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Serious Games Hit Oil & Gas Industry

Via: Terris-Hill Productions Ltd. (Now Coole Immersive )

Alberta computer programmers and oil rig managers have teamed up to create a unique serious game meant to improve safety on the job.

SRT - Service Rig Training, set for release in March 2007, trains new workers for potentially dangerous work on an oil rig. Focusing on front line work roles for the service rig sector of the oil & gas industry, SimuLynx - Rig Skills uses a first person perspective 3D environment to give the user an immersive "hands-on, off-site" learning experience.

The oil industry's version of being crowned does not result in royal treatment.

It's a bad mistake that's easy to make. Just push a lever too far on one of the 1,001 portable, truck-mounted service rigs in use to maintain western Canadian 183,000 producing oil and gas wells. A big diesel engine roars. Tonnes of machinery and steel pipe rush upwards and smash into the crown of the derrick.

At best, the result is hard labour untangling a snarl of wire rope and damaged tackle on a rig that costs $700 an hour or more to keep in the field. At worst, a lethal hail of metal crashes down.

"In the real world you can kill someone if you crown out," safety consultant Terry Smith said as he recalled horrors encountered in his 25 years in service rigs. "What's important about this is it provides a safe place to fail," former mine manager Kevin McNulty said, in explaining a new product he and Smith are crafting for the service rig fleet as partners in Terris Hill Productions Ltd.

The 23-employee firm in the Edmonton Advanced Technology Center is nearly finished a four-year creative marathon. The private firm has no doubt industry is ripe for the product. Silent partners and financial supporters include contractor companies that operate about one-third of the western Canadian service rig fleet.

Previews have earned testimonial letters from industry mainstays, such as Imperial Oil and Talisman Energy. Discussions are underway with Alberta colleges keen to expand training courses.

Early marketing results are encouraging in the United States, where the service rig fleet is three times bigger than in Canada.

The software allows instruction in different languages and Terris Hill has a standing invitation to show its finished product to the oil and gas industry in China.

Alberta oilfield contractor contributions to the creative effort include a technical advisory committee with collective experience of more than 300 years in service rigs.

Instructions on the right way to run the equipment are only part of the program. It includes every known mistake and mishap, often drawing on official investigations of tragedies. The simulation software lets trainees make every conceivable mistake and see the consequences.

The system projects trainees into the four main ranks on service rigs. Roles become increasingly complex as workers rise from junior to senior floor hand, then derrick hand and operator or crew chief. The instructional program incorporates 57 learning methods and covers 900 "competencies" or skills.