Athens Group report finds software root cause of rig downtime

Drilling Control System software ‘invisible root cause’ of equipment failure and safety incidents.

Speaking at the International Association of Drilling Contractors this month, Athens Group CTO Don Shafer presented research into root causes of drilling equipment failure and safety incidents. The conclusions of the Athens Group study are somewhat alarming for those involved in information technology since the report’s main conclusion is that software is the ‘invisible root cause of equipment failures and safety incidents.’

The culprit is the drilling control system (DCS) that manages ‘75-95%’ of the equipment whose operation causes most injuries on the rig. The Non Productive Time benchmark survey* pinpoints the causes of such equipment failure and makes recommendations as to how software integrity can be improved, reducing DCS-related equipment failures and safety incidents.

Safety aside, NPT has an ‘unacceptable’ economic impact with annual cost of NPT on a high-spec offshore in the $100-150 million range of which 20-30% is DCS related. Shafer recommends more education on the importance of quality software, more thorough testing of the DCS including commissioning by drilling software experts, industry-wide adoption of software quality standards and standardization of equipment interfaces. Customers for Athens Group’s Drilling Technology Assurance Knowledge Base include BP, ExxonMobil, Noble Drilling, ConocoPhillips, Pride, Shell and Transocean.


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