Pilots are known to use flight simulators for training. Doctors too simulate before undertaking real procedures. The same concept is applicable in drilling operations. Drilling for geothermal or oil is complex; can be risky too. A drilling rig simulator is the answer to this unpredictability.
A simulator is a computer that replicates and mimics actual drilling process to a good degree of reliability. The beauty
with a simulator is that mistakes are part of learning. They are not fatal. The simulator, therefore, is a must have for any serious drilling organisation.
Assembled at GDC’s Menengai Geothermal project, the simulator is housed in a shipping container, slightly the size of
a common living room. From the outside, it’s unpretentious. Inside, it’s an elaborate assemblage of top of the range computers, gears, a massive 3D screen and speakers.
There is an instructor’s station at the far-right corner. He has a computer and a microphone. At the centre of the room is the real deal- a driller’s console filled with joystick controls and several buttons. The room is akin to stepping inside a plane’s cockpit.
The left and right-side walls of the room are occupied by a Blowout Preventer (BOP) system. At the back of the console is a sitting area enough for 20 learners.
“This is the machine,” announced Eng. Steve Nato, a GDC Drilling Engineer, “It’s a replica of the 2000 horsepower drilling rigs we’re using in our fields. It comes complete with a driller’s console, the rig floor projected to the screen on the wall and 3D imaging which you see on the right side of the screen.”
Though the simulator is a machine, it’s also a complete technical school. A first of its kind that’s setting GDC and Kenya apart.
“It’s critical yet rare. It has been used in Oil and Gas but not so much in geothermal,” interjects Eng. Michael Kamau, a GDC Drilling Engineer. “In Japan, there was only one such simulator that served the whole of East Asia; it wasn’t as hi-tech as this though.”
Today, Eng. Nato sets an exercise for Mr. Kipkurui Kibor, a Driller. Eng. Nato wants to test Kibor’s response to a stuck string during drilling. He introduces “complexities” into the scenario, to make the exercise even more challenging. His goal; to gauge Mr. Kibor’s reaction to tackling such a situation in real time.
“Our goal is to optimise the performance of the drilling crew and to ensure that procedures are followed, particularly in
cases of challenging environments such as High-Pressure/High-Temperature (HPHT)” Eng. Nato explains.
Mr. Kibor, with seven years drilling experience, credits much of his successes to the hours spent on the simulator.
Eng. Nato continues to monitor Mr. Kibor’s progress from the instructors’ station. Suddenly, a loud sound blares, “Chocked plug…chocked plug…pull out…pull out…” Mr. Kibor twists and turns, pushing forward and backward on knobs, while pressing several buttons on the driller’s console. Kibor had missed a step. He was about to experience a catastrophic moment.
“He has definitely missed a procedure. It can happen on the rig floor with costly consequences,” explains Eng. Nato, as he makes his way to the console. “If he’s unable to bleed off the trapped excess pressure then it will lead to a pump failure and the end of our drilling,” he explains.
Mr. Reuben Ngosi, GDC Manager Drilling Operations, notes that the simulator is strategic. It keeps the GDC crew sharp. Besides, being the only one in the region, it makes GDC the to-go-to place for training in drilling operations.