Oil & Gas

When the going gets though

Posted on 30 June 2010 by Mike Principato, Images by Woodallen Photography Houston

High power, robust design, and low fuel consumption are the outstanding features of MTU's Electric Drilling Package.

Experts can only offer educated guesses about how much crude oil and natural gas remain under the Earth’s crust. But on one point, however, everyone agrees: Extracting those fossil fuels is getting much more difficult. In response to the growing challenges drillers face when seeking new petroleum and gas supplies and wringing maximum production from existing wells, MTU has introduced a new Electric Drilling Package. This EDP is a powerful, self-contained, turnkey solution specifically designed to meet the needs of modern drilling applications and set a new industry standard for reliability in one of the toughest work environments imaginable.

Lyle Eastham says studies have shown that “rough -necks“ – a slang term of honor for the skilled laborers who make their living on an oil or gas drill righold title to one of the most physically demanding jobs on the planet. “In a twelve-hour shift on a drill rig the amount of physical and mental exertion is extreme. There’s a lot of technical stuff that’s done on a drill rig nowadays and if you’re not in tune with what’s going on, people can get hurt, or worse,“ he says. Eastham should know. He’s a former roughneck himself who, after learning the family business from the bottom up, eventually took over Big E Drilling, the Houston (TX) oil and gas drilling contractor founded by his father in 1980. He adds that on a drill site there’s really only one thing that works harder than a roughneck: Diesel engines. “The stresses on diesel engines and drills are extreme,“ says Eastham. “They need to be able to withstand extreme operating temperatures and run dependably at high power virtually nonstop. It’s also extremely critical for the engine to perform consistently, because when you’re fifteen or twenty thousand feet into a horizontal or vertical well, that could be a ten-million dollar well you’re drilling. If the engines break down and we can’t come out of the hole and if our backup engine doesn’t perform, there’s a lot of money at stake for the oil company and our reputation is on the line.“


The MTU Electric Drilling Package (EDP) generates electricity for drilling rigs like this one operated by Big E Drilling Company of Houston, Texas (USA).

Meeting a challenge, sideways

With worldwide demand for energy at unprecedented levels, drilling efficiency has never been more important and never more difficult to achieve, given the challenges drillers face. Increasingly, one of those challenges is the necessity to drill not just down thousands of feet into the ground, but also sideways by using steerable motors on the drill, to expose more of the production zone of an underground oil or gas field. “Deep horizontal drilling is a growing practice around the world,“ explains Steve Besore, Oil & Gas Sales, MTU Detroit Diesel, noting that the new drilling technique, though highly successful in optimizing well production, also requires more power than conventional well drilling. The former “roughneck“ Lyle Eastham is the first customer to test MTU’s new EDP genset, which he installed for nine months on his fifth drilling rig. “MTU engineers have developed a package which will certainly be able to hold its own in the drilling industry“, he summed up. He not only praised the fact that MTU’s EDP genset consumes appreciably less fuel than other systems, but also emphasized its reliability, which in turn increased the up-time of his drilling rig. Usually, diesel engines power the individual components such as drill table, lifting equipment or mud pump. If one diesel engine is inoperational, for example, because it is being serviced, the whole system comes to a standstill. With the Electric Drilling Package, each component is powered by electric motor. “The Electric Drilling Package is like a mini-power station – it provides the power needed for the electric motors, which in turn keep the individual components on the rig running“, explains David Oliphant, Director of Oil & Gas sales and Sales Engineering for MTU Detroit Diesel. Depending on the power requirement, several EDPs can be interconnected. If the diesel engine on one EDP needs servicing, the others keep going to power the electric motors. Each self-contained package consists of a diesel engine, generator, radiator and control panel mounted on a rigid base frame. The generator is powered by a Tier 2- compliant MTU 12V 4000 G73 engine, capable of producing 1,105 kW (1,482 bhp) plus ten percent overload capability at 1,200 rpm. The second-generation common rail fuel injection system from Tognum subsidiary L’Orange offers greater precision and superior fuel economy. It has been specifically designed for the oil and gas market and is perfectly adapted for the high run times and harsh operating environment of the drilling industry.

The job of a “roughneck“ is a gruelling one. On an oil rig, only the diesel engines work even harder. These have now been integrated to form a “mini power station“ that drives the pumps.

Simple, safe operation and serviceability

MTU engineers have designed the EDP to be both powerful and easy to use and service. Access to common maintenance items such as filters, belts and batteries is quick and easy while belt and coupling guards, along with in board-located engine exhaust manifolds, provide safeguards against operator injury. Oil and fuel connections are facilitated by protected quickconnect fittings located conveniently at the front of the skid. Heavy-duty air filters, duplex fuel filters and a standard lube oil centrifuge spinner help extend maintenance intervals. In addition, the coupling element can be exchanged without having to move the generator, thus preserving ist original equipment alignment and eliminating the lengthy generator realignment process typically required during coupling service. MTU engineers also created a carefully customized, easily transportable skid base for the EDP, using finite element analysis to help find the ideal balance between weight and strength and to ensure stability and durability. The EDP’s control panel features a Murphy fullcolor display, analog gauges for oil pressure and temperature and coolant temperature, tachometer with hour meter, start/stop and emergency push buttons, a three-position selector switch including a lockout switch for maintenance, and IP65 protection. Output from generator sensors is integrated into the display panel to monitor bearing and winding temperatures. MTU even offers an optional integrated GPS-based system for remote monitoring and diagnostics of all engine data, which can also be used by service technicians to locate the drilling rig anywhere in the world.

Single-source responsibility means peace of mind

It’s clear that MTU listened and learnedwhat today’s drilling contractors need in a rig power system to compete and succeed in their rapidly evolving industry, and then designed the EDP to suit. But planning and executing the EDP design as a unit, rather than as a disparate system of independently outsourced components, virtually guarantees the high performance and peace of mind that drillers demanded. Because the EDP is a completely factory-built package, MTU has single-source responsibility for the entire system, a unique and valuable asset for drillers who already have enough to monitor on a hectic drilling job. Every component of the package is factory-certified and covered under MTU’s warranty, with EDP support available at authorized service locations around the globe. In the end, that combination of function-specific design and unrivaled worldwide support that sold Lyle Eastham and Big E on the very first MTU EDP. “I have a lot of positive feedback to give to the MTU team,“ he declares. “I think they’ve done a lot of hard work to design an engine that is going to be a presence in the land drilling industry…I appreciate that, because my job would not be possible had it not been for that engineering work. My job is to deliver a consistent service to my customers. I cannot do that without MTU delivering a consistent level of service to me.“

The content of the stories reflects the status as of the respective date of publication. They are not updated. Further developments are therefore not taken into account.

Point of Contact

David Oliphant
+1 248 560 8054
+1 313 592 5708

Related stories

Silent power

by Katrin Beck

Five emergency gensets safeguard the power supply to a natural gas processing plant in Norway.

Read more

MTU at ADIPEC 2016

by Rolf Behrens

MTU presented current power and propulsion solutions for onshore and offshore oil and gas applications at the Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition and Conference (ADIPEC).

Read more