A top drive is a mechanical device on a drilling rig that provides clockwise torque to the drill string to facilitate the process of drilling a borehole. It is an alternative to rotary table. It is located at the swivel place and allows a vertical movement up and down the derrick.
An advantage of a top drive is that it allows the drilling rig to drill longer sections of a stand of drill pipe. A rotary table type rig can only drill 30-foot (9.1 m) (single drill pipe respectively) sections of drill pipe while a top drive can drill 60–90-foot (18–27 m) stands (double-triple respectively. A triple being three joints of drillpipe screwed together.), depending on the drilling rig type. Having longer sections of drill pipe allows the drilling rigs to drill deeper sections of the wellbore, thus making fewer connections of drill pipe. Another advantage of top drive systems is time efficiency. When the bit progresses under a kelly, the entire string must be withdrawn from the well bore for the length of the kelly drive. With a top drive, the draw works only has to pick a new stand from the rack and make two joints. The savings in time reduces the risk of a stuck string from annulus clogging.
Several different kinds of top drives exist, and are usually classified based on the "Safe Working Load" (SWL) of the tool, and the size and type of motor used to rotate the drillpipe. For offshore and heavy duty use, a 1000 short ton, top drive would be used, where a smaller land rig may only require a 500. Motors are available in all sizes, and come in Hydraulically powered, AC, or DC motors.
- Schlumberger Oilfield Glossary
- Tesco Corporation
- Canrig Drilling Technology
- LeTourneau Technologies (now Cameron)
- National Oilwell Varco
- Warrior Rig
- GDS International
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