilling simulators are powerful tools for assessing well designs, for coaching drilling crews, and for building teamwork in a safe environment,” said Denkowski.
Most importantly, simulators provide a space for the kind of repetition and practice that is essential to the emergency readiness of oil and gas workers. “Offshore workers need to be competent and capable, and simulation is essential to matching a student’s competency with their ongoing operational capabilities,” Denkowski said.
RelyOn Nutec is an international safety training services provider for the oil and gas, maritime, industrial and wind power sectors. The company offers over 200 courses from its Mexican headquarters in Ciudad del Carmen.