SLB and Equinor Harness AI to Achieve Autonomous Drilling Operations

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By Michael Larner | 1Q 2024 | IN-7260

SLB’s work on helping Equinor plan for and deliver autonomous drilling operations showcases both the fit between the ambitions of oil & gas firms and the capabilities of solutions backed up by Artificial Intelligence (AI) to provide operational improvements.

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Autonomous Drilling off the Brazilian Coast


Oilfield services company SLB, formerly known as Schlumberger, and Norwegian energy firm Equinor are collaborating to introduce autonomous drilling operations at the Peregrino oil field, which is located about 85 miles off the coast of Rio de Janeiro. The companies announced at the end of January that 99% of a 2.6 Kilometer (km) section of the oilfield was drilled using autonomous drilling operations; with the companies claiming the work to be the most extensive use of autonomous drilling operations in the industry to date.

To achieve the autonomous drilling operations, multi-disciplinary teams from the companies have been harnessing the Artificial Intelligence (AI) capabilities of SLB’s solutions to plan and deliver the work. The benefits accrued from the autonomous operations include achieving consistent performance and improving safety levels by reducing the number of personnel involved.

Utilizing the SLB Portfolio


Peregrino is the largest oil field operated by Equinor beyond Norway. The company has a 60% operating interest in the oil field with Sinochem accounting for the remaining 40%. Phase 1 of developing the oil field began in 2011 and encompasses 39 production wells and 7 injector wells, 2 fixed wellhead and drilling platforms, and a Floating Production, Storage, and Offloading (FPSO) vessel. The field has produced more than 210 Million Barrels (MMbbl) of oil with the firms’ activities taking place in waters 100 meters deep.

Phase 2 commenced in October 2022 and involves developing the southwest area of the field, which is currently inaccessible to the existing oil platforms, with a new platform and pipeline. The expectations are that Phase 2 will increase production by another 250 MMbbl of oil and extend the operating life of the Peregrino field’s life to 2040.

To accelerate the introduction of the new drilling platform, teams were able to collaborate using SLB’s Delfi platform and take advantage of the solution’s Application Programming Interface (API) tools. Users can integrate their data sources, and collaborate to develop models that underpin exploration, development, drilling, and production workflows. DrilPlan and DrillOps are digital technology applications from SLB that are available on the Delfi platform to support these workflows.

The DrillPlan software reduces the time needed to prepare the operating parameters for the drilling activities. The software’s algorithms not only calculate the hydraulics, torque and drag, and ensure well integrity execution, but also enable users to perform sensitivity analysis and scenario planning. The AI in DrillOps enables users to optimize workflow sequencing when drilling under the sea. Automating the workflows can be programmed with the DrillPilot software and backed up by SLB’s Neuro autonomous solutions that help operators ensure the optimum trajectory and steering sequences of the drills.

Equinor and SLB expect that using these software applications to prepare for and manage autonomous operations will both shorten the time to production and reduce costs.

Innovation Is Rife in the Oil & Gas Industry


Both oil and mining firms (see ABI Research’s Digital Transformation in the Mining Industry presentation (PT-2748)) are demonstrating the art of the possible when it comes to autonomous operations—far ahead of the efforts of automotive Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) in delivering autonomous driving experiences on city roads. Admittedly, the firms operate in a somewhat more predictable environment.

The work on Phase 2 demonstrates the need for multidisciplinary teams to bring to bear their expertise when undertaking examinations of the operating environment, the sequencing of operations, and delivering the project. SLB is an example of a supplier incorporating AI so that engineers can perform in-depth analysis at speed and have confidence in the recommendations produced. In addition to the Delfi platform, the company announced an investment and technology partnership agreement with Geminus AI in January 2024 that will provide SLB with exclusive rights to deploy the company’s physics-informed AI model builder to support oil & gas operations to, among other things, optimize their equipment and the power delivered to pumps dispersed over a wide area. These innovations and the work alongside Equinor will position SLB as a key partner to oil & gas firms.

ABI Research’s Digital Transformation in the Oil and Gas Market report (AN-5423) showcased other key solution providers to the oil & gas firms, including ABB for wellhead monitoring, Ansys for simulating processes and production, Hexagon PPM (Plant Project Management) to help oil & gas firms improve asset efficiency and reduce operational risks, and KONGSBERG for creating digital twins.

Implementers in other industries should look to oil & gas operators to understand the possibilities today for improving their operations. For some, autonomous operations may be too ambitious for now; however, the example of Shell working to create a digital twin of its Pulau Bukom facility in Singapore (see ABI Insight “Shell’s Ambitious Plan to Create a Digital Twin of an Entire Facility”) should also fuel imaginations.


Companies Mentioned