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May 15, 2008
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Home / Issue Archive / 2008 / May #5 / Top Drives Make a Driller’s Life Go Round More Easily

№ 5 (May 2008)

Top Drives Make a Driller’s Life Go Round More Easily

Top drive system (TDS) significantly facilitates the work of specialists during drilling operations. Irrespective of the position of the drilling string, with the help of TDS it can be rotated in any direction

By Yagmur Kurbanov

The first TDS were designed and manufactured by American specialists in the early 1980s. These systems took the place of the traditional method of drilling string rotation with the help of kelly. As a result, a new type of drilling machine was designed – DDM (Derrick Drilling Machine), which meant a significant leap forward in drilling equipment development.

TDS makes it possible to ensure accident-free and fast drilling of vertical and horizontal wells. This equipment combines the functions of swivel and rotor. TDS is equipped with a set of devices for tripping operations. The availability of pipe-handling devices differentiates it from power swivels for well workover operations.

Experts have determined a number of TDS advantages including the following:

Reduction of effort and time of the auxiliary operations (for example, making a connection during drilling);

Borehole reaming during tripping;

Improvement of accuracy of borehole course during directional drilling;

Reduction of the probability of fluid blowout from the hole through the drilling string;

Facilitating of casing pipe running in the troublesome zones by rotation and flushing;

Improvement of drilling crew safety;

Reduction of well drilling time.

New Production of TDS in Russia

In the last three years, drilling meterage in Russia increased by 14 to 20 percent, and further increase of drilling should be expected in the country. At the same time, an increase in demand for new equipment, such as TDS is expected in the domestic Russian market. Consequently, TDS production by Russian manufacturers will increase.

At present, as Vice-President of the Association of Oil-and-Gas Equipment Manufacturers Valery Epstein states; two Russian plants manufacture TDS – Uralmash-Drilling Equipment (belongs to Integra Group) and Promtechinvest (St-Petersburg).

As Epstein added,“Generally three foreign companies are present in the Russian market: Canrig, National Oiwell Varco and Tesco.”

Apart from the listed “foreigners”, one more foreign company is working in the Russian market, Aker Kvaerner. This Norwegian company supplies TDS for development of hydrocarbon fields both on land and offshore (for example, Murmanskaya jack-up rig in the Kara Sea).

In general, TDS manufacturing in Russia was initiated early in this century which is relatively recent. In 2002, at the site of Uralmashzavod, Consolidated Machine-Building Plants presented the first TDS by domestic manufacturing; SVP-320. Based on the results of successful tests in the Yamal region, commercial production of the equipment started at Uralmash-Drilling Equipment last year.

Prompted by growing demand for new types of drilling equipment, new domestic manufacturers may be expected to appear in the market. For example, Volgogradsky Drilling Equipment Plant is now performing full-scale testing of their own preproduction model, having a load capacity of 250 tons.

A number of experts think that design products of Russian specialists are used in TDS manufacturing in Russia. For example, Epstein noted that TDS manufacturing at Uralmash-Drilling Equipment is based on “Russian technologies.” At the same time, other experts add that TDS manufacturing in Russia use foreign technologies in hydraulic units, manufactured primarily by American companies.

Prospects for the Russian Market of TDS

There are no large volumes of TDS production in Russia yet. According to Epstein’s estimate, the annual volume of TDS production in the country amounts “to 15 systems on average, mostly of light dimension types, hydraulically driven, having load capacity 120 and 225 tons.”

Epstein also added that the “annual demand for TDS in Russia is 30-50 systems a year.” Experts of the Association of Oil-and-Gas Equipment Manufacturers believe that there will be no sharp increase in the market by 2010, as most of the newly manufactured drilling rigs are initially equipped with the top drive systems. Most likely, redistribution of the market in favor of the Russian manufacturers will take place. This scenario is possible in case competitive designs are developed.

Experts of the Association of Oil-and-Gas Equipment Manufacturers and National Oilwell Varco believe that the highest demand in Russia is for TDS with load capacity from 250 to 500 tons. National Oilwell Varco is planning to supply to the Russian market about 40 TDS in these categories. The company is planning to supply TDS mostly to the largest oil-and-gas and service companies.

In connection with the planned volume of TDS delivery by National Oilwell Varco, production of this company can capture a significant share of TDS segment in the market. Specialists of National Oilwell Varco think that the success of the company is related, first of all, to their brand awareness and availability of a high-expertise service group in Russia. Moreover, equipment of this company is more compact compared to other manufacturers.

Market experts speculate that, most probably, this tendency (domination of TDS with foreign origin) will continue during the next two to three years. Most probably, it will take the Russian manufacturers about the same time to gain confidence in the production and service companies.

Experts of the Association of Oil-and-Gas Equipment Manufacturers believe that for a stimulation of the Russian manufacturers for production of TDS and other types of drilling equipment, it will be reasonable to use the successful experience of Kazakhstan in the development and realization of the national program of import substitution. The experience of this country consisted of the stimulation of internal manufacturers by granting various economic privileges, and also by setting up special clusters and industrial parks specializing in the production of oil and mechanical equipment.

It is also necessary to take into consideration the peculiarity of TDS supply, which, as it was mentioned above, is mainly delivered together with drilling rigs. In this connection, at the drilling equipment market, there will be increasing demand for products and services of the companies which provide combined deliveries of drilling rigs and TDS.

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