ConocoPhillips, Doyon prepare to test big Alaska drill rig

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska An Alaska North Slope oil company is preparing to unleash a massive new oil rig.

ConocoPhillips and Doyon Drilling Inc. are nearly ready to test Doyon’s Rig 26, known internally as “The Beast,” the Alaska Journal of Commerce reported.

Rig 26 will be able drill up to 37,000 feet (11,278 meters), or more than 7 miles (11 kilometers), from its pad when it goes to work in a few months. Current North Slope rigs reach out 22,000 feet (6,705 meters), according to ConocoPhillips. From a 14-acre (5.7-hectare) drilling pad, the area reached will be nearly triple the reach of existing rigs, according to ConocoPhillips.

The company will be able to reach pockets of oil that previously would have required substantial new infrastructure.

“In a nutshell, it’s more powerful. In terms of just the amount of pump power that it has and hoisting capacity that it has — just much more powerful than the other rigs and that’s what allows us to drill much longer depths of wells,” said Paul McGrath, ConocoPhillips Rig 26 project director, in an interview.

Rig 26 weighs about 9.5 million pounds (4.31 million kilograms) and has four mud pumps that are each rated to 2,200 horsepower. Pumps that size typically are reserved for large offshore drilling rigs, McGrath said.

The rig can burn a mix of processed field gas and diesel.

“It’s got the potential to displace about 50% of the diesel required to operate the rig, which will be a big savings for us in terms of emissions as well as cost throughout the program,” McGrath said.

The rig’s ability potential to reduce surface facilities spurred its development. ConocoPhillips in 2015 agreed with the Alaska Department of Natural Resources to commission a rig that could pull oil from the Fiord West prospect in the company’s Alpine oil field without needing additional pads, roads and pipelines.

Committing to the new drilling rig gave ConocoPhillips the opportunity to extend its leases for Fiord West and reach oil under the environmentally sensitive Colville River delta,

The rig is about 90% assembled at Doyon’s facilities in Deadhorse, said ConocoPhillips spokeswoman Patty Sullivan by email.

McGrath characterized the many rig modules as going together “like a big Lego set,” that will be taken down and put back together. Once commissioned and tested at Deadhorse, the rig will be hauled in pieces 82 miles (132 kilometers) to the drill site. It will be reassembled and ready to drill in April, Sullivan said.

Building and moving the rig to the North Slope was a challenge.

Doyon spokeswoman Sunny Guerin said the 3.5-year construction period was nearly twice the construction time needed for the company’s traditional-sized North Slope rigs. It was built in Nisku, Alberta, a suburb of Edmonton, and it took about 270 tractor-trailer loads to move the rig north.

About 65 Doyon employees will work on Rig 26 when it’s deployed. Additional help will be needed for work camps, truck driving and other support, McGrath said..