An energy company in Canada says an experimental drill rig that can be transported via helicopter has proved to be a viable alternative to building roads into remote regions to explore for oil. Cenovus Energy said recently it has been working on the rig, called SkyStrat, for two years. The rig provides the company with added flexibility and lower costs, executive vice president Harbir Chhina said in a company report. Using traditional rigs, Chhina said, road access and camps are required, and a minimum of 40 to 50 wells must be drilled to justify the expense. "With this rig we can drill one, two, three, 50 wells, whatever we want," he said.
In addition, drilling costs with the helicopter rig are cut by 25 percent, he said. The technology also has less environmental impact than conventional exploration methods and can be used year-round. The company plans to complete construction of a second SkyStrat rig next summer, Chhina said. "With two rigs, we can keep a flow helicopter busy for the whole day," he said. "We had a lot of inefficiencies with just one rig and the helicopter sits around for quite a while, so we think that will be key to getting the second rig built." The first rig drilled 16 wells this year, and about 25 are planned for next year.