Back in 2005, I quit my job as a well-test engineer in order to start making games, my only passion, besides AI. At some point, a programmer friend and I created a prototype of a fully interactive training environment for oilfield operators. With my knowledge of oilfield equipment and operations, and his knowledge of 3D engine programming, it seemed the right thing to do.
The goal of the wellsite-simulator project was to explore the possibility of training oilfield operators on the on well control equipment and safety. This type of training environment can potentially be turned into a commercial success, especially nowadays that realistic graphic engines are available. Back in those days our graphics were quite basic, but hey, even some artists at our company could probably have operated well-site equipment after playing around with the simulator. And to me that’s good news!
[ Update: The Oil Well operator Simulation software is available for download now! ]
[WARNING: Some of the terms and concepts within this article might not be understandable to people who have no idea where petroleum comes from! I included a bunch of helpful Wikipedia links.
We managed to incorporate a bunch of cool features into this simulator. Here is a short list of the major features, along with a few screenshots:
1. The player’s avatar can walk around by clicking anywhere on the screen, wear his personal protective equipment and manipulate valves and hydraulic controls with intuitive controls. Clicking on the left side of a manual valve, e.g. opens it (1 turn or less). The GUI only consists of three buttons. The top one determines whether the player should wear a breathing apparatus or not. The second one determines the number of turns a valve rotates when clicked on once, and the third allows the player to use a sampling canister in order to gather oil samples from the sampling point on the production pipeline.
2. The flow of hydrocarbons is simulated with a mathematical flow model and the pressure, temperature and flow-rates are realistic. Valves, both manual ones and hydraulic ones follow realistic mathematical models in their effect on flow and pressure. Back-pressure from production separators is included in the simulation model, and so are the effects of the adjustable choke on the Christmas tree.
3. The sound of petroleum flowing through the pipes and when it gushes out due to a mistake in opening a valve, or even when there is a valve leak, is totally realistic and so are the hydraulic pumping sounds etc. Sound gives important feedback in the oilfield!
4. All graphics are as close to what you will see on an average well-site as it can get without a commercial graphics engine. The goal was to make sure the operator recognizes all controls once he enters a real well-site, not that he sits there is awe of the flashy graphics.
5. H2S (a deadly gas and number 1 killer in oilfields) dissipation and leakage are simulated using leak flow-rate, wind direction and distance of the operator from the source of leakage. There even is a wind-sock that turns realistically. If the operator is wearing his breathing apparatus (BA) when the leak happens, his life is spared, otherwise he drops dead!
6. Gauges and push-buttons can bee zoomed on so that their values are readable. We even incorporated parallax error into the gauges for when they are approached from an angle!
7. The burning pit is simulated so that if the player has lit a fire before opening the flow to the pit the petroleum will burn with no H2S release. Otherwise there will be extreme H2S leakage and petroleum spillage.
Now to the screenshots.
I have explained a specific feature alongside each screenshot.
The player is wearing his BA and standing next to the Christmas tree. All the valve handles on the tree can be operated.
The player is operating a valve that opens flow to the burning pit. The green marker shows the direction (opening/closing). The burning pit can be seen behind the fence. There’s lots of petroleum burning in there!
A fire has to be lit in the burning pit before petroleum is redirected to it.
Here you see the player standing in front of the sampling station on the production pipeline. The gauges in the back are production pressure and temperature gauges. The temperature of the fluid follows pressure/flow calculations along with daytime and environment temperatures. Did I mention that night/day temperature changes are simulated ;)
This is the ESD control panel. Right now we are pumping up the sub-surface safety valve (SSSV), and the hydraulic pressure is rising.
Pointing at the upstream temperature gauge: The temperature is rising, and we just have opened the well to flow. The production wing valve cannot be turned clockwise (red marker), because it is already in the closed position.
Parallax error while reading a pressure gauge at an angle.
Our wind-sock, showing the wind direction. Here we are standing up-wind, so even though there is an H2S leak we can still take off our breathing apparatus (not recommended in real life!)
Again the control panel. This time we are pumping open the master valve on the Christmas tree.
An oil leak at high-pressure on the kill-valve, which should not have been opened in the first place. Good that we are wearing our BA!
That was it. Please let me know if anyone is interested in further info about the project or if you have comments on how to improve the simulator. If you would like to see a particular case simulated I would welcome suggestions for future projects too.