Looking into the futureMarch 9th, 2012 | Posted by in Predator
Driller talks about his experience as one of the first to operate the Predator
O’Ryan Drilling of Odessa, Texas, is doing Atlas Copco and future owners of the Predator Drilling System a favor. It is putting the new drilling system through the paces, logging time on the rig and going through the rig-up and rig-down process, looking for any necessary design improvements. The O’Ryan people are intentionally looking for flaws, also making sure the Predator Drilling System does what the engineers have promised. Things are moving along well and the company is seeing success using the drilling system.
The company has drilled 12 holes to date. These are not the 6,000- to 8,000 foot (1,800 to 2,450 meters) holes the rig was designed for, but surface “presets” onto which a conventional rig will move to complete the well.
This area, called the Dora Roberts in the Permian Basin of West Texas, is leased to Occidental Petroleum Company (OXY). OXY’s company policy requires a 1,400 foot (427 meters) surface hole instead of the 400- to 600-foot (120-180 meters) surface casing on neighboring leases. This gives the crew sufficient hole depth to make a number of connections and set casing, while preventing the physical trial of rig up and rig down.
Mark Covensky is O’Ryan’s driller on the day shift. Covensky said it didn’t take him and his three-man crew long to learn the Predator operations. “We got the feel for it the first day. Now we’ve got it down.”
Covensky recognizes that having more automation is the way of the future. “You’ve got to understand, we are conventional rotary rig guys. It’s not just about learning a new rig – it’s about thinking differently. I guess you could say I’m not fighting it. I see this is the future of drilling and I’m just happy I can be on the front end of it.”
Specifically, Covensky cited the controls and safety features as benefits of the Predator. While showing how he controls the whole operation with his fingertips on the driller’s console, Convensky adds pipe and makes the connection with a joystick and flick of a switch. “This smart-skate is a pretty cool invention,” Covensky said. “The trolley follows the pin to connection then the head pulls the pipe up and the tubular floats down vertically into place. See how I just flip the switch to ‘float’ and it does just that…floats over the connection? That’s cool.”
He points out how his crew is well out of the way while the pipe smoothly tips into position, stepping in only after the pipe comes to rest above the drill string. “The only human contact is a guy doping the pipe and stabbing it,” he said. While running collars, the two floor hands also handle the collar clamp (wedding band). One will tighten or loosen the collar clamp nut with a wrench.
The fourth man, if required, on the crew works on the ground loading pipe on the rack with the forklift and operating the skate with the remote control box. The skate can also be operated from the deck control panel. Typically, multitasking is done on the Predator with a three man crew: driller, pipe skate operator and floor hand.
As for safety, Covensky thinks the Predator is safer than other rigs he has worked on. He said other manufacturers have skate-type pipe loading options, but do not offer the float feature and still require a lot of hands-on contact. “Other rigs are about clanging and banging with hands on iron, pipe tongs, slips. This is hands-off and a smoother operation,” he said.
O’Ryan is on its 12th surface well and has decreased drilling time from 20 to 13 hours since its first hole. O’Ryan operates around the clock with two 12-hour shifts. “We average one day over a hole, moving every other day,” said Covensky.
“It takes us about the same time over the hole as an HP Flex Rig, maybe just a little longer, but we take only about four hours for rig up and -down and cementing. Getting done quicker is a tremendous benefit for everyone.” He said the day rate, transportation and manpower on a Flex Rig is much greater than a Predator System that requires just three to four men, a few loads and a couple hours to move.
Convensky has all the drilling information in front of him on the driller’s console, on which a large computer screen is mounted. String weight, command weight on the bit, rotation speed, torque, hook load and more are available on the full-color digital panel.
“Atlas Copco has us operating the Predator to get the bugs out, and I have found a couple things that they have since upgraded, but this is a great rig. My job is to see if this rig can handle West Texas. If it can make it here, it can make it anywhere.”
Since drilling operations began, Atlas Copco has had a service and engineering crew on site monitoring the operation and documenting issues as they arise.
Lionel Gonzalez heads up Atlas Copco’s field support team. “Lionel is a real professional and on top of everything. He and his crew are really good at fixing what I break.” Convensky said he dropped the rear end (drive train differential) of the rig while backing it on the ramp and caused a few other problems.
Convensky said there have been minor issues that were fine-tuned as operations continued, but nothing that would stop drilling for any length of time. He said Atlas Copco is taking changes back to the factory to correct on the future production rigs.
Convensky sees the Predator as the new future in drilling. “Today’s drilling is a different world. With the Predator, all the danger [in handling pipe] is removed. I think it’s going to be an asset for us to be in on the ground floor. If this is what the future looks like, I’ll be ready.”