Service Rigs 101

Service rigs in Canada, and the crews that operate them, are sought after around the globe. CAOEC Service Rig members have operated their equipment from Australia to Russia and everywhere in between. The Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin (WCSB) is one of the most challenging basins to produce hydrocarbons, and the rigs and people developed working in the WCSB have experience that is second to none.

Service rigs are much smaller than drilling rigs and they are fully mobile. Where a drilling rig requires trucks to move its various pieces, a service rig's equiment is on wheels, and can be driven from location to location. Mobility is required because unlike drilling rigs that, once situated, can spend months in the same location, service rigs will move often (sometimes daily) to new jobs on different well sites.

Combined, CAOEC Service Members operate over 900 rigs in Canada. The demand for service rigs is generally different than for drilling rigs, and is not as directly impacted by the price of oil or natural gas. Work on existing wells can be more economical when commodity prices are lower because operating costs are not as high, and returns are often more predictable. This means service rigs may still be busy when producers aren't otherwise looking to drill new wells.

From turning exploratory wells into producing wells, to shutting wells in (temporarily halting well production), to repairing wells as required, to abandoning wells (permanently and safely closing the well) service rigs are used to perform a variety of different services and will often return to the same well site many times. The service rig unit carries the mast structure (otherwise known as the derrick) and the rig floor. When a rig is working downhole, the unit is secured with its derrick sitting over top of the well bore.

Like drilling rigs, service rigs also come in different sizes. A typical rig is close to 20 meters long with the board. With the board and derrick laid over, it is just over four meters high. The laid-over derrick can hang out anywhere from one to eight meters beyond the cab. When loaded up and ready to move a typical rig can weigh up to 50,000 kilograms and is close to 20 meters long (with the laid-over derrick extending anywhere from 1 to 8 meters beyond the cab) and 4 meters high.

Additionally, service rigs work on both oil and natural gas wells, and must adjust their procedures accordingly. These must rigs keep pace with all of the market driven changes in activity, and as such have made technological adjustments along the way. Service rigs, however, don't vary as greatly as drilling rigs, and many of the anciliary well services are handled by purpose-built, specialty equipment such as coil tubing or fracking units.