The Weekly Reflektion 25/2023

Automation has been a major factor in the development of industry and will continue to be so with increased scope for digitalization and the advent of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Allowing AI to take decisions is already an important element in driverless cars. The increased use of beweaponed drones has raised the question of whether AI should be assigned decision making for ‘kills’ on enemy target. One of the main perceived advantages is the speed with which the decision can be made to maximize the opportunity available. This of course raises moral and ethical questions on the application of AI. There is also the question on how reliable the software and hardware systems are and whether they are robust enough to changes. This is already a dilemma and will need to be addressed in our quest for prevention of Major Accidents in the future.

What will be the causes of Major Accidents in the future?

In December 2021 an article was published in ‘Android Police’. ‘Microsoft Teams is the reason some Android users can’t dial 911’. A person with an android mobile phone tried to call 911 due to an accident. After one ring the phone froze and made it impossible to communicate with the emergency operator. The android phone did send the caller location however it was not possible to give any further information on the service required and the details of the accident. Luckily the caller was close to a landline and could complete the call. The problem was investigated and was eventually traced to an unfortunate interaction between the Microsoft Teams App on the phone and the latest update of the android software. The problem occurred when the user had installed the MS Teams App but had not yet logged in with an account. The problem had not been identified in the rigorous testing that is carried out in connection with updates on the operating system and installation of applications.

When we move into the world of automated systems perhaps using Artificial Intelligence in the decision-making process,what potential problems may arise? Here is a hypothetical incident from a drilling operation sometime in the future.

Future Petroleum is drilling a HTHP well in deepwater in the Norwegian Sea. The drilling rig being used has an automaticdrilling system that uses the latest drilling technology including wired drill pipe and managed pressure drilling. The system has been developed for optimal response to any well control situation including automatic operation of the BOP. There is a mud system where mud weight changes are made through an automatic mud mixing system. The drilling and mud systems are integrated through a software interface. The system has been proven in operation over the past two years including three well control incidents where the pore pressure was outside the predicted range. The control system for the drilling system was recently modified to provide an improved user interface.

Following the upgrade drilling was restarted in the reservoir section. The mud system suddenly started to add base oil to the mud making it lighter, the drilling system registered a reduction in circulating pressure and sent a signal to weigh up. Unfortunately, a software fault prevented this action and a well kick was detected. The automatic drilling system suddenly froze preventing operation of the BOP, and the well started to flow. Hydrocarbons blew out on the rig floor before the BOP was closed in by the drill crew using a hard-wired manual override that bypassed the automated drilling system. Luckily the hydrocarbons did not ignite.

Reflekt AS