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igus® energy chains in automated deep drilling rig

"Vibration-proof" energy supply in harsh conditions
With the TBA 440 M2 deep drilling rig, BAUER Maschinen GmbH has developed a rig that can drill up to 19,690 feet deep - most of which is done automatically - and, as a "walking unit" with a total weight of around 1000 tonnes, it is even able to change its location. The handling system that feeds the drill pipes is supplied with hydraulic and electrical energy as well as control signals via E4-1 energy chains from igus®.

In industrial automation, robotics is already "state of the art", and if you believe experts, it is expected to be used extensively in the household and care-related areas, for example with the advent of automated helpers. Vacuum cleaners and lawn mowers are just the harbingers of service robotics.

Oil and gas exploration

A leap for automation in oil and gas exploration

Energy generation and exploration is also facing a leap in automation. Nowhere can this be better seen than in Schrobenhausen, north of Munich. The prototype of the TBA 440 M2 deep drilling system is working in the factory premises of Bauer Maschinen GmbH.
The manufacturer, a world-renowned specialist in drilling technology, refers to the rig as compact, suggesting that in the oil & gas industry, everything is in bigger proportions than in other industries. After all, the TBA 440 M2 takes up a 82 by 49 feet space and the mast of the drilling unit is 144 feet high. "Based on the market requirements for maximum reliability, increased efficiency and productivity as well as environmental protection, Bauer utilized its years of experience to develop a new generation of automated deep drilling rig, which is the TBA 440 M2," explains Ulrich Schöpf, sales director Europe, Africa, Asia-Pacific, at the Bauer Deep Drilling GmbH.

Drill pipe

Drill pipe is on board and is fed automatically

Judging by the performance of the system, this space requirement is actually low. For, the system can penetrate deep down to 19,690 feet - and in contrast to other deep drilling rigs, it has all the drill pipes for this task on board. In addition, the system is extensively automated. Directly docked to the actual drilling rig is a "pipe handler": a handling system that automatically takes up to 62 feet long drill pipes from a "high-bay" and inserts them into the borehole.
Dipl.-Ing. Thomas Huber, a design engineer at Bauer who helped to develop the TBA 440 M2: "We have created the first pipe handler with fully automated handling of the drill pipe." "The gripper, which is attached to a mast system, moves to one of the pipes, which are supported vertically or at an angle, grasps the pipe hydraulically and positions it exactly at the transfer point. The gripping mechanism is so flexible that it securely holds pipes with diameters from 2 3/8 to 9 ½ inches and can position pipes weighing up to 3.5 tonnes.


Energy chain for harsh ambient conditions

Among the tasks that had to be solved by the designers of the pipe handler, was the energy supply from the mast system up to the heavy duty gripper. The engineers opted for a system that is also used in numerous other machines in the construction and mining technology. igus® E4-80 energy chains are installed on each of the three axes of the handling system. These chains are suitable for outdoor use not only in drilling rigs of different types (earth drills, pile drivers, rock and tunnel drills), but also for instance in container cranes and recycling plants. They are extremely ruggedly built and equipped with a dual locking mechanism which ensures a long service life even with the filling of stiff and heavy hydraulic hoses.


Insensitive to vibrations, thanks to the "tongue and groove" joint

The chains are suitable for a wide range of temperature, and they are - most importantly for drilling rigs - insensitive to vibration. This is due to the "tongue and groove"design- a feature that ensures an extremely rugged connection of the chain links.
The interlocking chain links also serve as a dirt-repellent outer contour. The separators subdivide the chain interior and also provide an orderly management of numerous cables with different sizes.
Bauer uses ATEX-certified energy chains that comply with explosion protection regulations, given that deep drilling rigs carry media that have a high energy content and can therefore explode. The chains are positioned partly lying, partly standing and reaching travels up to 33 feet. Essentially, they are filled with large hydraulic cables, which equip the gripper with the necessary flexibility and holding power. Moreover, electrical and signal cables for sensors, cameras and lighting are routed via the energy chain to the gripper and to the respective end points of the individual linear axes.


Preassembled cables

igus® provided support for development of the pipe handler at two locations: in addition to the Schrobenhausen site, the Bauer subsidiary Schachtbau Nordhausen was also involved in development. The early involvement of the energy supply specialists offered, from Bauer's perspective, the advantage of using a space-saving, rugged and reliable energy supply system, consisting of components from the igus® standard kit. Special, reinforced guide plates are also used in some of the energy chains. Overall, the entire structure, not only the energy chain, is designed to achieve a very long service life with minimal maintenance under extreme conditions. For this E4-1 energy chain fits the bill perfectly. Bauer completed an extensive range of tests with the TBA 440 M2 in the factory's 6,562-feet deep test drill thereby demonstrating the smooth functioning of the innovative pipe handler. Thomas Huber: "The entire system can be operated by two people accommodated in a comfortable cabin: one monitors the progress of drilling, the other monitors the pipe handler." “


New technology - Additional features

With the TBA 440 M2 Bauer is literally "treading" new ground. This is because the rig, which weighs up to 1000 tonnes, is designed as a "walking" unit. This means that you can, together with pipe handler and 19,690 feet drill pipes, independently move on to the drilling site and thus drill more holes without dismantling and re-mounting. For exploration companies, it means a very significant facilitation and acceleration of the drilling activity. Therefore it is not surprising that Bauer registered strong interest in the TBA 440 M2. One of the initial rigs has already been sold to South America, requests for more are pending from, among others, North America.