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From Fossil To Fuel™
From Fossil To Fuel™

Episode 6 · 2 years ago

Episode 5 - The Drilling Rig

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

How drilling rigs work and the different components of a drilling rig.

My name is Brennan McDougall and I'm a professional engineer. Or the last decade I've worked in many different facets of the oil and gas industry. While I have a pretty solid technical background in oil and gas, I don't really know a whole lot about the other non technical departments that help run an oiling gas company. Recently I took a course to help develop my business acumen and better understand how the financial side of the business works. What a novel concept to educate the technical people on the business and financial side. I thought it would be a really cool idea to return the favor and educate the non technical people on the technical side. This is how the concept from fossil the fuel was born. Through these twenty four episodes, we will take a journey from how oil and gas was formed millions of years ago how it is refined into the fuel that runs our cars and keeps our homes. Come join me on this adventure as we learn how the oiling gas industry operates from fossil to fee.

Before we can go a little bit more into detail about how the whole drilling process works, need to go through the different comple ponents at the drilling rig. I should mention at this point that pretty much everything I'm talking about in this podcast is for land or on shore operations. While a lot of this is the same, for offshore can be different. So to keep things consistent, will just stick to on shore. I do have an episode later, episode twenty two, that specifically covers off shore, so hopefully that will kind of help cover our basis. As you can probably imagine, drilling rigs come in all different shapes and sizes, but almost all drilling rigs have the following...

...main components, starting from the top the crown, the Derek, the monkey board, the top drive, the draw works, the rig floor, the dog hosts, the BOP, the mud pumps, the generators, the shakers, the mud tanks, the mud gus separator, the drill pipe and the bit. That is a lot, I know, and in truth I've cut out a lot of the smaller parts of the rig to try and keep it simple, but if you do want to understand how a rig works, these are the components that you need to know. Lucky for us, drillers don't like using technical terms and tend to call things what they look like or what they're used for. The crown, for example, is the very top of the rig. It is the highest point on a rig and is therefore called the crown. The crown contains a set of police to facilitate moving the drill pipe in and out of the hole. I said the crown is the highest...

...point of the rig, but technically it's part of the Derik. The Derek is the tower looking structure and provide support when lifting the drill pipe. To put this in perspective, a single piece or joint a four inch diameter drill pipe, weighs over five hundred pounds. See if you took a thousand meters of drill pipe in the well board, that weighs over fiftyzero pounds. You need to have a strong structure to be able to lift the weights that a drilling rig deals with. The monkey board is part of the Derik and is used to store the drill pipe when it isn't in use. It kind of has a little slots where the drill pipe can go in, so it's kind of like the drill pipe parking lot. It's called a monkey board because it's pretty high up, and so I imagine the lucky guy who has to climb up to help store the drill pipe is akin to a monkey. The top...

...drive is the mechanical device that provides the power to spin the drill pipe. Remember that we need to be able to spin the bit at the very bottom of the drill pipe to actually drill up the rock. I should also mention that while most new rigs use a top drive that hangs from the crown to spin the drill pipe, some rigs use what's called a rotary table to accomplish the same thing. The rotary tables located on the rig floor, but for most of the analogies going forward, I'll probably just reference the top drive. The draw works is the mechanical device that provides the power to lift the top drive, and therefore the drill pipe, up and down. The draw works is a large electrical motor with a rotatable Spool of thick metal cable known as the drill line. The drill line runs up the Derek from the draw works,...

...through the pulleys at the crown and back down to the top drive. The pulleys are used to reduce the tension in the drill line, for example, and I'm going to take you back to your high school physics class here if you've got five pulleys that you're using at the top of the crown, the tension in the line, the drill line, is reduced by approximately ten times compared to if there was only one pulley, because we're dealing with such high weights here. That's why these pulleys are used, because fiftyzero pounds or a hundred thousand pounds or whatever it is, is such a high weight that you need to use these pulleys to reduce the tension in your line. The top drive, like we said, is suspended from the top of the Derek and it hangs above the rig floor, where most of the action is. It's where the drilling crews do most of their work when drilling. They help...

...screw pieces of drill pipe together and take them apart as needed. It's also where the draw works and the dog house are located. The Dog House is kind of like the head quarters for the drilling rig. It's where all the main controls are and where the operations are run. From the mud pumps pump drilling mud from the mud tanks down the drill pipe through the drill bit and back up the drill pipe annulus and then back to the mud tanks. So it's basically a closed system and the mud keeps getting recirculated. On some of the bigger rigs, these mud pumps can be as large as a truck or bigger, so we're talking a ton of horse power here. When the drilling mud does come back to surface, it carries little bits of rocks with it from the whole drilling process. Remember, these little bits are called cuttings.

Sometimes the mud has some gas in it too, so we need to be able to get the gas and the cuttings out before we can reuse the mud, because it is a closed system. So guess what? The mud gas separated us. You got it. It helps separate the gas out of the mud. The cuttings are removed by something called a Shaker. The shakers are these vibrating machines that have a fine wire mesh screen on them. So the screen allows the mud to pass through but not the cuttings. The vibrating motion helps to keep the cuttings moving along the line until they fall over the edge into a tank from which they can be sent for disposal. So if you can picture it, you have mud coming up through the Shaker and it has these fine screens where the liquid mud can pass through the screen and therefore get recycled, but the cuttings or the bits of rock stay on top of the...

...screen, and the way that you keep them moving along, because at that point they're just little bits of rock, is by shaking or vibrating the machine, and so by shaking and vibrating it you have these little bits of rocks that are almost kind of dancing along the screen until they fall off into whatever tank it is that you're using to collect them until they're ready to be sent for disposal. So that point, once you've got the mud all cleaned up, it gets shipped back to the mud tanks where it is stored until it's pumped again down the well board. The mud tanks are also where you can add different products to change the properties of the mud or increase its density if necessary. This and all the components of the rig are powered by the rigs generators, which usually burn diesel or sometimes natural gas to generate electricity and power. The drill pipe, like we talked about, is just sections or joints...

...of metal pipe that are run into the well board. As you get deeper, we use joints because you can only run a certain length at a time, and so if you need, say, three thousand meters of drill pipe, it's not like you have one three thousand long piece of drill pipe that you can just run into the hole. So we have to do it in sections, kind of like little lego blocks that you keep adding on top of each other, and in that way, depending on how deep you need to go, will determine how many pieces or how many joints of drill pipe that you need. So at the bottom of the drill pipe is the bottom hole assembly, or the Baha, which is really just the catch all term for all the various tools that you're running at the bottom of the drill pipe. Could be stings as simple as what we call drill callers, which is just larger and thicker drill pipe helps give you extra weight and rigidity in your drill...

...string, or you could have all kinds of high tech equipment full of electronics. It really just depends on what you're trying to do. But the Baha is sort of the generic term that we use to describe all of those things in one so when we take the drill pipe, we take the Baha, we take the bit and we put that all together, that that whole thing is called the drill string. At the very bottom of the drill string, remember, is the drill bit. The bed is what actually drills the whole, and by drills the whole I mean drills up the rock at the bottom of the hole, and there are two main types of them, pauly crystalline diamond composite, or PDC's for short, and Roller Corne bits. Roller corne BITs have largely been replaced by PDC bits in most applications, as they typically drill faster, last longer and have no moving parts, thus reducing failure potential. However, there's still are applications for Roller corne BITs, for example in...

...extremely hard formations. Okay, so I know that was a lot to take in, so to help process it and review everything that we just talked about, I'm going to use them in a real scenario and use this terminology to describe what's going on. So when I'm ready to start drilling, I'm going to attach the drill bit to the bottom of the drill string, I'm going to make sure the BOP's are open and I'm going to use the draw works to lower the drill pipe into the well. The draw works will unspool drill line up through the crown of the Derek and then back down in order to lower the top drive and drill rill pipe until the bit reaches the ground. I can then start the mud pumps, establish a certain pump rate or circulation...

...rate, engage the top drive or rotary table if that's what we're using, and start spinning the drill string, which will in turn spin the bit. The weight of the drill pipe and the BHA above the bit will help push the drill bit down into the ground. So then that way, as the drill bit starts spinning, it actually drills up the formations. The mud we are circulating with our pumps will help carry the cuttings, which are the little bits of rock out of the hole, and they're coming out the hole on the outside or the annulus of the drill pipe, and the mud also helps to keep the bit cool because of the friction that you're creating as you're drilling up the rock. The mud will get cleaned up by going through the mud gas separator to remove any gas and then through the shakers to remove the cuttings. Once I drill as far as I can with the drill pipe that is...

...attached to the top drive or rotary table. The rig workers will come out onto the rig floor and attach another piece of drill pipe. I can then keep drilling with that joint of drill pipe until it goes all the way, in which point I'll have to come back out and screw another one in on top of it to keep going. The driller, who's kind of like the drilling crew supervisor, will be controlling and directing all of this from the Dog House, which is right beside the rig flour so that he can see everything that's going on. If we ever need to pull the drill pipe out of the hole, will use the draw works to pull everything back out. The rig workers can then disconnect the drill pipe into sections, one piece at a time, which can then be stored in the Monkey Board, Aka the drill pipe parking mill, until we are ready to go back in again. So that pretty much sums up the drilling rig and hopefully the next time you google a picture of a drilling rig, you'll be able to spot the key pieces...

...of equipment that we just talked about. Hey, guys, if you like today's episode, make sure you subscribe to the podcast. Unlike most podcasts that release an episode every week or two, I did all twenty four at once, Netflix style, so you can listen to them all right now if you just hit subscribe. If you like today's episode, make sure you leave me a comment or thumbs up, or you can email me at from fossil to fuel at GMAILCOM, or look me up on Linkedin. I'm Brendan McDougall.

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