Case Study: McKay Drilling T685i EoH Rig Build

November 2021

McKay and Schramm

Schramm Australia recently delivered the latest version of the T685i, Electric over Hydraulic drill rig, to McKay Drilling (Wangara, WA). McKay has a large fleet with multiple T685i rigs, used primarily for exploration and mining. Schramm Australia’s Oceania Sales, Service and Marketing Manager, Dion Domaschenz speaks to Aaron Earl, General Manager of McKay Drilling Pty Ltd about their latest Schramm T685i drill rig.

Making the EoH Switch

Earl explains why McKay drilling switched to Electric over Hydraulic (EoH) rigs six years ago. He outlines the main advantages as gaining more exposure to Tier 1 clients, protection from the down cycles brought by green field exploration drilling, safety of drilling crews and moving towards full automation.

Weathering the Ups & Downs

“Our business strategy was to gain more exposure to Tier 1 clients to benefit from the consistent work and long-term contracts while also shielding the business from some of the up and down cycles of green fields exploration drilling. Back in 2013 and 2014 the exploration industry was a bit flat, a lot of drilling companies retracted spending on new equipment, innovations and even maintaining their fleet. McKay Drilling identified this as an opportunity and invested heavily in innovation and new technology, partnering with Schramm to develop remote operable, semi-autonomous ‘EoH’ rigs.”

Safety & Remote Operation

Schramm’s EoH hardware and software incorporates electric over hydraulic valves, controlled by a Programmable Logic Controller. Rig operators can view and change drilling and operating parameters and view rig diagnostics via a Human to Machine Interface.

Improving the safety of drilling crews through remote operation is one of the main benefits for customers of Schramm.

“Our company founder has always been a supporter and driver of new innovations and technologies. The improved safety for the crews was an obvious benefit.” Earl goes on to state “However it wasn’t until we introduced the Schramm T685i drill rigs into our fleet that we realised the future potential that EoH and computer-based control system interfaces could actually bring to our business.”

Automation & Productivity

Protecting operators and improving safety increases cost savings and efficiencies. However, EoH solutions also provide the ability to monitor, gather and analyse machine and drilling data which leads to improved reliability and productivity.

Earl shares “our future vision is to eliminate all staff from the drill pad, enable the rigs to operate in an autonomous state while being monitored remotely from a central control station. Once we get to this level of automation, we expect to see massive increases in safety, reliability, productivity and long-term cost savings through reduced headcount, reduced equipment damage and planned preventative maintenance programs.”

Intuitive & User Friendly

Although McKay Drilling had some initial concerns that the reliability of electrical machines could waver, they found that after a couple of years of operation, the T685i was on par, and in many cases better than the conventional standard hydraulic RC and diamond rigs.

“As with the introduction of any new technology or systems, there was a period of adoption and learning required, both for the fitters and operators to troubleshoot mechanical and electrical issues. With time on the equipment, they picked it up pretty well.” Earl goes on to state that “operating the equipment was picked up quickly by the drillers. The control interface is very intuitive and user friendly.”

Successful Results

With ongoing improvements and engineering, Tier 1 clients continue to see the value in computer-based control systems and are willing to invest and partner with contractors who are innovating and developing automated systems. McKay drilling has been operating Schramm T685i rigs for over 6 years and continues to be a leader in EoH remote operable and autonomous exploration drill rigs.