A drilling rig is a machine which creates holes (usually called boreholes) and/or shafts in the ground. Drilling rigs can be massive structures housing equipment used to drill water wells, oil wells, or natural gas extraction wells, or they can be small enough to be moved manually by one person. They sample sub-surface mineral deposits, test rock, soil and groundwater physical properties, and also can be used to install sub-surface fabrications, such as underground utilities, instrumentation, tunnels or wells. Drilling rigs can be mobile equipment mounted on trucks, tracks or trailers, or more permanent land or marine-based structures (such as oil platforms, commonly called ‘offshore oil rigs’ even if they don’t contain a drilling rig). The term “rig” therefore generally refers to the complex of equipment that is used to penetrate the surface of the Earth’s crust.
Drilling rigs can be:
* Small and portable, such as those used in mineral exploration drilling, water wells and environmental investigations.
* Huge, capable of drilling through thousands of meters of the Earth’s crust. Large “mud pumps” circulate drilling mud (slurry) through the drill bit and up the casing annulus, for cooling and removing the “cuttings” while a well is drilled. Hoists in the rig can lift hundreds of tons of pipe. Other equipment can force acid or sand into reservoirs to facilitate extraction of the oil or natural gas; and in remote locations there can be permanent living accommodation and catering for crews (which may be more than a hundred). Marine rigs may operate many hundreds of miles or kilometers distant from the supply base with infrequent crew rotation.
Petroleum drilling industry
Oil and Natural Gas drilling rigs can be used not only to identify geologic reservoirs but also to create holes that allow the extraction of oil or natural gas from those reservoirs. Primarily in onshore oil and gas fields once a well has been drilled, the drilling rig will be moved off of the well and a service rig (a smaller rig) that is purpose-built for completions will be moved on to the well to get the well on line. This frees up the drilling rig to drill another hole and streamlines the operation as well as allowing for specialization of certain services, i.e., completions vs. drilling
Water well drilling
New technology uses smaller portable trailer mounted rigs with shorter 10 foot (3.0 m) drill pipe. DIY users and missionary groups use these to drill water wells as they can be operated by 1 or 2 people with minimal skill level. The shorter drill pipe allows a much smaller mast, which gives a smaller and lighter rig which is cheaper to ship overseas and can fit in a standard 20 foot (6.1 m) shipping container. Drillcat portable trailer mounted drilling rigs have drill ratings from 300 to 800 feet (91 to 240 m) depending on mud pump flow and pressure ratings. Other more complicated and heavy truck rigs require much more skill to run, and the longer 20 to 30 foot (6.1 to 9.1 m) drill pipe is more difficult to handle safely than the shorter pipe on smaller rigs.
Drill technology has advanced steadily since the 19th century. However, there are several basic limiting factors which will determine the depth to which a bore hole can be sunk.
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