In its 50th year, Tulsa-based Unit Corp. is looking to boost its drilling rig operations with a new, high-tech rig that will be assembled at its Oklahoma City manufacturing center
“We went 20 years in this industry with no new technology, but in the last 10 years everything's changed,” Unit CEO Larry Pinkston said.
Pinkston and other Unit executives and employees were in Oklahoma City this week to celebrate the company's 50th anniversary.
The new drilling gear is known as a BOSS rig, which is short for a box-on-box self-stacking rig.
“It will be the only rig in the industry with this type of design,” Pinkston said. “With this rig, we've looked at all the new rigs that are coming through the industry over the last three or four years and have taken what we've liked off all those different rigs and put it all on this rig.”
Pinkston said the company's new rig is designed to meet the rapidly changing needs of the oil and natural gas industry.
“One of the most exciting things right now in the industry is that it's almost like the oil and gas industry is starting over,” he said. “We're going back into old fields, drilling wells with a wonderful rate of return in fields that haven't had wells drilled in them in 20 years.”
It has become standard practice in much of the oil patch for companies to drill up to a dozen wells from the same drilling pad in different directions and into different rock layers. The BOSS rig is designed to move quickly around a pad to accommodate multiple wells.
“It used to be that to take a rig down and put it back up was a three- to four-day process. Now you can skid a rig in a couple of hours,” Pinkston said. “That's a tremendous efficiency gain during the drilling process.”
The rig will be equipped with two 2,200 horsepower mud pumps and will be designed to move easily.
“Everything you would like to see in technology, the rig will have it,” Pinkston said.
The first of the new rigs is expected online by the end of the year. It will then be put into service in the Texas Panhandle or in western Oklahoma.
Unit then plans to begin working on its second new rig, which will be used in North Dakota.
“At a minimum, we need four to five out in the field running,” Pinkston said. “We really think with customer demand we will have more than that.”
In an August analyst presentation, Pinkston said the BOSS rigs will cost about $20 million to build and complete. Rigs designed for delivery in Wyoming and North Dakota cost up to an additional $2 million to prepare them for the cold climate.
Unit has grown significantly since its founding in 1963 as a small rig manufacturer.
Besides its rig business, the company also runs an oil and natural gas exploration and production business and a midstream operation with pipelines and gathering and processing infrastructure.
“I'm extremely proud of the way the company has grown,” Unit co-founder King Kirchner said Tuesday.
Unit has more than 2,300 employees nationwide, including 340 at its Tulsa headquarters and more than 120 at its Oklahoma City manufacturing facility.
After renting office space for half a century, Unit is building a new corporate headquarters in Tulsa.
“Our employees are very excited about it,” Pinkston said. “It's the difference between renting an apartment and owning a home. Also, it's in a very public place in Tulsa right on a major highway. That will let a whole lot more people see it. It gives us much more visibility that we don't have now.”