Oil and Gas

E-House OEM ensures reliability, availability and higher asset utilization for a leading Permian oil and gas drilling contractor

AC power, a Texas oil and gas drilling contractor, upgraded its newest rigs for reliable, packaged electric buildings and standardized components

By John Meyer December 22, 2020
Courtesy: Siemens

In the U.S. Permian Basin, the vast oil & gas field that spans West Texas and Southeastern New Mexico, speed and capital efficiency mean something to drillers and to the suppliers the drillers rely on.

Exploration and production (E&P) companies invest in land leases and completed wells, with shareholder returns still pending, in many cases, on production efficiency. Many independent operators are highly leveraged with debt that needs servicing, while the wells often are producing less oil than forecasted.

For these reasons, the industry is deploying more automation, standardization and modularization to its operations. Two examples of companies doing just that are Current Power, a Houston-based Siemens Solution Partner, and its customer, Scandrill, a leading, land-based drilling contractor with more than 30 rigs in its fleet.

The latter commissioned Current Power as an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) to provide the packaged electrical buildings — also known as “e-houses” and “driller’s cabins” — for seven of its newest rigs. These prefabricated, metal power buildings houses house and protect critical electrical equipment, such as variable frequency drives (VFDs), motor control centers (MCCs), switchgear, generator controls, operator controls and other gear.

Figure 1: In the U.S. Permian Basin, the vast oil & gas field that spans West Texas and southeastern New Mexico, many independent operators are leveraged with debt while wells produce less than forecast. Photo courtesy: Siemens

Figure 1: In the U.S. Permian Basin, the vast oil & gas field that spans West Texas and southeastern New Mexico, many independent operators are leveraged with debt while wells produce less than forecast. Photo courtesy: Siemens

These e-houses and driller cabins, in effect, become modular, plug-and-play components of a Scandrill drilling rig. “As such, they can be hoisted from the rig platform, where they typically reside, onto large flatbed trucks and transported from location to location. The trucks have all of the electrical equipment, controls and automation the rig needs to operate,” said Corbin Vader, Current Power’s automation and projects engineer,

Streamline operations, avoid downtime

Neil Pierce, Scandrill’s senior VP of operations, explains how critical rig moving time is to the company’s customers. “When we get released from the customer on one well, and it’s time to pack everything and move to another location, we only can charge for so much time that they’re willing to pay for,” he said.

“The faster we can disassemble a rig, get it loaded onto our trucks, move it, unload and reassemble it, then re-hook it all back up, the better,” Pierce adds. “It’s really quite a process. We’ve worked hard with partners like Current Power to streamline as much as possible.”

Joe Ward, a Scandrill project manager, has played a core role in the company’s efforts to streamline its rig set-ups, operations, teardowns and transport between locations. “The key to success is standardizing as many of the rig’s components as we can.” he said.

“You don’t want three or four different suppliers, especially for electrical, controls, and automation, because everything — from procurement to training, troubleshooting and spare parts — becomes that much more complicated and often more costly,” Ward said. “Worse, if an operational issue occurs with a rig, multiple suppliers can result in time-consuming finger-pointing while root causes are sorted out.”

If a problem is serious enough, a rig’s entire operation can come to a stop. Such a disruption can financially penalize Scandrill, as the drilling contractor, and cost the Scandrill customer time and money, as other labor and suppliers must come to a standstill.

Figure 2: E-houses and driller cabins act as plug-and-play components of a drilling rig. Photo courtesy: Siemens

Figure 2: E-houses and driller cabins act as plug-and-play components of a drilling rig. Photo courtesy: Siemens

As Scandrill’s provider of e-houses and drilling cabins for its latest rigs, Current Power needs them to be extremely reliable and rugged, down to individual components. “With downtime being a huge concern, even if it takes just a few hours to change out a faulty part or device, any disruption can jeopardize Scandrill’s next drilling contract with a customer or undermine their negotiating position,” says Vader.

Standardize and then standardize

In recent years, Scandrill decided to update its DC-powered rig fleet with new rigs using AC power instead. For help, it chose Current Power, based on its reputation across the oil & gas industry as a top supplier of high-quality, extremely rugged and reliable electrical equipment, including custom-fabricated, packaged electrical buildings.

“They’re easy to do business with and listen carefully to what we have to say, especially how we operate our rigs,” Ward said. “They’re quick to respond, too, whether it’s getting information back to us, helping work through problems or troubleshoot issues, or getting a field technician to our rigs, if there are issues out there that can’t be resolved remotely. Their pricing is also extremely competitive.”

Current Power’s initial assignment was clear: To design, engineer and build an advanced e-house and drill cabin set for the first of what turned out to be seven new drilling rigs over the next few years. For these, the company chose to standardize on Siemens drives and automation components, including:

  • SINAMICS S120 VFDs, designed to control the speed and torque of low-voltage induction motors, are extremely dependable and offer inverter modules that can be paralleled for a wide range of motor horsepower, up to 6,000 hp.
  • tiastar motor control centers (MCCs), with intelligent SIMOCODE pro motor control, plus power monitoring and protection, and network communications and automation interfacing using both fieldbus and Ethernet communications protocols.
  • WL power circuit breakers, to protect against damage or fire from short circuits, ground faults, or overload faults.
  • SIMATIC WinCC software, for a supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) and human-machine interface (HMI) operation.
  • SIMATIC HMI Comfort Panel color touchscreen displays, to provide human operators with high-performance visualization applications, such as process flows as well as diagnostics.
  • SIMATIC programmable logic controllers (PLCs), for automation and control, specifically a redundant pair of high-availability, fault-tolerant S7-400H PLCs, set for immediate, hot standby and fail-over resiliency. They are programmed via STEP 7 function library and feature remote diagnostics and programming.
Figure 3: Simatic programmable logic controllers are used for automation and control, with hot standby and fail-over resiliency. Photo courtesy: Siemens

Figure 3: Simatic programmable logic controllers are used for automation and control, with hot standby and fail-over resiliency. Photo courtesy: Siemens

Savings, greater reliability and availability

Standardization has saved Current Power engineers time and effort, translating into cost savings and margin improvements for the labor required to design, engineer, program, and build the e-houses and driller’s cabins. “The modular Siemens components are more highly compact, interoperable, and price-competitive than any other brand on the market,” Vader said.

“Their size enables us to maximize the interior space in the e-houses and cabins,” he added “And they’re much easier to program. If we need support, Siemens forums are quite helpful and, should an escalation be needed, its experts are just a phone call away.”

Vader reports that another benefit of standardization is repeatability, which eventually saved the company weeks of time over the build-out of e-house and driller-cabin sets for Scandrill’s seven new rigs.

“On the first rig we did, for example, after we got the parameters set and programmed for its dual-motor top drive, especially the motor torque, which is fairly difficult to get tuned really well, we could copy and load them into the programming for the second and subsequent rigs,” he said. “And, when we found areas where we can improve performance of a rig system, it was easy to build on what we had.”

Ensuring customer satisfaction. Reliability of the Siemens components and diagnostics have been important when troubleshooting issues. “Siemens products are all extremely high-quality, so we don’t have to deal with many failures, which helps minimize our warranty costs and boosts customer satisfaction,” Vader says. “Plus, the diagnostic capabilities on the Siemens components are five times better than another brand.”

For Scandrill, the standardization on Siemens provides flexibility in adapting e-house and drilling cabin specifications for different rigs. “On the last few rigs, we had the houses and all the associated electrical gear in place for our 1,600-hp mud pumps, then decided at the last minute to upgrade them to 2,200 hp,” Ward recalls. “We were able to pull the lower horsepower parts out and plug in the higher horsepower ones, including bigger drives, and did it all without added delay or extra cost.”

Consistency across rigs. Standardization also has meant Scandrill is using the same software platform across all the rigs, so operator training is easier. In addition, Ward says that even though all the newer AC rigs aren’t identical, common Siemens components have enabled Current Power to provide a big value-added service: stocking parts for Scandrill, so they don’t have to tie up hundreds of thousands of dollars in capital.

“If we need a part, we can get it quickly,” he says. “But not having to keep a spare parts inventory means we can keep our capital deployed doing what we do best, which is drilling wells.”

Figure 4: Standardization means Scandrill is using the same software platform across all rigs. Photo courtesy: Siemens

Figure 4: Standardization means Scandrill is using the same software platform across all rigs. Photo courtesy: Siemens

Finally, the literal plug-and-play modularization of the Current Power e-houses and driller’s cabins helps Scandrill minimize the time it takes to set up and tear down rigs. “Everything has a plug panel on the back, which all the motors, drives, blowers and different devices plug into,” Ward says.

“So, there’s no real wiring to do; you just plug in. Everything’s well-labeled and color-coded, which speeds things up a lot and is so important to our agility as a company and strategic drilling partner to our customers.”


John Meyer
Author Bio: John Meyer is a marketing communications manager with Siemens.