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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Texas A&M: Researchers Investigate Offshore Oil Drilling Operator Situation Awareness

Drs. S. Camille Peres & Ranjana Mehta from Texas A&M School of Public Health & Dr. Eric van Oort from University of Texas measured operator situation awareness (SA) & performance in drilling scenarios. Published in the Journal of Loss Prevention in the Process Industries, researchers used a drilling hardware simulator to safely run senior-level petroleum engineering students through a series of drilling scenarios & monitor their situational awareness (SA) and related physiological characteristics.

Researchers measured subject SA using the Situational Awareness Rating Technique, heart rate & heart rate variability data using wearable heart rate monitors. The subjects ran through drilling scenarios in the simulator like tripping (inserting or removing pipe) & drilling (making the wellbore deeper). Scenarios were either without failures or featured a failure where underground pressure is greater than wellbore pressure, known as a kick, or a loss of circulation of drilling fluid. They were more accurate when handling loss of circulation failures and had the same levels of accuracy for tripping and drilling tasks. Reaction time varied between tripping and drilling tasks, with operators taking longer to respond to drilling failures. They reported lower SA scores during failure scenarios. Heart rate data showed no statistically significant differences between failure and non-failure scenarios; however, researchers note that the short duration of the scenarios might effect on that. They also found that there were notable differences in heart rate variability between tripping and drilling tasks for non-failure scenarios. If future research confirms these findings it would point to the information presented to drillers being insufficient for helping to maintain SA during critical failure events.