By Lauren Barrett

GASDRILL International is close to launching its latest unconventional coal seam gas (CSG) drill rig onto the Australian market for the first time, which company founder and chief executive Ian Mann says will fill a gap in the market.

A marine engineer and experienced oil and gas mechanic, Mr Mann designed the CMD220 drill rig, spending two and a half years getting it to launch-ready status.

The 100-tonne pull back rig, which was constructed in China with GasDrill International’s local partner, has been specifically designed for unconventional gas applications targeting the CSG, coal bed methane, shale and tight gas markets.

Prior to the CMD220, Mr Mann oversaw the construction of five similar drill rigs which were sold to China-based companies with operations in the domestic CSG market.

Mr Mann told Oil & Gas Australia that his dedication to constructing a rig specifically designed for the Australian market was spawned a few years ago when a “major drilling contractor” involved in CSG in Queensland registered their interest in almost a dozen custom-made rigs.

“I got quite excited about that,” he said.Mr Mann then literally bet the farm on it, selling his 40 hectare property in his home state of Western Australia to get the capital needed to fund the project.

He got straight to work, signing a joint venture with a Chinese manufacturer where the rigs are built and set out to build a custom rig specifically for the Australian market based on the requirements of what the major drilling company was looking for.

“Our target was to build a rig that could go on Australian roads without an escort and without permits,” he said.

Secondly, it had to have fast mobilisation.He said the big oil and gas rigs could take ten days to move and the smaller rigs were not really up to the task.

Even the US-based rigs coming over required modifications and a ramp. Mr Mann said a lot of the mineral rigs initially went over to the CSG market to do the drilling so he recognised a market gap.

“There definitely was a gap that needed to be filled with a specifically built rig for the market,” he said.

“Everything about the CMD220 is designed to be self-unloading so there is no crane required.

“Instead of days, we are talking hours to have the rig set up. Due to its innovative design, we believe it will be one of the fastest rigs of its size when mobilising between drill sites.”

The rig, which complies with API design rules and Australian Mine Safety recommendations, was designed with simplicity in mind.

Mr Mann said the rigs deployed from the US into the Australian market were automated and were controlled by computer programs.

“That extra technology means you need extra resources to maintain that,” Mr Mann said, putting the figure for two electronic technicians at US$750,000 per annum.

“I set about to design a rig that was completely hands free drilling but to do away with the computer controls,” Mr Mann said.

“I want to aim the rig at companies that are entering the market as well as for the big players.”

Fitted with Caterpillar engines and boasting components from other well-known international brands such as Ryco, the CMD220 will drill with the largest length drill rods on the market.

Mr Mann said that while the drill rig was of very high quality, it came with a price tag of less than US$2 million, or roughly just over half the price of a similar machines, which was mainly due to the competitive advantage of having the manufacturing facilities in China.

“The rig is 30 per cent to 40% cheaper than the American equipment,” Mr Mann said.

While GasDrill is in the final commissioning and testing stages for the rig, Mr Mann said the rig was already starting to get a lot of interest from Australian and international players.

With the rig just months away from hitting Australian shores, Mr Mann seems to have timed the launch perfectly given the anticipated growth in the local emerging unconventional gas and CSG industry.

According to a report by CoalBed Energy Consultants, an estimated 40,000 CSG wells will be drilled in Queensland in coming years to satisfy the requirements of at least three LNG trains at Gladstone.

Mr Mann is confident his rig can have a slice of that action and is hopeful the Australian market will snag the CMD220.

“I believe I’ve built something good. It would be nice to have the rig in Australia by December,” he said.