Because of the increased importance for the drilling industry to deliver drilling automation solutions, model-based applications for the analysis and control of the drilling process, have become an attractive approach towards improved performance and increased safety. A critical characteristic for such applications is its ability to perform accurate simulations of the drilling operation in real-time, based on a detailed description of the wellbore.
In a real-time context, the boundary conditions of the drilling system are seldom constant, therefore reinforcing the importance of utilizing transient models of the drilling process instead of steady state ones. Typical domains that require modelling are related to the mechanical, hydraulic and heat transfer aspects of a drilling operation. The time constants of the force-, momentum-, mass- and energy-conservation equations are sufficiently different to allow for solving each of these equations with different time discretization schemes. Yet, side effects influence the results from each other’s and therefore a time coupling shall nevertheless be accounted for.
For instance, for a drilling operation conducted on a floater, the heave induced movement at the top of the string propagates along the drill-string, therefore causing a displacement that induces swab and surge pressure variations, which themselves generate counter-acting forces on the drill-string. In such conditions, both the mechanical and hydraulic frictions generate heat that changes the in situ thermal conditions and therefore the drilling fluid mass density and its rheological behavior. Consequently, heat exchange caused by the drill-string and fluid movements also influences the hydraulic response of the system. Furthermore, thermal expansion will also apply to the drill-string.
In this paper, we discuss recent advances related to the coupling between transient mechanical, hydraulic and thermal models, where a key criterion is that the combined drilling model shall be capable of running in real-time on a standard computer. Incorporating these transient models is considered a necessary step towards improved accuracy of simulations, especially on floaters, where heave effects become important. We illustrate various effects by presenting and discussing several simulations results in detail.