Automation for Coiled Tubing: FAQ

Automation for Coiled Tubing
Frequently Asked Questions

Stimline’s vision is to bring Automation technology routinely used in Drilling Operations to the Well Completions and Interventions arena. Much technology has already been designed, tested and proven, but to date, few companies have invested in deploying Automation.

Some of the questions that we are most frequently asked about Automation for Coiled Tubing operations are answered for you here.

What does Automation mean?
This is a good question! To Stimline, this means connecting purpose designed mechanical equipment to an integrated control system which in turn works with software that generates a plan for a job, and updates that plan in real-time based on down-hole hydraulic and forces data.

What components are currently available?
Stimline has delivered the IHX130A automated injector head and the RX12 automated reel system on the CTX Coiled Tubing Unit. These are controlled by ASX, an integrated control system.

IDEX Advisor is also in Beta testing. This App automatically generates a job plan and instructions for the ASX control system based on the engineering model created in IDEX Designer and the standard operating procedures from the service company or oil company.

Can I add Automation to my existing assets?
Yes, new Control System components can be added to Coiled Tubing Units. We are currently working on an injector head control system to fit retroactively to all existing heads. There may be some design constraints that could limit performance such as the accuracy of the hydraulic controls on the existing injector heads that weren’t originally designed for Automation, but these can most likely be overcome with some effective hydraulic system upgrades.

Many companies have more than enough assets for their current workload, however, and without being able to upgrade existing assets, it has not been possible to prove the value that Automation can bring. This has probably been the largest hurdle towards adoption of Automation. Few companies can justify spending CAPEX on new equipment in these difficult operating conditions. That is why all of our focus currently is on creating a successful retrofit package.

What are the benefits of Automation?
Automation is designed with three key goals in mind.

  1. To ensure that all equipment operates safely within its mechanical limits
  2. To remove operator error
  3. To operate at maximum efficiency at all time and on all jobs

Stimline’s review of operations shows that sometimes, the best operators in a service company do a very good job. However, it is very noticeable that not all operators are able to perform with the same efficiency and that all operators, even the best, are not completely consistent. To ensure that all operations are always on the “Edge of Performance” but never once step over it to increase risks is the key.

How quickly will I see a return on my investment in Automation?
This one is a little difficult to answer. If you are building a complete new Coiled Tubing Unit, the incremental cost of Automation is really quite small. The return in this case would certainly be measured in months not years.

The retrofit system that we are finalising for existing injector heads that target critical functions such as Traction Pressure and Chain Tension will certainly have a return of investment of less than 12 months. If your Automation retrofit system can prevent just one stuck pipe incident or other serious operational issue the ROI will of course be achieved immediately.

What are the remaining challenges to full acceptance of Automation?
For truly Automated Operations, it is essential to have all of the equipment at the wellsite working together using integrated control systems. This needs to include all of the pump data and the returns information as well.

In the US and Canada, few, if any contracts are signed with one service company being responsible for all aspects of an operation. This results in multiple fragmented systems being used which reduces the operational reach of fully Automated Operations.

Conversely, offshore in the North Sea for instance, one service company is often awarded an integrated contract so closed-loop systems are possible allowing Automation to really show the benefits possible.

Remember, most planes fly most of their journeys on autopilot. This isn’t because the pilots are not well trained or very capable. This is because the aviation industry has proven that this is the most consistently efficient way to complete a journey. When conditions en route go outside the expected operating envelope, the highly trained pilots are then called upon to take over. Having allowed the auto-pilot to do much of the “heavy lifting” they are then fresh and alert to take control when conditions are more tricky

To find out more about Stimline’s Automation for Coiled Tubing, contact sales@stimline.com