The people at FHE USA, of Fruita, Colorado, constantly ask their customers a simple question – what is the biggest challenge you’re facing?
It’s not idle chitchat. Consider FHE’s newest product, RigLock™. This hydraulic system has revolutionised wellhead connections, dramatically making the process faster, more efficient and, most importantly, significantly safer for workers.
The RigLock has caught the industry’s attention. FHE, a manufacturer of pressure control equipment is rapidly ramping up production to meet the needs of its customers. FHE is particularly leaning on the expertise of Diesel Services of Grand Junction, Colorado, and its distributor, Perkins Pacific in Ridgefield, Washington, to provide 100 Perkins® 403F-11 diesel engines needed to power the RigLocks coming off the production line.
FHE is familiar with the Perkins reputation for durability and reliability, having used its engines in the past. The 403F-11 fit FHE’s need for the RigLock because of its compact size and power density.
“It’s the perfect engine,” said Nick Snoke, FHE president. “It’s not overly cold blooded, it had the lowest vibration of engines we tested and it comes with a great service network. Regardless of where our customers are located, there is a Perkins service centre nearby.”
The 1.1-litre, 3-cylinder Perkins 403F-11 was the clear favourite among the engines tested to operate the RigLock’s control unit. Beyond the performance measurements, the engine meets U.S. EPA Tier 4 Final emission standards and its fuel efficiency means an overall low cost of operation.
“It’s the best engine we’ve used to date,” Nick said.
The RigLock utilises a piston and cam system to connect surface equipment to a wellhead. The equipment is lowered from overhead and guided into the wellhead where six primary locking cams secure the connection. A secondary mechanical locking ring is lowered to anchor the cams. The locking system will remain in place even if hydraulic power is accidentally lost.
The operator manipulates the RigLock using a control panel that sits several hundred feet away from the wellhead, allowing the operator to oversee the operation at a safe distance. The control unit, which is customised to each customer’s specific needs, also features a quick test manifold and 2-inch 1502 pump and sump port, and integrates with a digital well monitoring system.
The RigLock was created and designed during a lull in the oil and gas industry. FHE used the spare time it had in 2015 to revisit conversations they routinely have with customers about challenges. Nick said his team kept coming back to worker injuries that occur at the wellhead.
Workers connecting wellhead equipment are typically suspended in a basket that is 20 to 30 feet in the air. Once aloft, they wrestle with equipment that weighs thousands of pounds and try to communicate with people on the ground using hand signals. Injuries are common.
The FHE team went about designing a system to remove the human element. The process of designing, testing and refining the initial solution took almost two years. The final iteration, the RigLock, gives well operators a clearly better way to gear up and down wellheads.
The traditional method of changing equipment on wellheads can take up to an hour. The RigLock takes at most 60 seconds to secure the equipment to the wellhead and can handle three wellheads at once. Most importantly, workers are nowhere near dangerous pinch points and overhanging equipment.
“RigLock is keeping our customers off the wellhead and if they’re off the wellhead, they are out of danger and harm’s way,” said Nick.