Drilling contractors are the companies who extract oil, gas, or other organic assets from within the earth. The structure, which is built to accomplish this, is called a drilling rig, or just ‘rig’ in short. They work both onshore and offshore.
The first oil wells were drilled in China as early as the 4th Century. Before the late 19th century however, when combustion engines became more economically available, muscle power, man or animal, was used to power the drills. The first mechanical method used was the rope and drop method invented in Zigong, China, which used a steel rod that was raised and dropped vertically via a rope, like a piston. This would gradually shatter the rock beneath the surface. Mechanized versions of this remained until the 1970’s, when the first Reverse Circulation drills began to take over the industry.
Oil was found in the ancient world at oil seeps in the earth’s surface. It was used generally for lighting, as a lubricant, and for caulking ships. In 19th Century America it was found as a by-product of deep salt- water wells. At this time it was an inconvenience and spoilt the salt-water wells. Eventually, the oil was collected for its uses, and was sold on the market. One of the first wells to produce commercial oil was a salt-water well known as the Beatty Well in North America. It produced upwards of 100 b/d. As early as 1820, oil from this well was being shipped to Europe, and so came to be known as the first commercial oil producing well in North America. (www.geohelp.net)
There are a number of differences between offshore and onshore drilling rigs. Because of the changes in environment, a different approach must be taken for improved production rates, safety, and transportation.
Most land rigs, because they are trailer mounted for highway transportation, are limited to a certain size. Except for their size, they are very similar. Primarily in onshore oil and gas fields, once a well has been drilled, the drilling rig will be moved off of the well and a service rig (a smaller rig) that is purpose-built for completions will be moved on. This frees up the drilling rig to drill another hole and streamline the operation which enables increased productivity.
Offshore rigs are a different matter altogether. They are built on various scales and sizes and also differ greatly in terms of construction and architecture. Each type of rig has to be constructed specifically for the working environment, going from the protected shallow waters of inland marshes that are only a few feet deep to the most hostile oceans of the world. Currently there are approximately 859 offshore rigs in the world. Close to 78% of them are functioning. Others are still under construction.
After the recent Deep-Water Horizon spill, people have been quick to point fingers, and identify those to be held responsible. But, we must use opportunities such as these to unite, and take on the responsibility ourselves to overcome the challenge at hand: keeping our oceans clean, and creating a sustainable culture. “Yes, the disaster of epic proportions will ultimately be blamed on some entity… That is for others to argue about and decide. The workers on the rigs in the Gulf, or in labs on the mainland are working hard with only one goal in mind: Devising a way to stop what seemed to be a never-ending plume of oil fouling the water and the beaches of the Gulf of Mexico.” (www.thedailyhome.com)
New regulations are being made according to Mr. Rajan Abraham, Managing Director at Drilltools, UAE. This is due to new drilling technology being discovered after investigation of the equipment failure on the Deep-Water Horizon, Transocean rig.
It is a learning curve for all, as ultimately we are all responsible for what our planet will become.
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