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Drilling Campaign Simulator 

Decision Lab Case Study with NCOC


North Caspian Operating Company (NCOC) wanted a modelling simulation tool that could support its logistics planning for its future drilling campaigns in the North-eastern Caspian Sea. 


The key challenge was to take into account the interdependencies between different processes and parameters related to the falling and fluctuating Caspian Sea levels (FCSL) that cause unpredictable constraints. 


We developed a product that models the key features of the drilling processes and simulates the effects of FCSL on the logistics solution to achieve a cost-effective drilling campaign. 

A logistics problem that prevents from next phase of technological development 

The giant Kashagan oil field, located off the Kazakhstan coast in the North-eastern Caspian Sea, ranks as one of the largest oil discoveries of the past four decades. NCOC is the operator of the Kashagan field, operating under the North Caspian Sea Production Sharing Agreement (NCSPSA).  

NCOC was looking for a new and more accurate technical approach to support the right logistics decisions – the number and types of vessels, as well as lifting and handling appliances dedicated to the drilling campaign – for operation within the harsh environment and the complex constraints nature imposes. 

Fighting the Forces of Nature and Man 

Drilling operations require a range of supporting materials that must be delivered to the drilling island by marine vessels and barges, 24/7 and 365 days a year. Any drilling operations produce waste materials that must be transported away from the island for onshore disposal. Tugs tow the barges for all travel. In addition, tugs must perform activities such as maintenance, refuelling, and being on firefighting standby. The key challenge is scheduling all the required vessel activities. 

This challenge is compounded by environmental conditions that can limit transport options. In the long-term, a continuous downtrend is observed in NE Caspian, although there are exceptional wind-driven up and down surges, and ice forms during the winter season. If the water is too shallow or the ice too thick, vessels may have to travel with lighter cargo or reduced speed or be prevented from travelling at all. 

The activities and all the logistics around them require robust scheduling plans that can deal with the uncertainties and overcome the risks to the success of the overall project. 

A Rich model for Extracting Insights 

We worked in collaboration with the project lead, Engineering Group, one of the main players in the field of digital transformation of public and private companies and organisations in Italy and internationally. Together we developed a simulation model that reproduces the NCOC operations in a virtual environment of the drilling, waste management and logistics activities. Decision Lab developed the core model, which creates and models the activity schedules for vessels and the drilling locations, and all supporting operations and supply of materials. The crucial step in completing drilling activities on time is producing the plan for upcoming vessel activities. For this Decision Lab created a fast and flexible planning algorithm that could handle the unpredictability of the transport conditions (including sea level and ice). We developed the model within the AnyLogic framework, which provides support for rich modelling representations, visualisation and experimentation, and the resulting tool allows the user to draw insights from it. 

Simulate to Penetrate 

The model we developed helps to simulate various scenarios that can assess the performance (cost and schedule) and robustness of the Supply Chain services in support of the current phase of resource exploration. By comparing these scenarios, NCOC is aided in achieving its ultimate objective – ensuring that drilling operations can happen, taking into account predicted effects of FCSL, at a given cost and at a given timeframe.