Major advances are being made in the reduction of overal1 platform weight and, hence, overall cost. A principle aim of the project has been the reduction of the number of men from this potentially dangerous work area. One result from the '86' price drop was the coming together of Strachan & Henshaw Ltd. (S&H) in collaboration with four oil companies, three British and one Norwegian with support from the UK Government and European Community to look at reducing considerably the cost of development drilling. The RA-D project which started 4½ years ago ends in late 1991 with 'spudding' (FIG. 1) of the first hole, to initiate the proving tests of the powerful but compact light-weight offshore derrick and pipehandling system. Based on fast handling of single tubulars from 3½" to 20" diameter and rated to 20,000 ft. depths with a 1,000,000 lbs hook load the system is aimed at meeting the requirements of the North Sea and Worldwide.
The RA-D concept was conceived during an exploratory visit by S&H engineers a few years ago, to the North Cormorant offshore platform whilst looking for ways in which the company's handling capability could be applied offshore. An investigation into the automation of drilling followed after a serious paralyzing accident to a floorman when handling drill collars which was just one of the many hazardous jobs in drilling and indeed the oil industry.
Drilling rig automation is a long held ambition of many offshore Operators. A number of automated drilling projects have been undertaken around the world as a result of the drilling industry's great interest in automation. Drillers see automation offering them smaller, lighter rigs with lower manning levels which will reduce the risks of injury and at the same time, reduce platform size and cost. Drilling rig designers see that automated rigs are now more feasible as a result of better and more reliable components available from other allied industries. There have been significant improvements in the elements of automated drilling systems, from the sensors and computers needed to control them, to the automatic torque wrenches and power swivels which manipulate the drill string coupled with the versatility of automated pipe handling systems.
However 'progress' results from a desire of man to improve what he has but unfortunately the changes that 'progress' requires are not always readily accepted by him.
The 'Cullen' report makes 106 recommendations relating to safety management, design and equipment, planning and provision for emergencies, Whilst not addressing drilling specifically, there was a very clear message that industry must develop equipment which is reliable and reduces manning on the platform, Each Operator will be required with its contractors to provide a safety case demonstrating that the safety management system of the design build and operation of the installation and equipments are as safe as reasonably possible.
S&H came into the rig design business from a non-oil industry background.