PETEX animated oil rig
Images from PETEX's animated oil rig

PETEX explains drilling procedures with new animated oil rig


With the recent unfortunate event of the offshore oil rig explosion, the public has developed an increased interest in oil rigs and how they work. The design, functions, and features of offshore and onshore oil rigs are somewhat similar and both can be dangerous, although offshore rigs are usually more dangerous because of their location at sea.

In 2007, Dr. Paul Bommer of the university's Department of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering decided to develop an animated teaching tool of a rig in action. This type of learning aid is not something new for Dr. Bommer, who often uses visualization techniques to teach his students key processes used in oil drilling.

The animated rig tool was developed to introduce petroleum engineering undergraduates to a drilling rig. Unlike a real rig, you can rotate and explore this rig without actually putting on a hard hat. Dr. Bommer’s animated rig portrays components of a typical oil drilling rig including the drilling platform, rig controls, the rig floor, the choke manifold and separator, the blowout preventer, mud pumps, engines, remote closing unit, and even shows how diagonal drilling works underground.

To develop the animated rig, Dr. Bommer worked with Erik Zumalt and Juan Diaz of the Cockrell School of Engineering Faculty Innovation Center. According to Zumalt, “A couple of years ago Dr. Bommer came to us with the idea. He took me and Juan Diaz, our video producer, out to a working site near Giddings to record reference images for the model. We spent about 6 hours touring the rig and got some great photos and video.” After the tour, Zumalt and Diaz, with input from Bommer, built the 3D model and rendered it as different movie clips that each focus on a particular system. They then connected these clips and made them interactive using Adobe Flash. The end result was an interactive tool that promises to be of great use to industry instructors and students.

This animated tool has been expanded with increased interactive capabilities to be used as a learning tool as part of the PETEX Rotary Drilling training modules. An online demo of the animated oil rig is now available. The animated oil rig is expected to launch in late July 2010.

For more information on PETEX or its publications and classes, please visit the PETEX Web site.


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