The U.S. shale revolution that began in the early 2000s has made an impact on energy markets that very few people could have foreseen. Simultaneously, the world has seen dramatic applications of digital technology that have changed how we communicate, transact business, operate equipment and live our daily lives. Shale development and digital technology—both 21st century innovations— are now a part of the fabric of the world.

One of the many challenges that exist in the energy sector is the application of the right technologies to the work that needs to be done without losing control of costs. Because the industry now understands “the rock” better than ever before on a performation basis, drillers are able to collaborate with operators and their contractors to implement customized drilling solutions based on their assessment of a specific basin’s needs.

The industrial marketplace is full of powerful products that can provide an endless supply of data about any aspect of the well development process, but choosing where to invest requires research and strong partners. Schramm Inc. has used a consultative approach with worldwide clients to find ways to apply the latest in technological advancements to the challenges of resource development. Schramm has worked with operators around the world to develop fit-for-purpose machine solutions that focus on safety, mobility and performance to drive down total cost of development.

Rethinking horsepower

In a traditional sense horsepower has always been a proxy for capability to achieve total depth as fast as possible. However, industry leaders now recognize the need is not simply to be able to drill the deepest hole in the fastest amount of time—the real requirement is to achieve the well’s ultimate productivity. Therefore, having a large quantity of horsepower available for all sections of well development, which comes with a significant cost both in terms of dollars and physical footprint, might not be the most efficient way to achieve the goal. The challenge was simple: Help us be safer, get big rig performance in a small footprint and lower the costs of well development.

The challenge was simple: Help us be safer, get big rig performance in a small footprint and lower the costs of well development.

To meet this challenge, Schramm engineers worked with the operators to understand the stackup of costs and identified two important process shifts that had to happen. First, if horsepower could be shared and deployed efficiently to the different rig operations, the amount of energy required to complete the well would be optimized. This process change would drastically reduce the amount of power generation equipment required, which has a compounding effect in taking out cost both in capex and opex. Schramm’s rigs combine the use of proprietary hydraulic system design and digitally controlled valve technology.

The real-time digital signal processing capability of the valves allows the drilling rig to monitor hundreds of parameters such as weight on bit and ROP and make constant adjustments to the horsepower distribution. This technology allows the machine to achieve power density while drilling within the “cycle-time sweet spot” to maintain wellbore tolerance in the production zone and to ensure the well maximizes EUR potential.

Operator control rooms on the Schramm T500XD and T250XD are equipped with joysticks and large touchscreens that allow rapid navigation to all operational and diagnostic data from the rig. This makes real-time data from any sensor in the system literally at the operator’s fingertips. An active Internet connection allows the live data to be transmitted to any connected offsite location. (Source: Schramm)

Smarter tubular handling

Secondly, the methods for handling tubulars needed to be reconsidered. “In a typical drilling operation there are just too many people putting their hands on the pipe,” according to Wade “Rowdy” Bragg, owner of Liberty Safety & Environmental Consultants Inc.

The solution is a mechanized hands-free pipehandler that leverages the digital valves to ensure the top drive is not waiting on pipe to continue drilling. Bragg described the LoadSafe as a “stand-out product,” adding that the “LoadSafe product takes human error out of the pipehandling process. Less workers wrangling pipe equals fewer opportunities for injury.”

The Schramm LoadSafe XD pipehandling system handles 24-in. diameter Range III tubulars weighing up to 10,000 lb completely hands-free. Drillpipe is racked in the horizontal position for easy loading and offloading, dramatically improving operator safety. The system is standard on the Schramm T250XD and T500XD. (Source: Schramm)

Operators and drilling contractors that have put the solution to work have reported notable performance achievements and cost reductions. The most distinguished achievement is that more than one contractor has stated their operations reached years without an injury.

Next, there is an about 40% decrease in the number of loads for comparable equipment in rig moves because of the self-erecting design and removal of unnecessary horsepower. Once onsite, the crane is eliminated for rigup, and according to Bragg, “cranes are the second most dangerous thing on a drillsite.”

The compounding effect of the smaller footprint includes cost savings from crew size reductions and less fuel consumption. It is important to note that there is an option of tapping electrical highline power where available, which is enabled through an electrical A/C grid-powered interface. Adding to these benefits, these rigs are designed to walk and rotate 360 degrees, giving them more efficient movement from pad to pad and from well to well.

The world’s opportunities belong to those who take calculated risks by challenging the current methodologies.

The world’s opportunities belong to those who take calculated risks by challenging the current methodologies. It is not just the quantity of horsepower that ensures success but the efficient application of horsepower that delivers the lowest cost per lateral foot.

Not all holes are drilled alike. Operators have many more options than they might realize to deliver safety and value to all of their stakeholders.