Virginia Drill Rig Modifications Improve Safety

April 12, 2013

New technology being used at a drilling site in Virginia will reduce the risk of pipe handling accidents, CONSOL Energy said Wednesday.

Pittsburgh-based CONSOL said in a news release that a rig at one of its drilling sites in Buchanan County has been modified to use hydraulic power tongs instead of manual tongs. The hydraulic tongs allow hands-off movement and placement of pipes, reducing workers’ risk exposure.

Enid, Okla.-based GEFCO, Inc. modified the rig and trained employees of CONSOL and contractor Noah Horn Well Drilling on how to operate the equipment.

“We incurred a serious accident in October 2011 that compelled us to try to figure out how we could jointly prevent these accidents from reoccurring and to learn what could we do to cut down on the use of manual tongs,” Leon Boyd, vice president of operations of Vansant-based Noah Horn Well Drilling, said in the release.

“Not only does this new technology make things safer, but it also cuts down on some of the back breaking work which occurred with manual tongs,” Boyd said.

CONSOL said the modifications could be used throughout the gas industry, including on rigs that drill for coalbed methane gas.

“Safety is our top value at CONSOL Energy and it is a value that is shared by our contractors,” Randy Albert, chief operating officer of CONSOL Energy’s gas division, said in the release “Continuous improvement drove our decision to look for a better way to handle drilling pipe as there have been a number of fatalities in the industry and accidents industry-wide involving the use of manual tongs. This modification to use power tongs reduces exposure to our employees and our contractors’ employees working on the rig and consequently, it creates a safer work environment.”

GEFCO officials said existing rigs can be retrofitted and the technology can be included in the design of future rigs.

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