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All under control

June 5, 2015

Half a decade ago, Atlas Copco began devising ways to make drill rigs more effective. Efforts resulted in a system platform that is innovative, fuel-efficient and award-winning.

Drill rig system design team

It is evident that Atlas Copco’s most substantial environmental impact occurs during the use of its products. It is thus extremely important for the Group to incorporate innovative environmental considerations into new product designs.

It is against this backdrop that Atlas Copco’s Surface Drilling Equipment division set out five years ago to find ways to improve the energy efficiency of its drill rigs, trim the number of components, design the most-user friendly cabin possible, lower the customer’s total cost of ownership and, of course, reduce the rigs’ impact on the environment.

The result: the Rig System Platform, a uniform control system platform that will become a part of all surface drill rigs manufactured in Örebro, Sweden, and ultimately for those produced in China, Japan and India as well.

“The platform is a highly energy-effective control system for drill rigs, with completely new electric, hydraulic and compressor systems,” says Jimmy Holler, Global Engineering Manager. “The new control system is optimized to supply only the power needed to perform the work.”

The new Rig System Platform has so successfully accomplished the goals set out for it that in June 2011, the Surface Drilling Equipment division won the Atlas Copco Environmental Award. The platform is currently testing exceptionally well in the field, too.

Field tests of the SmartROC T35/T40 rigs with the new control system in Sweden, Norway, Germany, Poland and Turkey have shown a reduction in fuel use of up to 45% compared with similar equipment, while maintaining or improving drilling performance. The system also reduces engine load by 40–50% on average, increasing the engine’s lifetime. The lifetime of consumables for the drill string has been extended by up to 30%.

The next wave of rigs with the new control system, SmartROC T45 and T50, will also see fuel consumption reduced by 35–45% compared with earlier models. The goal is to put the uniform control system platform into all products in the coming years.

A typical SmartROC T35 application in Sweden can also reduce fuel usage by 20 250 liters per year. That amounts to an annual CO2 reduction of 53 460 kg per rig. The new hydraulic system reduced the number of hydraulic hoses by half, and the number of fittings by more than two-thirds.

“By also introducing soft-sealed fittings we have taken a big step closer to a leakage-free rig,” Holler says. “The field test has shown a more or less leakage-free installation.”

The hydraulic oil return line was redesigned together with a new hydraulic tank that includes a cyclone that presses the air bubbles out of the oil. This enabled reductions in both tank size and the amount of oil needed in the hydraulic system. As a result, less oil could potentially spill in a major breakdown.

The same tank can be used on all surface drilling rigs, regardless of size. The oil volume is reduced by more than 75%, from 450 to 90 liters.

The hydraulic tank includes a unique type of return and breather filter that contains no steel and can be burned in a way that is less harmful to the environment than previous tanks.

The cabin has a completely new operator environment. Atlas Copco has also worked with an external partner to define a generic Human Machine Interface to ensure that customers enjoy the best possible operator environment for a drill rig.

The average material cost for a rig manufactured with this type of system can be cut substantially. Additionally, assembly time can be reduced by up to 50 hours per rig, which helps secure further cost reductions.

The commonality between the rigs will affect other manufacturing costs such as stocks, purchasing levels and parts number administration. When fully rolled out, the project will increase the commonality between the different rigs’ electrical systems to around 90% and that of the hydraulic systems to 75%, delivering substantial benefits.

Benefits of the Rig System

Drill rigs Rig system platforms Society and environment Energy efficiency Global Value creation Environment Mining Research and development