OTC Spotlight Award: Reelwell drills without a riser

This story profiles one of the Offshore Technology Conference’s 15 Spotlight on New Technology Award winners.

If there was ever a throwback trend in the drilling industry, Reelwell’s riserless drilling method might be the key that opened the floodgates.

The RDM-Riserless, as its name implies, drills without a riser, reducing the overall weight of the rig by so much that older, third- and fourth-generation rigs can drill as deep as the newest sixth-generation rigs while weighing half as much.

“Over the last 60 years, the water depth increases, and so does the size of the rig,” said Reelwell CEO Jostein Aleksandersen. “We thought, how can we possibly increase water depth and reduce the size of the vessel?”

Commentary: Development without platforms key to subsea field of the future

The key is transporting the rock the drill is boring into — the “cuttings” — to the surface through the dual drill string, meaning the drill string essentially acts as the riser. As a bonus, the removal of pressurized equipment from the surface will improve rig safety.

“The main purpose of (the huge deepwater) vessel is to handle the riser and the fluids that come through that riser,” Aleksandersen said. “Instead of a riser system weighing 1,000 kilograms, this jewel string will weigh 50 to 70 kilograms per meter. This technology would support the use of light vessels in deepwater. You do not need a huge vessel to drill.”

Aleksandersen said BP and Petrobras are asking for a late 2015/early 2016 delivery of the RDM-Riserless for projects in the Santos Basin off Brazil.

“We believe this will change the whole deepwater game,” he said.

Read about more OTC Spotlight Award technologies: