Drilling automation

Why the Raptor Rig Never Drilled a Well

The failure of the Raptor rig to drill its first-ever well offers a short history of the challenges that came with creating the first automated drilling rig.

The Raptor rig was equipped with two derricks that alternated between drilling and making up pipe.
The Raptor rig was equipped with two derricks that alternated between drilling and making up pipe.
Source: Connect Energy.

Velociraptor is the name of extinct dinosaur from the Cretaceous Era and a drilling rig left behind by a company that died during last year’s COVID-19 event. Both creatures have a larger-than-life image.

The dinosaur is famous as a terrifying presence in the Jurassic Park movies. The cinematic terror was modeled after a far larger ancestor of the Velociraptor, a dinosaur the size of a wolf that fed on small animals, according to an account in National Geographic.

The Raptor rig, which was famous as Canada’s entry into the race to become the world’s first fully automated land rig, was created by a company that ran out of cash in the summer of 2020 after the deal to drill its first well was cancelled.

Its true capabilities will not be known unless the current owner finds a customer willing to support the work needed to finish the rig and find a first customer. Still, the story of the Raptor offers a look at the skills, resources, and partners needed to bring an automated rig to life.

The Raptor was conceived in a different era, back when North American drillers were racing to keep up with the demand arising from the shale boom, oil was selling for $100/bbl, and it took a lot longer than it does now to drill a horizontal well.

Among the beneficiaries was Reg Layden, a rig designer who had just developed an ultrafast-drilling heavy coiled tubing rig.

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