By Katherine Scott, associate editor
Honghua Group and its US subsidiary Honghua America are developing a next-generation onshore rig for shale drilling called the US #1; a prototype is under construction at the company’s Houston factory and scheduled for completion in late 2013 or early 2014. Further, the company is working with Baker Hughes to field test Honghua’s 6,000-hp hydraulic fracturing pump in Texas. Speaking during an exclusive interview with Drilling Contractor at the 2013 OTC, Zhang Mi, chairman and president of Honghua Group, noted that such technologies are examples of his company’s focus on the US onshore market; yet, they are also technologies that he believes Honghua can eventually deploy in China once development of unconventionals expands in that country.
The US #1 rig has been designed to be highly mechanized and highly automated, Mr Zhang explained, and one technology that will be incorporated is Honghua’s new direct-drive triplex mud pump. The pump is driven by a top-mounted AC motor that powers the pinion shaft. This removes the intermediate transmission (e.g. belt, chain and gear), reducing maintenance and vibrations and lowering noise. A smaller environmental footprint is another key feature of the US #1 rig. Mr Zhang noted that it has been designed to be powered with natural gas and LNG, and perhaps even grid power in some cases. “If (US #1 is) successful, it will be an example for Honghua’s next-generation rigs.”
The company also continues work on its 6,000-hp frac pump, introduced at last year’s OTC. Honghua is now working with Baker Hughes to bring this technology to the US market for field-testing, Mr Zhang said. “Once the field tests are complete, I believe it will also bring about step-changes for shale drilling in the US.” Field-testing will likely take place in Texas around August, he said.
Looking toward the Chinese market, Mr Zhang explained that although there are approximately 2,000 land drilling rigs operating in China, most of them are older mechanical or SCR-style rigs. “There is a significant need for renewal of the fleet,” he said, adding that he believes innovations such as Honghua’s direct-drive triplex pump will be able to impact the Chinese market once it’s proven in the US. “The locations in China where there’s potential for shale gas are not like Texas, where you have wide spaces where you can build wellsites. In China, they are located in mountainous regions, so access to shale gas reserves is more difficult. Being able to reduce the footprint is especially important.”
Although onshore rigs and technology remain at the core of Honghua’s business, the company is also pushing ahead with its entry into the offshore rig construction segment, with the large-capacity Honghai mobile crane the centerpiece technology driving their efforts. “When our Honghai crane is completed with a lifting capacity of 22,000 metric tons, you can construct the entire platform on land and then transport it offshore as a complete piece… We believe this will be a first in the world,” Mr Zhang said.
Construction of the crane began in October 2012 near Shanghai. Once completed, Honghua plans to use it for large-scale and simultaneous production of five to 10 offshore rigs, he said. The crane will be completed by the end of 2013 or Q1 2014, and Mr Zhang noted that discussions for offshore rig orders are ongoing, primarily with non-Chinese companies.