Spotlight on technology: Making big rigs lighter

Trinidad Drilling's Rig 56 in Western Canada.
Trinidad Drilling’s Rig 56

When people think of engineering marvels, they usually think of bridges and dams. Drilling rigs may not be as visible to the public, but achievements in the design and manufacturing of these machines deserve some of the accolades, too.

For example, the engineering team at Trinidad Design & Manufacturing is finding ways to slim down large-capacity rigs by using lighter, but stronger, construction materials in our masts.

“As we go forward, drilling processes are getting more complicated – there is more equipment and bigger equipment involved,” explained Darren Self, one of Trinidad’s Mechanical Design Engineers. “As you start adding more equipment to existing rig designs, space becomes an issue.”

Using lightweight material in the mast makes more space for equipment and reduces the load on supporting structures. Here’s how:

Smarter designs, better rigs

Our design and manufacturing team is starting to use an advanced steel product, named QT100, on some of our newer machines, including rigs 56, 57, 58 and 601.

Here are two ways the lighter, but stronger, steel is being integrated into designs:

Crowns don’t have to be heavy

A rig’s crown block sits on top of the mast. Trinidad’s team is using the lighter material on the crown to reduce weight, which reduces the stress placed on the system that raises the mast when rigging up.

“All the weight you can take out of the mast improves the limit state where you’re raising the mast from horizontal to vertical,” explained Self. “The more weight you can take away from the extended end of the mast, the less load there is on the raising system, which then means you can reduce the size of all the connections involved.”

Making smaller, stronger connections

The connections that hold a rig’s mast together need to be strong enough to handle a lot of weight (Rig 58’s mast, for example, is 46 metres high). Plus, there’s increasingly a lot of equipment that needs to fit up there – huge top drives and iron derrickhands, for example. Mast connections need to be strong, but small, to make room for all that equipment. That’s where using advanced construction material comes in handy.

“On a connection, by using a higher-grade material, you could use a smaller pin or smaller outside connections of lugs to fit into the space you need,” explained Self. 

Trinidad Drilling's Rig 601
Trinidad Drilling’s Rig 601

On a machine like Rig 601, which Trinidad built to drill in Saudi Arabia, making more space for equipment was a big deal because the rig’s mast was designed to be narrow so it could be transported in one piece.

Trinidad Drilling, looking to the future

Self explained that the team at Trinidad Design & Manufacturing is exploring additional ways to integrate the lighter material into rig designs. As larger-capacity rigs become more common, using lighter materials will likely become more important so rigs can meet transportation weight requirements, he explained.

Trinidad is always looking for new ways to help rigs drill further while making them more efficient to operate. Learn more about other advanced features on Trinidad’s rigs in our “Spotlight on technology” series:

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