Dow Bowman, general manager of CTI Energy Services’ new Surface Drilling Division, said the division was established at their customers’ invitation to pre-set their casing and well heads. “From the very start,” he said, “our goal has been first and foremost to be a safe business founded on good people and good equipment.”
That’s why although CTI’s surface drilling division may be new, its top management and trainers are not. They are drilling veterans like Bowman himself, who bring the experience of their long, successful careers to the startup venture. And it’s also why the first rig CTI brought to the oilfields of West Texas was an Atlas Copco RD20 Range III.
Coming directly from the Marcellus Shale of Ohio, it has been retrofitted for bottleneck pipe with a partial XC conversion kit. Based on the success of that rig, when CTI added a second rig this past April it was an Atlas Copco RD20 XC.
RD20 veteran drillers among CTI’s management are sharing their experience directly with new drillers like Julian Bradley. Bowman happened to be visiting Rig 1 on Bradley’s first day as driller. The CTI crew was preparing to spud in on the West Texas red bed not far from Odessa.
Bradley had served as driller’s helper for several weeks but had not been in charge of the rig before. His pride in the rig was evident as he told how a CTI crew had just set a record for one of its clients. The client company hadn’t had an RD20 working for them before. Bradley said, “They told us we were faster than they’d seen in their experience.”
First priority, safety
Bowman said CTI’s priority right now, though, is not speed. “We are willing to take more time to deal with safety. The crews are still learning. Safety is the main thing,” he said. “Speed will come in time, with experience.”
Bowman said, “We can’t stress safety enough. All major operators insist on it. Before we pick up the first collar, we will do a pre-spud safety meeting. We will do pre-spud inspections and complete a job safety analysis.”
Patience is a virtue to this general manager. “It’s okay to slow down a bit in the beginning. When you have new people handling 8-inch collars and 13-inch casing, there’s a lot to learn, problems to solve and personnel lessons to work on.”
Safety is one of the main reasons they wanted Atlas Copco RD20 drill rigs. Bowman said, “They’re all hydraulics. There’s no rotary table, no spinning chains.” Then he added, “They’re also easy to move. And you can see how we keep everything trailer-mounted. We move quickly. We have our own trucks. It takes maybe eight trailer loads to move.”
Bowman explained how versatile the RD20 rig was. For example, their first rig had previously been in Ohio drilling 6 ½ inch to
7 ⅞ inch-diameter primary wells for production. It was air drilling with DTH hammers, typically 4,000 to 5,000 feet deep, using RD20 pipe. “But,” Bowman said, “down here in Texas, everything’s bigger.”
He said that although most holes the crew had drilled so far were ranging from 400 to 1,000 feet with a few deeper, they were much larger in diameter than those drilled in the Marcellus Shale. For example, one hole Bradley mentioned was 17 ½ inches in diameter for the full 1,600 feet. Most top hole profiles CTI has been assigned typically start with 17 ½-inch surface holes that are drilled using tricones and mud.
For some of those holes, the rotary bit and 17-inch stabilizer are swapped for an Atlas Copco NewTech 12 ¼- inch PDC bit. Bowman said they have only just started using Atlas Copco’s new PDC bits, but like them so far. The first they used was slightly too aggressive. Atlas Copco worked with CTI to reconfigure a bit specifically for CTI’s use on their Permian Basin leases.
Asked about using PDC bits for larger diameter bores as well, Bowman grinned. “I don’t doubt the RD20 has the power to turn a 17 ½-inch PDC, but it would probably spin the rig around.” Though there may be some technology advances coming in the near future that address the torque issue, CTI currently drills holes larger than 12 ¼ inches in diameter with tricones.
For making up and breaking joints, Bowman said, “The Petol chains and Scorpion Jaws are a real help.”
First of many to come
On this hole, Bradley’s first as driller, he would use an 11-inch diameter Atlas Copco PDC all the way to 1,700 feet. No conductor pipe was necessary at this location. In addition to the PDC bit, the bottom hole assembly would consist of three 8-inch collars and two stabilizers.
The hole was to be the first of many to come for Bradley. Bowman said CTI has an aggressive five-year plan that includes adding several more RD20 drill rigs running full time. It might not be long before Bradley is himself an experienced driller, with his own understudy learning from him. In all likelihood he’ll pass on the CTI legacy he learned from mentors like Bowman. Safety is first and foremost, speed is the result of experience, and mobility comes from having trailer-mounted yard equipment for a fleet of versatile, highly mobile Atlas Copco RD20 drilling rigs.