A group of people in safety vests and helmets standing next to a large machine.

North America’s largest mobile land rig on the way from Nisku to Alaska

Published On
August 21, 2019
During their April visit, a team from ConocoPhillips Alaska tours the drilling rig floor.

ConocoPhillips says that the largest mobile land rig in North America is on its way from a National Oilwell Varco fabrication shop in Nisku to Alaska’s North Slope, where it will unlock previously unreachable oil resources. 

The extended reach drilling system, called Doyon 26, is estimated to be 1.5 to 2 times as powerful as existing rigs; a “game-changer” for ConocoPhillips Alaska, the company said on its Spirit Now web publication in July.

The rig has been in development since 2016 with Doyon Drilling Inc. (DDI), an Alaska Native regional corporation that ConocoPhillips says it has had a relationship with for 30 years.

Anchorage-based DDI says it “proudly supports a number of ‘firsts’ in the industry,” including the first self-propelled, wheel-mounted rig developed for the North Slope.

Doyon 26 is also self-propelled, which is quite a challenge given the size of the rig, ConocoPhillips Alaska drilling manager Chip Alvord said on Spirit Now.

The kit also has “special stomper feet” that will allow the company to “very accurately walk the rig modules in around tight tolerance areas,” said Paul McGrath, ERD project director.

ConocoPhillips says the more powerful rig has capability to drill targets seven miles from the surface location.

“Existing rigs are designed to drill about 22,000 feet from the pad, while the highly specialized Doyon 26 will be able to reach 37,000 feet. That means from a 14-acre drilling pad the high-tech rig will be able to develop 154 square miles of reservoir versus today’s 55 square miles.”

ConocoPhillips says there are no facilities for constructing drilling rigs in Alaska, so most Arctic rigs are built in Washington state or the Edmonton area.

“During construction we had assistance from our colleagues in Canada. The team recognizes what a game changer this will be for ConocoPhillips Alaska,” McGarth said.

The company says the 9.5-million-pound rig — equivalent to almost 10 fully loaded Boeing 747s — is being hauled to Deadhorse, Alaska in 267 separate tractor-trailer loads, the last of which are expected to arrive by November 2019.

After that, the pieces will be assembled into seven rig modules that will be transported over resupply roads to Alpine, Alaska in the first quarter of 2020.

The anticipated first drill date for Doyon 26 is April 2020.