Uralmash Drilling Rigs

In 1944 the Soviet Union produced 19 million tons of oil. By that time the major part of shallow oil deposits was located in Azerbaijan and drilling rigs for oil exploration and extraction were manufactured in Baku only.

In war period the United States supplied the Soviets with hole-boring equipment as a part of lend-lease deliveries and the number of drilling rigs in operation reached 125. However the rigs were reported as low-duty.

Directives of USSR government implied threefold increase of oil production and therefore to bring annual production up to 60 million tons. The task required a considerable number of deep-drilling rigs (for operations in 2 thousand meters oil wells and more). The situation dictated urgent measures to be taken to start home production of heavy-duty drilling equipment.

In July 1945 the USSR Council of Ministers entrusted Uralmashplant with the task to start the production of deep-drilling rigs. The plant specialists pursued several options: elaboration of drilling rig design was conducted in parallel with drilling equipment shop being put into commission. A.Vernik, Uralmash chief designer headed the design works, later he was replaced by G.Karapetyan.

B-2 tank engines manufactured at the neighborhood turbine works were used as power-generating units for drilling rigs, and drilling-rig components were assembled in the shops whereat Uralmash workers used to assemble tanks some months ago. The rigs became known as Uralmash-1 and were designed for 3,2 km well-drilling which suited oilfield workers perfectly. In 1945 the plant produced the first three rigs to be delivered to Baku. The next year production output was 128 pieces, and then – 284 pieces.

However shortly after that the plant started to receive a tide of complaints and claims. The machines did not serve drillers’ turn. The engine power provided 2km of drilling only, subassemblies were reported as badly interacted and often failed. The pumps splashed the drilling fluid instead of squeezing it into a drill hole. Uralmash rigs broke down one after another. Every month over fifteen airplanes delivered drilling spare parts and components to oil fields.

There was a pressing need to remedy the defects and maladjustments. In this respect engineer D.Berenov became of a great help. He had just come back from US business trip whereat he accepted and approved American products, including drilling equipment, intended for the Soviet Union. Engineer D.Berenov brought detailed catalogues of the US manufacturers which later stood Uralmash designers in good stead.

One of the most talented Uralmash designers - L.Efimov got involved into elaboration of improved drilling rig and designed new advanced pump. A.Vernik and G.Alekseevsky invented and developed power amplification system for power unit. The tests resulted in joint boxes of new design.

At last a completely new model – Uralmash-3D (i.e. “diesel engine drilling rig, 3rd model”) was assembled. The rig featured nominal drilling depth of 5km (max). The tests proved: that time the oilmen would get a reliable machine.

The new rig was delivered to Baku in 1951 and drilled a deep well bore with no mechanical breakdown. The whole design and every separate assembly proved to be so well adjusted and operated that the plant produced 3D model up to 1998 and within that period delivered over 5 thousand rigs to various oil fields of the country. As far as modified “Uralmash-1” is concerned, it was produced until 1953 and became a base for elaboration of new models.

In 1959 Uralmash became a pioneer enterprise whereat research institute including drilling-rig chief designer department, was established. By that time the department was headed by V.Rudoiskatel.

Special purpose department and V.Rudoiskatel himself facilitated production of mechanized drilling rig packages to approach international standards. Apart from heavy-duty and reliable engines, pumps, wrenches and drill tower of original design (by Kh.Vinokursky), the department developed and introduced into production an automated round trip system to pull and run drilling strings (so called drilling-pipe stands). Earlier a derrick man on the top of 24-meter drill tower was in charge of these laborious operations.

In 1964 drilling equipment design engineers developed the first integrated drilling rigs with code numbers “125 BD” and “125 BE”. Since its start in 1959 the drilling equipment department developed over 60 types of drilling rigs which in their own right became unique both by their parameters and design.

Later, in 1970 a group of designers including V.Rudoiskatel and B.Shakhotkin was awarded the USSR State Prize for design and serial production start-up of these drilling facilities.

In 1963 G.Alekseevsky group introduced “Uralmash-300E” and “Uralmash-300DE” rigs with 8-km drilling depth. The new rigs were intended for the Caspian Sea region. In 1964 oil reservoirs were found at Shakhovaya Kosa whereat one of the rigs drilled 6029-meter oil well – then a record-breaking drilling depth in the Soviet Union. Oil deposit near Makhachkala was found at 4-km depth.

Later Soviet science demonstrated a great demand in Uralmash superdeep drilling rigs. Then mankind had a keen interest in space exploration but still knew little about the Earth and its structure. However that sort of knowledge was essential both for general science and mineral survey.

The superdeep drilling was not as easy as it might seem in theoretical calculations which proved the possibility of 10-km drilling operations by such rigs as “Uralmash-300DE” bearing in mind capacities of rig mechanisms and systems. Earth crust and interior are intractable and often hard to predict. Thus, the first superdeep well drilled in the US showed that after 7,7-km deepening the drilling string got 60-m longer by gravity and became twisted out of shape. Another superdeep drilling project achieved some success: the States reached a depth of 9583 meters. But then a drilling string was blown out of a well by sudden sulfuric fountain.

Superdeep drilling rigs required different design and completely new approach. Such model, namely “Uralmash-15000” was developed by G.Alekseevsky design-engineering group in 1972. The new model covered a number of technical solutions, including unique pumping system, new automatic draw works for round-trip operations, automatic elevator to form a drill string out of 36-m drill stands, automatic power tongs, etc.

Four “Uralmash-15000” rigs were produced from 1972 to 1985. The first one (named Severyanka) was intended for Kola Peninsula, the second one (named Yuzhanka) was delivered to the city of Saatly (Azerbaijan). The third and the forth “Uralmash-15000” started their operation in the Urals and Western Siberia respectively. Soon Severyanka rig set world’s drilling depth record (13,2 kilometers) and became world-known. The record remains unbroken so far.

As far as Saatly borehole is concerned, after it reached the depth of 9000 meters drilling operations were ceased. The reason was common: economical considerations. However, technically speaking “Uralmash-15000” have remained the best superdeep drilling rigs in the world.

Seventeen research institutes and enterprises were engaged to establishment and operations at Kola superdeep borehole. And there was a good reason for it: the project became a site of extensive geophysical studies and brought modern science some stunning results comparable to space discoveries.

Uralmash specialists developed offshore drilling equipment in parallel. The first offshore rigs known as “Uralmash-65000 PEM” appeared in 1976. From 1979 to 1990 the plant manufactured nine floating semisubmersible drilling platforms “Uralmash-6000/200“. The platforms were designed for offshore drilling area with 200-m water column.

Oil and gas production have always been the backbone of the Soviet economy, the major export commodities. In 1980-ies the plant dispatched one drilling rig practically every day. Uralmash machines operated in every oil and gas deposit regardless of work class and drilling conditions. By then the enterprise manufactured over 14,5 thousand drilling rigs.

Uralmash drilling rigs made an outstanding contribution to development of the largest oil and gas regions in the former USSR territory – Tataria, Bashkiria, Central Asia and Western Siberia. Literally Uralmash rigs were used in every Soviet oil and gas well with depth over 2500 m. Much of Soviet rig fleet still remains in operation to ensure major part of oil and gas production.

Today gas pipelines from Siberia to Western Europe stretch for thousands kilometers. However, this resulted from hard and intense work to construct facilities for Samotlor – one of the largest oil reservoirs in Russia. Its unique nature may confront the complexity of development works though. Samotlor has always been swampy and watery terrain and thereof a challenge for Russian drilling technicians with lack of skills and experience in this sphere. Boreal nature and climate required fresh approaches. Thus a new type of drilling rig “Uralmash-3000 EUK” came into service. The rig was designed for cluster drilling and intended for use with oil and gas deposits. Earlier Tyumen oil workers realized low efficiency of traditional single-well drilling and introduced a new idea to Uralmashplant.

Project development, implementation and manufacturing became a result of close cooperation between Uralmash specialists, miners and field men. The first rigs of that type were manufactured in 1977. The rig’s output increased fifteen-fold as compared to standard analogues. Rig innovations covered mechanized operations, heated control room, spacious and sheltered drill floor, etc. In six years’ time new project of cluster drilling rig with echelon arrangement was ready. Production rate of a new rig was twice as much as previous cluster-type model.

Then conversion to market economy entailed sharp drop in industrial sector, including drilling equipment production.

Yet despite of grave crisis in 1990-ies Uralmashplant managed to keep drilling production going and even brought it to present-day standards and requirements. At the beginning of 2000s the plant has developed and started production of new machines which feature energy-saving, reliable and high-duty systems which comply with environmental standards. Specifically, Uralmash has started to manufacture of 3900EK-BM – a new-generation cluster rigs. Then, the first Russian mobile units with maximum drilling depth up to 2900 meters (2900/175 ER-P rigs) were designed. The contract concluded with Syrian Petroleum Company made 2004 a momentous year for Uralmash drilling design history. For the first time in Soviet/Russian history the enterprise designed and produced heavy-land drilling rigs with 600-t load capacity.