Rig Locator Blues: 3 Things to Know before Installing GPS Units on 1,800+ Rigs

Everyone wants a reliable rig locator.

Drillinginfo clients are no different.

We dabbled with the idea of creating one for quite some time until one hot summer day back in August of 2012.

A planning meeting convened and little did we know, the list of roadblocks that would try to prevent the DI Rig Locator from becoming the first successful product in Drillinginfo’s 2.0 platform was pretty darn long. But, while it wasn’t easy, we got it done.

Rig Locator War Stories

Among the more interesting things to happen over the 6 months leading up to the launch of DI Rigs, 3 events in particular stand out. Grab some popcorn and enjoy.

  1. Well, Fires DO Happen! – A recent phone call from one of our GIS QC Techs to the contact person at one of the drilling companies we have partnered with went a little something like this: GIS QC Tech, “Hi, we’ve noticed the GPS device on your rig hasn’t reported in over 7 days. We have a policy to follow up on this. Do you know what could be wrong with that device?” Contact Person, “Let me check. Hold on a second while I pull the information up. Looks like we’ve got a note here about some kind of problem at the well site…Uhhh, yeeeah…it says here that that the well blew up last week. No one was hurt, but it looks like your GPS device didn’t survive the explosion. Does that answer your question?” QC Tech, “Oh wow! Yeah, that’ll do it.” Needless to say, we replaced the device.
  2. Man, Some of These Rigs Really get Around! – As we began to acquire several weeks worth of locational information from the rigs scattered about the U.S., we started to notice some of them seemed to jump around pretty fast, and there wasn’t always a permitted well within 1,000 feet. “What’s going on here?” said our GIS QC Tech responsible for helping to discover inconsistencies in the reported locations. “Why is the rig sitting stacked in a yard out in West Texas one day, and then in the middle of Interstate 10 just west of San Antonio the next day? There’s not a well within 10 miles,” she said. “Not sure. Let’s flag it and check it tomorrow,” said our product lead. The next day we checked it as part of our QC process. “Well, now it’s on a drill site down in the Eagle Ford. Must have been eastbound and down, 55 and trucking yesterday!” We’ve seen rig locations just off the highway before, but never on the highway! At least, not yet.
  3. Set It and Forget It – What happens when you install a lithium battery powered GPS device on something that moves around more quickly than Burt Reynolds running from the law in Smokey and the Bandit? What happens when many of the roads they travel are, let’s say rugged and not always well maintained? (No, really, these things do get around. See #2 above.) But back to the question here, and more importantly the answer. You can bet the battery won’t last forever, no matter how well-built the devices are, and they might sometimes just “disappear” into a ditch on the side of the road somewhere in Dimmit County, Texas. Bottom line – batteries fail and devices disappear. Fortunately, we’ve got an extensive team built around monitoring them on a daily basis. We check battery life and plan for replacement before the device fails. We also have an extensive QC process that alerts us so that we can detect when a device isn’t reporting for some unknown reason. While we would have liked to think we could just strap these bad boys on a rig and reap the everlasting rewards, simply maintaining the units is a full-time job – of more than one person!

The compiled data is a work-in-progress and needless to say there was a lot involved in bringing the product to life. You can see the first generation release on our website now. Just login and click the blue “DI Rig Locator” button at the top of the page.

We’ve received many great ideas from you, our customers, on how to improve upon this exciting new dataset. You can look forward to the next phase of Rigs 2.0 in the months ahead to incorporate many of your suggestions.

Your Turn

In the meantime, let’s keep those ideas comin’ in! What would you like to see in the next DI Rig Locator release? Please, leave a comment below.

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Dale Emrich

Dale Emrich is Director of GIS Content at Drillinginfo. He currently oversees a 36-person GIS team. They are responsible for mapping metes and bounds legal descriptions for the LandTrac Product Suite. His team also delivers the DI Rigs product on a daily basis. He has over 20 years of GIS and Oil & Gas / Environmental industry experience. Dale received his Bachelor’s with a focus in Petroleum Land Management from the University of Texas at Austin.
  • James Stobaugh

    I agree Dimmit county has a lot of bad roads, I’m from Dimmit and still here

  • York M. Hwe

    Hi Dale
    We design GPS tracker for vehicle. It is interesting to see how tracker is being used in your industrial. I would like to share our experience with you at point 2 and 3.

    On #2, we tried a new GSM module with intergraded GPS (lower cost and power consumption) in our design and we see the result you descripted (location drifted miles away). We stay away from the new GSM module and put the GSM and GPS as isolated as possible in our hardware design.

    On #3, we keep check of the battery voltage, it is not difficult to set a threshold for the voltage, check and send alert either from the tracker device, or from the server.

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