Aker sees regional growth in HPHT drilling

Regional drillers are asking to drill hotter & tighter reservoirs

Aker Solutions provide mud pumps such as this, to its regional customers from its Woodhouse International base in Dubai.
Aker Solutions provide mud pumps such as this, to its regional customers from its Woodhouse International base in Dubai.

Aker Solutions is meeting Middle East drilling operators’ increasing need to drill hotter and tighter reservoirs with its subtantial products and solutions offering.

The drilling needs of operators are increasingly heading towards building their capabilities in drilling deeper and tighter reservoirs, according to Aker Solutions’ managing director in Dubai, Rob Shank.

He sees a general trend for both drilling contractors and NOCs in the region asking for drilling equipment to be modified to deal with HPHT (high-pressure and high-temperature) environments.

“They’re being upgraded to drill for deeper and higher pressure wells. They’re also being upgraded to do more horizontal and deviated wells (or horizontal drilling).

“We’re seeing that in Kuwait and we’re starting to see that in Saudi,” he adds.

The US$3.6 billion Norwegian company provides complete drilling packages for both onshore and offshore applications for regional operators from its Jebel Ali Free Zone office in Dubai and is supported by Woodhouse International, the regional stockist of drilling products which is also situated in the Free Zone.

The company supplies operators in the region such as Arabian Drilling in Saudi Arabia, Weatherford, Nabors Drilling and UK headquartered drilling contractor KCA Deutag.

From its base in Dubai, Aker Solutions supplies a complete range of drilling equipment from structures, massive substructures, derricks through any of the associated drilling equipment in terms of capital equipment such as top drives, drillers and rotary tables.

The company pays a particular focus on providing rigs that are 1,500 horsepower and larger while adhering to API 4F (drilling structures) and 8C (hoisting equipment/systems) regulations.

“What we’re selling is pretty capital-intensive, it’s a million dollars and up for most of this equipment,” says Shank.

He also observes that the manufacturers of drilling equipment chosen by drilling operators in the Middle East are increasingly being delineated along an East-West divide.

“They’re basically saying: ‘we are either going to trend towards the high-spec Western manufactured and supported equipment or we’re willing to accept Eastern-made equipment,” he explains.

“Certain drilling companies are differentiating themselves by making that capital decision by saying ‘yes we’re going to invest a little more’,” he adds, speaking of both drilling contractors and NOCs. Regardless, Shank sees an overall increase in spending for drilling equipment and services with a slight increase in customers requesting spares.

“What we’re seeing is solid enquiries for complete rigs and capital equipment and it’s not budgetary in nature, they’re actually saying: ‘we need firm prices’ and a few independent drilling contractors are coming forward with the purchase orders to follow that up which hadn’t been the case over the last two years.”

“The drilling equipment market has been tight but then starting four to six months ago, we’re seeing an increase in orders and enquiries for the larger equipment, I think a lot of that is because over the last couple of years people have just been doing the minimum to keep their equipment operating, rather than making capital upgrades.”

Aker Solutions’ Dubai-based operations manned by a 14-member team is supported by a strong service base in Mumbai, India which has 40 service personnel covering the Gulf, Central Asia and India.

“We do see that the customers need both local service engineers and spare parts. They are more and more coming to expect that and as Aker Solutions and Woodhouse we’re moving in that direction to support them locally on Drilling Lifecycle Services, or DLS,” Shank explains.

“We’re making adjustments and increasing staff and our inventories to better support our customers’ DLS needs.”

Case Study

Aker Solutions recently carried out the engineering study to upgrade a GCC customer’s land rig. There were a number of goals to the study:

• Allow the rig move faster and more efficiently between locations
• Provide increased BOP handling capacity – both height and weight
• Install an AC-powered top drive
• Reduce the possibility of HSE incidents

The study included research into previous success of other land rigs – primarily focusing on how to shorten the rig move time. The study also included detailed engineering calculations for all upgraded parts of the drilling rig, and delivering detailed drawings verifying the results.

Aker Solutions shortened the rig move by adding the capability to move the mast in one section, thus saving disassembly time.

They also provided the capability to move the entire drilling structure as one unit, fully assembled.

The travel speed of the complete rig was slow, but it is expected that one- to two-days’ time can be saved in assembly and disassembly using this method. The rig move time was also decreased by grouping like equipment onto larger trailers that can be moved as a single unit.

This grouping saved time by cutting down on the installation of electrical cables and piping.

The operator decided that their upcoming wells required additional BOP’s –
both additional rams and larger annulars along with a larger diverter system. All of this required that the drill floor height be increased and the drilling structure reinforced.

The BOP handling system was also upgraded so that the entire BOP (Blowout Prevention) stack could be moved as a single unit. The rig upgrade incorporated a “parking” location for the BOP stack, to allow for maintenance and testing.

The “parking” location can also be used to secure the BOP stack while it moves with the structure between wells.

Installing an AC-powered top drive was a requirement, both due to the deep-drilling (total depth of more than 9000 metres) and because the customer needed the capacity to drill deviated wells.

The team decided to install dual guide rails for the top drive, identical to the installations found on offshore rigs. This method provides a more solid foundation for the top drive to operate, when compared to a single rail that is temporarily installed.

It also allows for the top drive to be left in the rig while moving, again saving the operator time on rig moves.

One of the major side benefits of the upgrade will be a reduction of HSE incidents. The team worked to keep the rig moving activities at or near ground level as much as possible.

By staying low to the ground, falls are reduced and the rig crew has better space to perform their work. The installation of the top drive, coupled with a mechanical roughneck, will keep the rig crew’s hands away from the drilling operations.

Overall, the operator was satisfied with the results of the study and plans to implement the proposed changes in the near future.

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Oil & Gas Middle East - September 2020

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