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3 min read

Levels of Automation in Coiled Tubing & Wireline Operations

Levels of Automation in Coiled Tubing & Wireline Operations

Full autonomy is considered the “holy grail” for most industries, including well construction and intervention operations offshore. Coiled tubing and Wireline operations are therefore prime candidates for adoption of automation as they play a crucial part in the maintenance and production of a well during its lifetime.

Slow adoption of new technologies, like automation, can have a severe impact on both HSE and return on investment for Energy Companies, so it is important to look at the barriers to adoption.

In this article, you can read about the different levels of automation of Coiled Tubing & Wireline Operations, and what benefits you can achieve by automating these.


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Levels of Automation Autonomy

With some inspiration from the automotive industry we have proposed 6 levels of Automation & Autonomy for Coil Tubing Wireline Operations described as follows:

  • Level 0: No Automation / Human Control Operated
    All aspects of operating and supporting the operation are in the hands of humans and supporting functions. None or minor use of computerized tools and data.

  • Level 1: Limited Automation Human Control
    Some built-in capabilities in systems for operation of the machine or process. All decisions are still made by a human, but there could be decision support.

  • Level 2: Partial Automation / Human Delegated
    Two or more automated functions work together to relieve the human of control. The system selects the action and implements it if the human approves the action. The human will remain fully engaged with the operating tasks, but the human will notice the gradual transfer of control from man to machine.

  • Level 3: Conditional Autonomy / Human Supervised
    The system can perform a wide variety of activities, supervised or given permission by a human. The system selects the action and informs the human in case they want to cancel the action or tells the human what is done if not cancelled by the human.

  • Level 4: High Autonomy / Mixed Initiative
    The machine doesn't need a human in control. The system can do the decision making, based on sensed data, artificial intelligence, and programmed functions, but the human can intervene and take control as needed.

  • Level 5: Fully Autonomous / Automated
    The machine is fully autonomous, with decisions made without human intervention. The systems do the actions if it decides it should be done. Humans oversee and monitor the operations.

Read more: Wireline and Coiled Tubing Operations: How to reduce your operating costs with electrification and automation?


Barriers and Opportunities

Most of today’s operations are still done with equipment at Level 0 or Level 1 on the automation scale. Typical barriers to take steps towards autonomy are outdated rig-site equipment, trust in automation technology, an understanding of the true value of automation, contractual incentives and, inevitably, investment cost.

If you look at the opportunities presented by combining a digital planning platform, such as IDEX, with automated rig-site equipment, you start to see the potential.

For instance, it is fully possible to convert a digital well-plan created in IDEX into executable machine instructions and combine that with software like IDEX Advisor, which controls both equipment operating limits and the company standard operating procedures.

This will reduce manning on site, ensure that maximum operational efficiency is achieved on every job, start to use data to bring real autonomous operations into jobs and even operate equipment from shore.

Read more: How to Optimise Well Completion with a Collaborative Software Solution

The lower investment cost of Level 0 and Level 1 equipment remains an easy path for investors and contractors, but this comes with some obvious disadvantages, like:

  • Operational issues caused by human error.
  • Lack of data for analytics & data driven improvements.
  • All personnel must be present on site.
  • No integration between planning & operations.
  • Very limited guidance available for the WL/CT Operators in a market short of experienced people.

Stimline has delivered several Coil Tubing and Wireline Systems over the last years, with typical Level 2 Automation features, like:

  • The ability to run in and out of the well automatically (based on SOP’s).
  • Operator adjusted tension / speed profiles.
  • Dynamic speed / tension / compression limits.
  • Auto-jarring.
  • Downhole tool control from surface equipment (with suitable tool).

Read more: How to Automatically Track and Report all Activities and NPT Events for Wireline Jobs

State of the art Level 3 systems are also currently available commercially. These are electrified, digitized and semi-automated systems that actively monitor and record actions.

Advantages of this technology-level are:

  • Electrified equipment ready for automation.
  • Automaton Systems integrated in a digital workflow.
  • Collection of comprehensive operational data.
  • Data collection for analytics.
  • Building the foundation of Level 4 and 5 Autonomy.
  • Enables remote operations.
  • Reduces the number of people on site.
  • Improves HSE.
  • Reduces emmissions.


Due to the lower cost and ready availability of manual equipment, most operations are done with no or very limited automation, despite the apparent advantages.

With Energy Companies implementing digital workflows, including detailed planning and rig-site execution tools, and electrical drive technology developed by the automotive industry being available for Coil Tubing Units and Wireline Winches, it is fully realistic to achieve a Level of Autonomy described as Level 3 in this article.

Using the data that will be gathered by these types of units, will enable operations a higher level of autonomy. Now, the system can do the decision making, based on standard operating practices, sensor data, and programmed functions, without any further hardware modifications to the units.

Are you ready for data-driven, automated Coil Tubing & Wireline Operations?


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