Nabors Industries Ltd. unveiled a fully automated land rig on Nov. 16 with a “first-of-its-kind robotics module,” marking a major industry milestone.

In 2021, Nabors and Exxon Mobil proved fully automated land drilling is possible with Nabors’ newbuild R801 robotic drilling rig. Now, the companies have advanced to the next phase of their collaboration with the launch of Canrig Red Zone Robotics (RZR) Rig Floor Module, a modular rig upgrade that automates routine drilling activities.

“R801 proved fully automated land drilling is possible. Now RZR has demonstrated those same levels of automation can be scaled across existing assets at a fraction of the cost of a newbuild,” Anthony Petrello, chairman, president and CEO of Nabors, said in a statement.

Nabors retrofitted an existing rig—X29—with RZR (pronounced razor) and has successfully drilled multiple horizontal wells for Exxon Mobil in the Permian Basin.

“This rig floor automation module is a game changer for the drilling industry as it seeks to increase safety and achieve true factory drilling,” Petrello said.


NOV, Hewlett Packard Talk Optimizing Operations through Tech

Nabors also noted it equipped X29 with RZR at a fraction of the cost of a newbuild rig. The company said the capital light upgrades can be used today to elevate drilling performance on existing assets instead of building fully automated rigs progressively over time.

“Retrofitted automation capabilities, like what the RZR Rig Floor offers, are an efficient way to support safer operations, increased drilling performance and meaningful opportunities to upskill our workforce capabilities,” Jesse Chando, Permian Basin drilling manager at Exxon Mobil, commented in the Nabors release.

The world’s first fully automated land drilling rig, R801 is a purpose-built proving ground and launchpad for drilling automation. Nabors and ExxonMobil recently drilled nine wells with R801 with zero recordable incidents and well times approaching Nabors’ best West Texas fleet averages.

Nabors said as the companies’ progress to the next stage in their technology collaboration, learnings from the R801 campaign have been applied to RZR’s deployment, to rapidly scale up the use of modular rig upgrades as a path to full automation.

“We are excited to integrate RZR on our high-spec rigs over time and offer the system to any drilling contractor,” Petrello said. “We thank Exxon Mobil for its continued collaboration and leadership in driving drilling technology.”