Drilling company Nabors is fully automating its existing land rig with its first-of-its-kind robotics unit

Drilling company Nabors is fully automating its existing land rig with its first-of-its-kind robotics unit

Nabors Industries The Canrig Red Zone Robotics (RZR) ground unit launched a modular drilling upgrade that automates routine drilling activities.

Nabors retrofitted its existing drilling rig – the X29 – with an RZR (pronounced razor) and successfully drilled multiple horizontal wells for ExxonMobil in the Permian Basin.

In 2021, Nabors and ExxonMobil prove that fully automated earth drilling is possible with the new R801 robotic drilling rig from Nabors. Now, the companies have advanced to the next stage of their collaboration to validate the use of modular excavator retrofits as a viable path to scaling up excavator automation.

Red zones have traditionally been particularly dangerous workplaces in the oil and gas industry. Over the next several years, Nabors believes that customers will increasingly demand and require automated pipe handling and more integration of robots into red zones to deliver on ESG and safety commitments.

According to the International Association of Drilling Contractors, about 64 percent of lost time injuries in 2021 in the Lower 48 involve the platform, pipe rack, rig floor or drilling rig. RZR automates activities in those areas, extricating crew members from red zones.

As Nabors automates its rigs, with the same number of workers, they expect to add additional services to their rig rig, thus bringing more value to the company and their customers.

The RZR is electrically powered, allowing for precise control and digital workflows. It enables completely hands-free handling of pipes and eliminates the need to place a crew member on the ground and in the rig.

The system independently performs repetitive tasks on the rig floor, including making drill joints and tripping in and out of the hole. The RZR allows rack construction offline and handles casing in upper, middle and production sizes.

All of the Nabors RZR’s features are enabled by its proprietary rig operating system, SmartROS, which can be installed on existing rigs and control outdoor rig manufacturer equipment. The RZR is a modular system and can be deployed in most standard rig configurations to continuously improve drilling operations and achieve best-in-class performance.

Nabors outfitted the X29 with the RZR at a fraction of the cost of a new rig. These capital-light upgrades can be used today to raise drilling performance on existing assets rather than building fully automated rigs incrementally over time.

The world’s first fully automated earth drilling rig, the R801 is a purpose-built testing ground and launch pad for drilling automation. Nabors and ExxonMobil recently drilled nine wells with R801 with no recordable incidents and good times approaching the best Nabors fleet averages in West Texas.

As Nabors and ExxonMobil advance to the next stage in their technology collaboration, the lessons learned from the R801 campaign have been applied to the RZR deployment, expanding the use of modular excavator upgrades as a path to full automation.

“The R801 proved that fully automated drilling on the ground is possible,” says Anthony Petrillo, Chairman, President and CEO of Nabors. “RZR has now proven that the same levels of automation can be scaled across existing assets at a fraction of the cost of new construction.”

“This rig floor automation unit is a game-changer in the drilling industry as it strives to increase safety and achieve true factory drilling.

“We are excited to integrate the RZR onto our high-spec rigs over time and offer the system to any drilling contractor. We thank ExxonMobil for its continued collaboration and leadership in drilling technology.”

“Adjusted automation capabilities like what the RZR Rig Floor offers are an effective way to support safer operations, increased drilling performance, and a meaningful opportunity to grow the skills of our workforce,” says Jesse Chandu, ExxonMobil’s Permian Basin drilling manager.

“We look forward to continuing to collaborate with Nabors in developing innovative drilling automation capabilities.”

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