New Technology: Improvements Without Compromising Standards

By Mark Taggart, V.P. Research and Development, Shareholder with Rangeland Drilling Automation Inc.

Forget everything that you know about a standard well service rig.  Wipe away any ideas of what it should look like from the white board, forget how it’s currently configured and start again.  Create a list of the deficiencies of the existing technology.  List only what this new rig needs to do and start creating.

In 2010 this is the path that Rangeland headed with the SRR-150 rig.  Over its existence, Rangeland has been working intensively to develop the next generation of products for our industry. Automated catwalks were released in 2009, followed by Automated Tongs with positioning systems in 2010, and a small 100T top drive that will fit standard “Old Iron” in 2011.   All of these products had input from E&P companies, service providers, manufacturers and engineers alike.

In 2010 Rangeland decided a change in this well service technology was needed.  This lack of forward thinking ignited our commitment to design a new and innovative automated hybrid service rig solution.  Over the past 10+ years there have been significant advancements in drilling technologies with the addition of AC rigs, Automated Directional Drilling, and automated pipe handling systems.  These technology advancements have had a positive impact on time to completion and given well engineers tools not previously had.  These newly constructed wells require a more versatile service rig that can perform more than what they previously had.

In late 2010 I had finished the conceptual design of what the rig should look like and how it would work and perform.  Using 3D renderings, animations, and experience in the industry, I set out on a mission to convince the industry that this was the right solution.  Presenting these ideas to E&P companies, and service providers on a weekly basis,  then gathering their feedback, revising the conceptual design, representing what I had created; not only was I changing the rig design, I was changing an industry-wide mindset of what a rig may look like.  This in itself was and continues to be the most difficult task Rangeland faces. Twelve iterations and over a year later we signed the first contract to manufacture this new idea.

To be successful in bringing this new product to the industry we needed an E&P company committed to change, a service provider that believed in the technology, and a manufacturing company with the vision and skills to succeed.  This partnership has been key in contributing to the ultimate success.

2012 was a year of detailed design and engineering for the SRR-150.  Taking the initial concept and turning it into a workable design is not a simple task. After over 12,000 hours of design and engineering with 10 full time design staff we were ready to start the prototype.  The initial manufacturing of the components went relatively quickly and soon the idea that once only existed in minds and computer programs began to take shape.  With most components on site and some resemblances of the rig we continued with the prototyping steps: assemble, disassemble, change and assemble again.  In all I am pretty sure that we built the complete rig 3 times, but we wanted it right—we wanted it perfect.

The next task was to create the operational interface and programing that would run this new idea.  Taking a page from the drilling industry and putting the driller behind a control handle rather than a brake handle was a step change for the service industry.  Creating a hybrid service / drilling rig takes attention to detail and information processes.  We turned our attention to integrating the remainder of the subsystems that we had already completed. Catwalk, Tong and Top Drive, Mud System were all integrated into the controls of this new rig.  The resulting package is a fully functional, automated well service rig.

After a few months of testing in our yard, we shipped our new idea in Sept 2013 for all to see.  Our first well was a test hole to prove out and put this new unit to the test.  We passed with great success tripping 2 7/8 tubing 2,500 metres into a well with two 90 degree turns.  During that one well we tested every system on the rig extensively, reprogramming operations to get as perfect as possible.  The rig then started its normal operation in Oct 2013 and started making history.

Our goal with the SRR-150 was to release a new technology, but not compromise any of the existing features or functions of what is accepted as the norm today.  At the minimum the rig must be as fast, reliable and efficient as its older siblings.  It must pass every test by a large margin just to gain some acceptance.  Everything we learned over the course of the next six months would be brought back to the office, designed and incorporated into Rig 2 and 3.  We are constantly evolving the technology of the rig with some large advancements in our software REACT ™.  This software allows for remote access review of rig operation, troubleshooting and is well on its way to data logging.

I believe that we have successfully completed all tests with three rigs now running in our industry today.  The prototype rig has operated for over 18 months for a total of 5,500 hours with only 130 hours of down time, increasing safety, efficiency and profitability to the industry.