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First fully automated land rig drills its first well

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The world’s first fully automated land drilling rig has completed its first well, according to Nabors Industries Ltd, the company with its principal executive office in Hamilton.

The global oil and gas drilling contractor said that its PACE-R801 rig reached total depth on a horizontal well for ExxonMobil in the Permian Basin, which stretches from western Texas to southeastern New Mexico.

The company said that the rig combines Nabors’ proprietary automated drilling software with robotics to create an unmanned rig floor that removes crews from red-zone areas and delivers consistent, predictable drilling performance.

Red-zone areas of the rig floor are where heavy drilling equipment operates and the risk of injury is highest.

Nabors is the owner and operator of one of the largest land-based drilling rig fleets and provides offshore platform rigs around the world.

Similar to concept vehicles in the automobile industry, Nabors said, this particular configuration of PACE-R801 is built to showcase the company’s technology and push the boundaries of industry performance and possibilities.

It added that the featured automation, robotics and digitalisation technologies are available and operational across the Nabors fleet, and those of third parties globally.

The company said that insights gained from PACE-R801 have been, and will continue to be, used to innovate and advance the next generation of Nabors technologies that focus on safety, efficiency and the environment.

Nabors said that utilisation of the full suite of the company’s drilling automation software reduced drilling days for operators by four in the Permian and Williston Basins — the latter of which covers parts of Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Saskatchewan — and has shown promise of reducing drilling emissions.

Crew size on the PACE-R801 is similar to other Nabors rigs, the company said, but the duties change.

One driller is required to supervise the operations of the rig while others continue to perform essential tasks, such as service, maintenance, inspections and rig moves. Importantly, it said, crews are no longer in red-zone areas.

The company said that the advanced rig and technologies provide re-skilling opportunities for Nabors employees and the broader industry workforce.

Nabors said that XTO Energy, a subsidiary of ExxonMobil, contracted PACE-R801 to drill three horizontal wells on a test pad in Midland County, Texas, as part of its own R&D efforts and commitment to safe, efficient and responsible operations.

This first well was drilled to a total measured depth of 19,917 feet. Consistent with the practices of drillers and operators on test pads, Nabors and ExxonMobil do not plan to publish performance data and results.

Jason Gahr, operations manager for unconventional drilling at ExxonMobil, said: "ExxonMobil's collaboration with Nabors in deploying this automated rig in Midland demonstrates the ability to optimise drilling using the combined power of robotics, automation, computing and data.

“This is a great example of enhancing the safety, efficiency and environmental performance of our operations through innovative technologies.”

Anthony Petrello, chairman, president and CEO of Nabors, said: "There's nothing else in the world like the PACE-R801 concept rig. Its combination of advanced automation, digitalisation and robotics represents a trifecta solution for an industry pursuing the highest levels of safety, efficiency and environmental performance in order to attain ESG goals. Thank you to all our employees, partners and stakeholders that helped make this a reality.

"Successfully drilling with the world's first fully automated land drilling rig marks the culmination of a five-year engineering journey for Nabors. The experience and insights gained from this concept rig will be used to forge the next generation of Nabors technology and to continuously improve the digital, automation and robotics solutions we already have in the field."

The PACE-R801 concept rig (Photograph supplied)
Anthony G Petrello, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Bermuda-based Nabors Industries Ltd (Photograph supplied)

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Published October 07, 2021 at 3:20 pm (Updated October 07, 2021 at 7:56 pm)

First fully automated land rig drills its first well

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