3 Ways Technology Can Help With Rig Maintenance

By Michael Benedict on December 3, 2015
Tags: Productivity

3 Ways Technology Can Help With Rig MaintenanceYour drilling crew and drill rig must be in top form in order for business to boom. Robert Caho, a 35-year industry veteran who shares the importance of rig maintenance with companies across the country, says, “Safety and maintenance should be the number one priority in the field every day… Without safety and maintenance and keeping the rigs up to date, cleaned and worked on, they’re just going to go down.”

But keeping all the parts maintained and working smoothly on such complex machines (which are only getting more complex) is not easy, particularly since drilling rig equipment is subjected daily to extreme stress and vibration.

Here are three ways technology can help with rig preventative maintenance, performance, and safety.

1. Scheduled Maintenance
Keeping your drill rig running effectively requires sticking to a preventative maintenance schedule. There are tasks that should be performed daily, weekly, and monthly. For example, the kill switches should be checked daily, said Caho. Oil rig technicians should grease the rig daily as well, “to get all of the dirt out of the bearings and keep them clean.” Greasing has the added bonus of giving members of your crew a chance to look over almost every part of the rig; as they may notice other maintenance issues during this daily inspection, such as leaking hydraulic hoses or unspooled cables.

On a weekly basis, the Kelly bar on mechanical rigs needs to be completely cleaned and re-greased. Then there's periodic hydraulic fluid maintenance, maintenance of electrical systems, changing the engine oil, and so much more.


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Keeping track of everything on the maintenance schedule can seem overwhelming, particularly if you’re managing a large fleet. Did someone already test the kill switch? Was that rig re-oiled last week or the week before? Fortunately, using mobile inspection checklists can keep rig technicians on the same page with those inspections. Information is immediately stored in the cloud where everyone on the crew can access it.

2. Don't Miss a Thing
When it does come time to do a thorough, top-to-bottom inspection of your rig, you don't want to skip over anything, even inadvertently. For example, it’s important to catch small chips in the paint early so that you can repaint before water gets in and causes rusting — and disintegration, raising the potential for catastrophe. And it’s vital to use the correct kind of oil for each different application, as designated in the lubrication chart for your rig. “If you put the wrong oil in it, it can … burn a pump up really quick and that’s when you’re down for a long time,” notes Caho.

Checklists can ensure that your oil rig maintenance crews have every aspect of your maintenance/inspection schedule at their fingertips. You can customize a checklist to be as specific as you need, and the results of the inspection — who conducted it, what they found, and what, if any, anomalies were corrected — are automatically and instantly uploaded to the cloud, where they're stored securely.

If you’re not sure how comprehensive to get with your oil rig maintenance checklists, consider checking out OSHA’s eTool for oil and gas well drilling servicing. This online resource flags potential hazards and provides rig maintenance and safety information on the rig floor, mud circulating system, the drilling line, and more.

3. Predicting the Future
By gathering enough data, oil and gas companies are able to move beyond tracking what did happen to predicting what will happen. Using sensors to analyze motion, vibration, current, pressures, temperatures, and more will allow computers to determine how reliable a certain machine is and what conditions cause it to fail more or less frequently.

In one high-profile example, Chevron engineers in Houston were able to diagnose a gas-injection compressor in Sanha Field off the coast of Angola that "showed subtle signs of overloading.” They alerted the on-site crew, who fixed the problem and “avoided a potential loss of millions of dollars in downtime.”

Today's software can store and process historical and real-time sensor data alongside drill rig maintenance data and “learn” what patterns are normal behavior and which signify a problem. EP Petroecuador, Ecuador's state-owned oil company, has deployed IBM software to do just this and expects to decrease its operating costs by more than 1 percent through reduced parts purchasing and lower inventory costs.

By importing the results of your inspections and preventive maintenance logs into Excel with GoCanvas Business Insights, you can tease out insights hidden in your data as well — for instance if one drill rig is failing more often than others, or if you're consistently under-buying a certain replacement part for your rigs.

For more information on how the oil and gas industry is using technology, check out these resources:

Improve drilling rig preventive maintenance, prolong machinery uptimes, and more. Convert your paper inspection and maintenance forms to mobile forms today and start using technology to improve your rig’s maintenance. Try GoCanvas free for 30 days. 

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