Extending Rig life

Roughly 75% of rigs currently in-use have the potential for an extended lifetime through upgrades. By improving a rig’s power and control systems, its drilling performance, as well as, general operation, can be increased dramatically.

Anyone in the industry is likely familiar with the frustration of an old or busted rig. Like relying on a beat-up old Ford truck, trying to squeeze as much life out of an old rig simply will not suffice for long. Due to one reason or another, these old rigs eventually give out, and while we may have a tendency to just run them into the ground, it is a much better idea to a take a minute to reflect on how we can extend the life of such equipment that is so essential to our industry.

Types of Performance Upgrades

Without a doubt, the whole concept of rig modernization can be a bit complex. So, in an attempt to simplify things, here is my categorical breakdown of the possible upgrades, followed by what each has to offer. For instance, upgrades that directly improve drilling and operation can be placed in one category. Other upgrades that are specifically for preventive maintenance and ensure that a rig is dependable with minimal downtime are in an entirely separate category. A third grouping of upgrades include any that improve safety for both equipment and personnel. The last group of upgrades is those that reduce or eliminate environmental hazards.

Mechanical to SCR

Undertaking the task of converting a mechanical rig to an SCR can be both financially and labor intensive, but equally rewarding as well. Such an upgrade has been shown to improve many of the aforementioned groupings, including safety, dependability and environmental burden. Personally, I have always been partial to conversions from mechanical to SCR rigs. Primarily, because doing so provides increased elasticity while utilizing reduced four-engine natural gas generators. In addition, by eliminating submaximal torque converters, an SCR rig can substantially improve efficiency. As for dependability, switching to an SCR rig from a mechanical has the potential to reduce maintenance costs by more than half. Also, with the significantly reduced fuel consumption of a SCR rig (in some cases upwards of 30 percent less), the transition from mechanical is widely considered an environmentally friendly conversion.

DC/DC to SCR Upgrades

As you may already know, on a DC/DC system it can take up to six engines to run such a rig, and while it is often considered a more viable option than a mechanical rig, there is still room to improve. In fact, transitioning from a DC/DC to a SCR rig has a number of noteworthy advantages. For instance, switching to an SCR improves rig efficiency by implementing fewer diesel generators, which run on a constant speed with limited downtime. Additionally, using a SCR rig over a DC/DC provides improved top drive capability, as well as, other systems to utilize various drilling programs.

Furthermore, the reliability of switching to a SCR rig is paramount over a DC/DC. This is primarily due to the ability for one lone engine to power any rig load. In addition, all inefficient components and generators are removed in the SCR, but perhaps the most significant add-on is the global air conditioning system, which regulates the rig’s electrical systems during intense stress, including exposure to extreme weather.

The improved safety of the SCR rig over the DC/DC is also important to note. Primarily due to a more secure drill floor, the SCR rig has improved control and power, among other increased rig safety aspects.

Upgrading SCR

Modernizing an SCR rig typically consists of a number of upgrades due to the increased power and control requirements. In terms of generator sets, typically, a fourth is added to an upgraded SCR, as well as top drive capability. An additional mud pump is usually added as well. Along with such upgrades, modernizing an SCR rig provides further flexibility among various technological advancements, such as touchscreen diagnostics. Additional advancements include live monitoring, remote access of rig performance, and an anti-blackout prevision mode.

Without a doubt, these upgrades have the potential to drastically reduce downtime, thus substantially improving rig reliability. Also, the use of a PLC system on an upgraded SCR is a significant improvement over older electrical components, which can directly inhibit the performance of a rig.

Improved Safety for Modernizing

Making the modern switch to a SCR rig is a transition that certainly does not come without an attached investment. However, the safety improvements of an SCR alone are reward enough. With reduced noise volumes, along with improved engine controls and additional safety features, modernizing an SCR rig is a worthwhile venture. In addition to the improved safety features of an SCR rig, there is also the reduction of environmental hazards, including lower fuel emissions, which is due in large part to higher amounts of precision control, along with modernized electrical components, and more accurate specifications.


As you may be able to tell, I am a big proponent of converting to an SCR rig. The truth is, mechanical, and even DC/DC rigs are largely inadequate compared to the modernization of an SCR rig. By all means, I can understand the tendency to drive those old existing rigs into the ground (no pun intended). However, upgrading is well worth the investment. From improved safety features, to the reduction of environmental hazards, and many advantages in between, upgrading to an SCR makes a great deal of sense to me. As I alluded to in my introduction, continuing the daily operation on an older, and perhaps even barely running drilling rig, is like driving an old beat-up Ford truck to work everyday. While it may last in the short term, sooner or later it is going to give out, and you may be left in a tough situation. Making the upgrade is at the very least something to aspire towards, because after all, it is always nice to have a good-looking, well-performing rig ready to go at your disposal.