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The Anatomy of an Oil Rig


When it comes to drilling for oil, there are numerous apparatuses that are used. Drilling for oil can be done either on land or offshore and depending on which type of drilling is being performed, the equipment used will vary. When drilling is performed on land, the apparatus used is referred to as a drilling rig, however when drilling is performed offshore, the apparatus is referred to as an oil platform. Below you will mainly find information on drilling rigs, or the apparatuses that are used for oil drilling on land.

Prior to drilling for oil, all of the necessary equipment must be transported to the drilling site and then set up by the crew that will run the rig. Some of the major systems on a rig include the power system, casing, rotating equipment, circulation equipment, and more.

Rotating Equipment

Rotating equipment is used for rotary drilling and includes the following components:

  • Swivel – a big handle that holds the weight of a drill string and allows the string to rotate, making a pressure tight seal on the drilling hole.

  • Drill String – made up of the drill pipe (normally sections of drill pipe are about 30 feet and are connected together) and drill collars which fit around the pipe in order to put weight on the drill bit.

  • Drill Bit – the very end of the drill which is capable of cutting through rock. Bits can come in many different sizes and shapes and can be made of various materials including diamond and carbide steel. Drill bits are specialized for different types of rock formations and drilling tasks.

  • Rotary or Turntable – the component that drives rotating motion by utilizing power from electric motors.

  • Kelly – a four or six sided pipe that will transfer the rotary motion to the rotary table and drill string.

Power Systems

The power systems of a rig are the main source of power for running all equipment and include the following components:

  • Electric Generators – generators that are powered through diesel engines in order to provide electrical power to the rig.

  • Diesel Engines – very large engines that burn diesel fuel in order to provide the main source of power on the rig.

Circulation Equipment

The circulation system on a rig will pump pressurized drilling mud through the drill pipes, kelly, rotary table, and drill collars. The circulation system consists of the following components:

  • Pipes & Hoses – various parts that are used to connect a pump to the drilling apparatus.

  • Pump – equipment that works to suck mud so it can be pumped into the drilling apparatus.

  • Shale Shaker – a sieve that has the ability to separate cut up rock from mud.

  • Mud Return Line – a line used to return mud from the mud pit.

  • Shale Slide – a slide that transfers cut rock to the reserve pit.

  • Mud Pit – the area where drilling mud is not only mixed but also recycled.

  • Mud Mixing Hopper – the apparatus used to mix new mud after which it is sent to the mud pits.

Mechanical System

The mechanical system of a drilling rig is run by electric motors and consists of the following components:

  • Turntable – a piece of the drilling apparatus.

  • Hoisting System – a system that is used to lift heavy loads. It consists of a mechanical winch with a block and tackle pulley and big steel cable spool along with a receiving storage reel for the cable.

Along with the systems and apparatuses listed above a drilling rig will also have a casing. A casing is a concrete pipe with a large diameter that essentially lines the drill hole in order to prevent it from collapsing. The casing also allows the drilling mud to easily circulate. The drilling rig will also have a derrick which is the supporting structure responsible for holding the drilling apparatus. It is important for the derrick to be long enough to allow new sections to be added to the drilling apparatus once the oil drilling progresses. Another important component of a drilling rig is a blowout preventer. The blowout preventer consists of high pressure valves that seal drill lines and can relieve pressure whenever necessary in order to prevent a blowout. While the above equipment is used for land based oil drilling, some of the same components are used for offshore drilling as well. Drilling for oil is a difficult process that incorporates numerous different pieces of equipment and a crew that specializes in setting up and running said equipment.

To learn more about oil drilling rigs, both land based and offshore, consult the following resources.

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