IADC celebrates its 70th anniversary in 2010. In recognition of this milestone, and in anticipation of the decades ahead, DC is publishing a retrospective from issues of decades past. We invite you to explore the the historical contrasts and similarities that may emerge and chart the industry’s evolution through these episodic vignettes. The past is written, and has brought us to 2010. But who knows what the future may hold?
Record-sized rig on site in Texas
Within a month after its unveiling at the Permian Baisin Oil Show last fall, Ingersoll-Rand’s new 1500 Series mobile land rig was on site in South Texas drilling for IADC-member Magee-Poole.
Touted as the world’s largest mobile land unit, Magee-Poole No. 9 designated a prototype, was punching a hole with a td of 15,000 ft just southwest of Hebbronville, TX. It is rated for 16,000 ft with a 4 1/2 in. drill pipe.
During this “shakedown” phase of its operation, Ingersoll-Rand engineers were on site with personnel from Magee-Poole and Inexco, the operator.
While noting that the concept for the new rig is at least 10 years old, a representative for the manufacturer said that it was only in the past year that it was decided to translate the concept into a working piece of iron. The basic design is similar to the Ingersoll-Rand 1200 Series. The primary difference is increased horsepower and 2,500 ft more in depth capability.
The addition of the new rig brings the total in the Magee-Poole fleet to nine, eight of which are mobile.
Gene Atwell, Magee-Poole drilling superintendent, said that mobile rigs were best suited for the region and with the average depth of a new well in the area at about 9,000 ft and getting deeper, the larger mobile unit provided needed flexibility.
Generating 1,500 hp, the new Ingersoll-Rand unit is powered by three diesel engines with torque converter drives and powers a 2550 drawworks working under a 127 ft, one million pound gross capacity mast.
The substructure telescopes from a moving height of 11 ft to 22 ft on site.
The basic rig components are designed to move in five loads. These include the trailer mounted drawworks and rotary drive with power; the trailer mounted mast complete with strung-up traveling block and raising rams; two loads for the substructure, complete with rotary table, junk boxes and BOP storage facility; and a load including the mast, the system operates the reserve line spool, the hydraulic catworks and any other hydraulic functions required.
The substructure consists of a telescoping main cross structure with rig floor, setbacks base cross structure with setback floor, rig base and rig base outriggers.
The substructure is pinned together at ground level and is raised to working position with hydraulic cylinders. In the telescoping arrangement, the cylinders are internal within the substructure legs.
When being erected, the mast is backed into position as a trailer package. Its racking board is raised and the reserve line spool is set out alongside the rig base.
The mast moves strung up with the traveling block cradled over three axle bogie. The trailer is anchored to the rig base at the bogie end and manipulating hydraulic cylinders are swung into position.
The three-section telescoping mast is extended with the truck and pinned in full length position. The manipulating cylinders are also used at ths time to make the pinning easier.
Coal seams become prolific gas source
While scientists and researchers struggle to refine gasification and other process to extract methane from coal, a handful of operators haf found an easier way to do it. they are drilling directly into coal seams.
Enter the San Juan Basin, located in the four Corners area of the U.S., for it isthere, amid wind-swept canyons and mesas, where the bulk of coal-gas-seeking wells are being drilled.
Extending over portions of New Mexico and Colorado, the San Juan has been one of the most prolific gas producing basincs ever found in the U.S. So prolific that, even after half a century of exploitation, it still ranks as the country’s second largest gas field (the first is Hugoton, straddled over the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles and a portion of Kansas).
Meet IADC-member Meridian Oil Inc. which, together with Amoco, controls the lion’s share of the huge gas bearing coal play in the San Juan Basin whose in-place reserves have been estimated at a whopping 56 tcf.
To put this volume in perspective, one must bear in mind that total U.S. gas reserves amount to 196 tcf — 163 of which are located in the lower 48 states.
Active Drilling Rigs Dip to 27-Year Low
Less than 1,000 rigs active during latest four weeks, 10 percent less than year ago and 28 percent under five years ago. Low level presages shortage of domestic oil and gas supplies.
United States oil and gas drilling activity has declined in recent months from previous severely depressed levels, tubmling to a 27-year low during March. Unless drilling rates increase substantially in the near future, a shortage of domestic oil and gas supplies looms as a distinct possibility within a few years. Present low drilling levels simply are not adequate to discover and develop sufficient new supplies to keep producing ability abreast of rapidly rising consumption.
Proved unproduced crude oil reserves were 12.9 times greater than the amount produced in 1958, but fell to only 9.8 at the end of 1968. the ratio of natural gas reserves to production dropped from 22.1 in 1958 to 14.8 in 1968. The continued decrease in number of wells being drilled in search of production means these ratios are likely to decline at an accelerated pace.
The number of active rotary drilling rigs dropped to an average of only 938 during March, smallest number since 913 during June, 1943.
WHAT’S NEW in Drilling Equipment
January 10, 1951, marked the Fiftieth Anniversary of the discovery of oil at Spindletop, three miles south of Beaumont. Few events have had such a far-reaching effect on this great industry.
Before 1901 oil production in this country had been of modest proportions, geared to the needs of the lamp and buggy days. But the Spindletop gusher shooting oil 200 feet into the air ushered in an era of frenzied oil exploration and drilling throughout the Southwest.
At the same time a new era in rotary drilling was begun and today, although the ieces of equipment are vastly different, the method of rotating the drill pipe and bit is the same today as it was fifty years ago when Lucas drilled to a depth of 1100 feet in 72 days. This same rotary method today with a modern rig would drill 1100 foot Spindletop well in 6 to 7 hours.
The rig Captain Lucas used on the discovery well at spindletop had two advantages over the rigs of today. It was a lot lighter in weight and a lot cheaper to buy. Its capacity to drill, however, was also in proportion to its weight and cost. The steam engine was a single cylinder 9 x 12 -25 hp; the drawworks, a single speed model with one brake flage and no brake lining; the rotary was the well remembered upon type grip ring; the swivel had exposed bearings and they had one large 30 hp boiler to supply steam for the rig.
The turn of the century is notable not only because of the Lucas discovery but it also marked the beginning of practical rotary was the well remembered open type new method of drilling for oil did not progress as fast as one might thing– fifteen years after Spindletop, only about one in ten holes was drilled by this method.
Actually, until the late 20’s (or about the time of Seminole) there was little real change in rotary drilling machinery except that the various pieces of equipment were made larger and would therefore drill deeper. during thi period probably the most important changes or developments were the twin cylinder steam engines to replace the single cylinder; the introduction of kellys and drive bushings to replace the grip ring; and two and three speed drawworks with two brake drums to replace the single speed, single brake type.