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Service Rig Retrofit – Start with your drawworks

After having a few discussion with companies looking to standardize their fleets or secure replacement drawworks, I have identified 5 things you should think about when selecting a replacement drawworks for a service rig (workover rig). Whether it be as part of your retrofit, or level IV inspection, these are the questions you should ask. Here we go:

(1) Is there new drawworks technology out there?

As with most things in life there is a steady march to improving technology. On the drilling side there has been many technological advancements on the electric rigs but for the most part the service rig drawworks remains mechanically driven and the technology improvements are subtle. Advancements in material selections and general design comes to mind as we try and create drawworks that are lighter and able to do more. Depending on what style of braking system you are looking at, there have been some advancements in the breaking control and crown protecting devices through the use of air, hydraulics and computers. The use of belts over chains and re-orientation of clutches so that the chains are not constantly turning for both drums are also nice to have features. There are a few small and subtle differences that I would call technological advancements such as the drawworks that bolt down and eccentric chain tighteners that make installation and maintenance easier. At the end of the day if the technology adds value to your organization and you have people in the field that can handle the new technology it might be a good idea to consider some of the newer options available on drawworks.

Related Content: The FAST450 Drawworks

(2) Availability of parts and service

This should be a prime concern for anyone thinking about upgrading or retrofitting a drawworks. Are the parts and service readily available? You don’t want to make a big investment in a piece of equipment and then have to hand fabricate any parts that might be needed over the years of service. Company history and a proven product track record should help make this decision easier. Availability of parts catalogs and sales team should also be a factor. Finally, does the company manufacturing the drawworks have a field service team if required?

(3) Replacement Drawworks: operators manual

There is a general industry trend to refer users back to the manufacturers recommendations for maintenance, problems, etc. This is true for many aspects of oil field life from lifting equipment right down to drawworks. I have seen this trend in the crane industry as the machinery and equipment becomes more complex and more varied bodies like OH&S and OHSA are trending away from suggesting recommended practices and instead directing you to follow manufacturing recommendations. Given this general trend, it is a good question to be asking your drawworks supplier. Is there an operators manual with recommended procedures for maintenance, repair and inspection? If not, the only real way to not assume the risk yourself is to hire an engineer to answer these questions on your behalf.

(4) Asbestos pads

I don’t want to get into whether or not asbestos pads are better performing breaks (everyone seems to have a heated opinion on the topic). The question I would like to raise is – do we really want them on our rigs and around our crews? Known to cause adverse health effects and attempts (of varying degrees of success) at banning asbestos in products all over the world are occurring all the time. Brake pads is one the last remaining applications for asbestos. This is despite the auto industry largely switching off asbestos pads in the 90s. Asbestos is most dangerous when small fibers of it become airborne – a process which essentially describes the life of the break pad. Prolonged exposure during operation, maintenance and initial installation should all be a concern and ultimately it is up to the policy makers to specify asbestos pads or not.

(5) To monogram or not to monogram?

Monogramming refers to the process of affixing an API monogram to a drawworks. The American Petroleum Institute has a set of regulations primarily in API 7k that governs the design and manufacturing process for drawworks (and other equipment). Generally speaking it requires a company to have an audited quality control program in order to produce drawworks. It also requires certain inspection and material requirements in order to maintain and verify the quality of the product. Obtaining a license to monogram a drawworks is a multi-year process and because the code is constantly changing and audits are scheduled often, seeing a monogram on a drawworks offers a guarantee of a certain level of quality.

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