Trends in drilling technology

What to consider when purchasing a new rig

Originally appeared in National Driller Magazine

Controls on a new V-140X

Controls on a new V-140X


Evolving standards

Modern rigs are safer and lighter, more user-friendly and more fuel efficient

In the last few years, the drilling industry has seen a pointed shift in rig design. New rigs are being engineered with heightened safety and emissions standards in mind. Tougher, more powerful rigs are coming off the line smaller and lighter, and manufacturers across the globe are working to simplify equipment operation.

Safety features like automatic rod handling and better stops and catches reduce direct contact with moving rig parts and protect drillers from injury.

In addition, new technology is allowing manufacturers to engineer and fabricate tougher, lighter, fuel-efficient models that meet road regulations and emissions standards. Advanced hydraulic and electric systems are reducing the need for large mechanical parts.

Advice for buyers   

When choosing a new rig, there are a few things potential buyers should look for.

Marcus Laibe is the president of Versa-Drill, a manufacturer of water well, geothermal, exploration and shallow oil/gas drilling equipment with 55-year history of innovation. He recommends four questions every potential buyer should ask themselves before purchasing a new piece of equipment.

What will maintenance for your rig  look like in 10 years?

Like old-fashioned cars, old-fashioned rigs are becoming trickier to maintain. Replacement parts for bulky, mechanical components are being phased out and replaced with hydraulic and electrical designs. Look for a rig with longevity that won’t be outmoded in coming decades.

Have you tried the dealer’s service line?

When you’re looking at a new piece of equipment, go undercover and call in to the dealer’s service line. Does it take some digging to get ahold of the right people? If it’s difficult to get on the phone with a technician or someone in the parts department who can help you, that should be a red flag.

Was the rig built with your use in mind?

Versatility is good, but shy away from manufacturers who are trying to give you everything in one package. Look for a dealer that specializes in what you do and isn’t trying to be everything to everyone.

Explain to your salesman your worst-case scenario, and let him tell you which piece of equipment can handle it. You may be surprised at what you actually need.

Does bigger really mean better?

Look less for size and more for capability. Newer rigs pack more power into smaller designs, which means the pullback and torque on smaller equipment may be equal to or better than larger, old-style models. The structures of these rigs are lighter and more compact, which means better maneuverability and job versatility. Modern, compact rigs are also quieter and more fuel-efficient—thanks to developments in engine-emission technology, they enable a higher work capacity at lower RPM's.


Planning for the future

A good rig attracts good business and good employees.

Not only does a good piece of equipment act like a magnet for new team members, it serves as your most visible advertisement. Driving down the street, you are your biggest billboard.

The future of drilling will be designed around the next generation—equipment that is lighter, safer and easier to use. Choose a piece of equipment that will help you attract the right pairs of eyes and maintain a competitive edge 10 years from now.

Maddy Pimentel