Deep Hole Driller Cold Weather Drilling Cold Weather Drilling RD20: Secret Weapon for Speed and Efficiency Working in cold weather is more difficult because a person’s body and mechanical equipment doesn’t function at its peak perfor- mance when it's 40 below zero. no one knows this better than the gas drillers in Canada’s oil patch, who, in spite of the cold, have found ways to make drilling tolerable – even more efficient. F rom the tropics to the artic, drills Superintendent for Blackwatch, looks at trip 250 meters an hour and set 300 meters work in some of the most inhospi- all aspects of the drilling process when he per hour of casing. And according to Bjor- table climates. No place illustrates says, “The faster we can move and rig up gan, “The crew isn’t even spent when the this better than drilling in Alberta, Cana- the more attractive we are to the oil com- operation's done.” da. In the summer, drills are working in panies and the more work we will get in the central part of the province drilling for the future.” inTegraTeD Drilling SySTem gas and Coal Bed Methane (CBM). In the Reducing manual labor and doing ev- From the factory in Garland, Texas, a winter, contractors move to the northern erything possible to enhance safety is a new RD20 is delivered to Atlas Copco part of the province since many sites are high priority for Blackwatch. Handling distributor, Monument Machine Shop only accessible when the ground is frozen. drill pipe and casing is where this is most LTD/Marwyn Sales & Supply (Marwyn) But in a region that can hit 40 below zero evident. As Blackwatch builds an RD20 in Calgary. Marwyn’s employees perform – that’s in Celsius and Fahrenheit – drill- drill site, special pipe tubs with fold-out a series of modifications to the rig, setting ers in Canada’s oil patch have found ways pipe racks are positioned behind the rig. it up for the customer’s specific require- to make drilling both tolerable and more These tubs and racks can hold all the pipe, ments. Then the RD20 is delivered to efficient. drill collars, surface and production cas- Blackwatch’s facility in Leduc where it It’s because of these factors that Black- ing to complete a well. A hydraulic load- will be integrated with an elaborate series watch Drilling, a division of Blackwatch ing arm is attached to the substructure, of components made to boost efficiency in Energy Services Trust in Calgary, Alberta, which will pick up the pipe or casing and cold weather drilling. spends nine months and close to $4 mil- lift it to a position under the rotary head. A substructure to elevate the rig is set lion over the price of the drill rigging up This loading arm offers an efficient, up over a blow out preventor (BOP) to as- and modifying the drill and platform be- hands-free system that allows the crew to sure safe control of the formation of gas fore it even leaves the yard. TeChnology evoluTion Blackwatch owns 10 drills: seven At- las Copco RD20 rigs, two Atlas Copco TH75s, and one conventional rig. This fleet is unique in Canada’s oil patch in that it is predominantly made up of RD20s. Conventional oil field rigs can take more than a full day to set up a location for drilling. The Blackwatch crew moves on a location and sets up the RD20, and all related equipment and supplies to drill and case a hole, in less than three hours. This adds up to lots of time saved over Blackwatch field supervisors Gerald Depeel (left) and Jeff Bjorgan (right) stand with Marwyn Sales manager Darrel a drilling season. Jeff Bjorgan, Drilling Skinner in front of their new RD20. The platform is completely surrounded by curtains to block the cold wind. 15 Deep Hole Driller Positioning of the RD20 is fast and consistent every time because it drives onto a substructure platform that is Blackwatch adds many user-friendly features to the drill, hydraulically lifted into place over the blow out preventor (BOP). such as hydraulic breakout wrenches, which reduce operator contact with the pipe. during the drilling process. A dog house, automation. curtains to block the wind. Grates are in- set up next to the rig, houses drilling re- Darrel Skinner, Sales Manager for stalled in the floor below the driller's and cords and tools and gives the crew a meet- Marwyn, says the RD20 is steadily be- roughneck's feet allowing warmth from ing place near the working floor. Should coming more popular for contractors the heaters in the enclosed well-head area the drilling process require mud circula- drilling shallow gas and CBM wells in to rise. tion, a mud tank and mixing system are the west. “The rig’s exceptional mobility placed on the other side of the rig with a and rapid rig-up cuts non-drilling time and Drilling For gaS separate container set up behind the mud cost to a fraction of moving and setting up The gas is found in Alberta at depths rang- system for the diesel powered mud pump. a conventional oil field rig.” ing from 300 m to 1,500 m (980-4920 ft). A semi trailer is usually positioned behind Blackwatch sets up a complete loca- Moving east toward Manitoba, gas is be- the mud system to store drilling additives tion and is making a hole in 2-3 hours. tween 900 m and 1,600 m (2953-5249 ft). and chemicals used to blend the circula- The RD20 has also earned a reputation Directional drilling is also done in Alber- tion fluid. with drillers and crews for being simple to ta with mud motors cutting two to three If mud drilling is not required, a high operate and good to work around. holes off a main line. pressure compressor, and possibly a Winterizing a drilling location re- On a typical gas well, a surface hole booster compressor, is placed beside the volves around heat containment. Major is drilled to 10% of total depth (TD) and rig for air circulation drilling. Behind the components like the generator and mud cased with seven inch steel casing, which dog house, a generator is set up to sup- pump are containerized and heated. The is then cemented in place. When the pro- ply electricity to the entire rig location. mud tank and water tanks are also heated. duction hole is completed to TD, a string Behind the rig, pipe tubs, a catwalk and a On the rig, engine oil, hydraulic oil and of 4 1/2 in. production casing is set and “hands free” pipe handling arm are rigged engine coolant are temperature controlled. cemented to prevent gas from leaching up to handle drill pipe and casing. A com- Because the operation continues twenty- into the water supply. The casing will be plete drill site also includes a solids tank four hours a day, the mechanical compo- perforated at the gas zones to allow gas to for drill cuttings, a water tank and a fuel nents remain warm. It’s when there is a exit the formation. tank. Add several pick up trucks, a steam shut down that problems occur. Any flu- Blackwatch is committed to being an jenny, a trailer for the field office and tool ids in exposed lines and hoses freeze solid environmentally responsible company. pusher’s quarters, and you have a com- in minutes if they aren’t moving and heat- Cuttings and the fluid that pulls them to plete winter drilling operation. ed, so all water and mud lines have drains the surface are captured in a heated tank Blackwatch also makes some modi- that allow them to be emptied quickly. and separated by a mud shaker, then the fications to the rig including hydraulic When frozen components become an is- mud is re-circulated to use again. Cuttings breakout wrenches and moving the con- sue, crews will use steam to thaw things are spread on fields to be tilled into the trol valves to the back of the control panel. out. farm ground. Add-ons and modifications are focused on The crew’s comfort is also important. A lot of oil companies have a zero reducing maintenance time and increasing The platform work area is surrounded by disturbance policy when they roll onto 16 Deep Hole Driller Critical for cold weather drilling, Blackwatch Drilling Enclosed in a heated room under the working platform, Superintendent, Jeff Bjorgan, is holding a propane tiger the BOP is easily - and exactly - lowered into place with torch used to thaw frozen pipes and components. a hydraulic arm. a property. What that means is the crew and equipment will leave virtually no vis- ible sign that they were there other than the well head. “If the ground is solid, we won’t even leave tracks,” says Bjorgan. In Canada, the government owns the rights to what is in the ground, but the landowner is paid for allowing drills on his land and for ongoing access to the well head. The typical move-on fee is $10,000 CAD with the annual access fee ranging from $2,000 -$3,000 CAD. Companies like Blackwatch Energy Services Trust are seeing the advantages of modern hydraulic rigs like the RD20 because they involve less manual labor than their predecessors. Hands-free pipe handling systems and other automation are gaining a foothold because they re- quire less manual intervention from the crew. To drill for gas in a Northern Alberta winter takes tough, resourceful men with strong, reliable equipment. When the cold weather of winter hits and most people are thinking about what they can do to stay warm, contractors like Blackwatch Drill- ing are packing up their rigs and heading for the frozen north…so the rest of us can turn on our furnaces. DhD 1 07 The work platform is totally surrounded by curtains to protect the drillers from the dangerously cold wind. The heated dog house is just to the left of the platform. The "hands free" pipe handler raises the pipe into place, 17 eliminating the need to touch the cold steel.