Relocating a drilling rig is one of the most common occurrences in the natural gas fields of northeast British Columbia.
That doesn’t mean that the activity no longer requires any thought, however.
Actually, it is something that occupies the minds of men like Mike Forgo, Pat Dies and Dwayne Kelm on a regular basis, particularly when it comes to Encana’s operations in the busy liquids-rich natural gas play of northeast B.C. simply known as the Montney.
“Part of the whole communication piece starts right back with the local stakeholder, back when we’re beginning development,” said Forgo, whose portfolio at the Canadian natural gas giant includes stakeholder relations.
That communication is now part of a program called Courtesy Matters that Encana established in 2006.
“It was instituted to address all the issues around behaviors, communications, and to address nuisance issues that come along with development,” Forgo explained.
“It’s a program really that could be adapted to anywhere where you have higher industrial development,” he added.
Informing the public of an impending rig move doesn’t stop at talking to the local landowners, but also involves making announcements via local radio, television and newspapers.
“Rig moves haven’t been the issue that maybe they were once perceived to be only because there’s other equipment out there today that’s probably in larger numbers than the rig equipment pieces,” said Dies, team lead for Canadian Deep Basin drilling at Encana.
“We’ve actually gotten some kudos from some landowners for the truck drivers,” he continued. “When they see a residential or other type of small vehicle approaching, they’ll typically take that load and pull over and actually stop just to let someone go by.
“And they’re generally pretty slow moving operations. The big loads aren’t traveling at very high speeds. The whole idea is to get it there in one piece, do it slow, don’t create a lot of dust and keep all the neighbours happy.”
Dust during the dry summer season and the presence of large, slow traffic on the road are usually the most significant impacts of a rig move, said Forgo.
However, he noted that although a rig move can potentially be irritating for local traffic because of the size and amount of equipment and the slow speed of travel, they generally aren’t a big public concern these days.
“We probably actually hear less about a rig move than we do with respect to our completions operations,” said Forgo.
“That’s changed a bit over the last few years,” he added.
That shift has largely been due to the advent of horizontal drilling and multi-well pads.
“We spend more time on the lease with a fair amount of heavy equipment if we’re doing multi-well pad development,” said Forgo.
“We’ll have a lot of equipment on lease completing the wells after drilling for quite a period of time. And seeing that much equipment and the service vehicles that need to support that can be quite overwhelming for some of the landowners.”
Encana does their best to address all those questions and concerns, just as they carefully plan their rig moves.
“We’ll plan the route out about three days in advance of the actual [move],” said Kelm, group lead for Canadian Deep Basin drilling.
“We’ll pick one of the preferred routes,” he continued.
They then drive that route to determine the amount of vehicles and houses they might pass during the move, as well as measure the heights of power and telephone lines and other potential obstacles for the big equipment. It is also decided if they will need to use a grader to fix rough spots on the road or water to keep dust down.
If their route is a bus route, that will affect their timeline.
“We try to move after nine o’clock to actually be on the road because most of the local traffic’s gone,” said Kelm. “We’ll start the rig out and, actually, the truck will hit the pavement or high grade road by nine o’clock so we get most of the local traffic gone if they’re commuting to work. Or the bus traffic.”
“Dry conditions are the best for us,” said Dies, noting that dust abatement is a priority in those conditions.
“The drier the conditions, the less damage we can do to any road,” he added. “So, we’re looking for the firmest, driest conditions.”
“Dry or frozen,” said Kelm.
Encana is particularly busy in the Farmington and Dawson Creek areas, where they can be moving rigs every 16 to 20 days.
If the conditions aren’t right for moving a rig, it just simply isn’t done.
“If we’re going to impact any of the county roads, we just don’t move,” said Kelm.
“We often grade the road whether or not we impact it or not,” he added.
An average rig move in the Farmington area is a distance of ten kilometers or less.
“It’s when we move from one side of Dawson [Creek] to the other side, because our development field is so large there, you’ll see that 70-kilometre [to] 110-kilometre move.”
Rig moves typically involve 35 to 52 loads and use 14 to 22 trucks.
“Depending on the distance,” said Kelm.
“Most of the time,” he continued, short distance will be 12 to 14 trucks. Longer distance – it all depends on how many rotations we can get with that truck pulling a separate load.
“The greater the distance, the more trucks we’ll have.”