Home / Energy / If a top drive motor design has worked for 50 years, why change it? Because new technology gives you more horsepower and torque
high power density motor, Ward Leonard
High power density motors, built specifically for top drives, mud pumps, draw words and rotary tables, offer up to 50% more horsepower and torque with the same or smaller footprint than conventional motors. Photo: Ward Leonard.

If a top drive motor design has worked for 50 years, why change it? Because new technology gives you more horsepower and torque

Oft times when something is working, the prevailing attitude is usually, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Especially if something has been working for more than 50 years.

That pretty much describes what has happened with top drive motors in the oil patch.  The induction motors really hadn’t changed since their introduction in 1982. They seemed to work well, even if they were cumbersome and periodically caused downhole problems.

But, all-in-all they worked, and no one seemed in much of a hurry to improve on the technology.

Until the folks at Ward Leonard had a better idea.

Ward Leonard is a global industrial technology company that specializes in developing highly engineered, integrated motor, generator, control and MRO solutions.  Their expertise in the oil field allowed them to design, develop and perfect the oil industry’s first and only line of high power density (HPD) AC induction motors built specifically for top drives, mud pumps, draw works and rotary tables.

But what exactly is high power density? It basically relates to the ratio of power/size as well as power/weight.  The line of Ward Leonard HPD motors fits that criteria to a tee.  You effectively get more power with less size and weight.

So what does that mean for drilling contractors, well service companies and OEMs?  The introduction of these industry-changing motors means they can now have up to 50% more horsepower and torque, while having the same or smaller footprint than conventional motors.  The motors range from 450 to 2000 horsepower, and they’re available in vertical or horizontal mounting configurations.

“The industry has been customizing locomotive traction motors for oilfield use for over a half century.  That may have seemed like a good idea in the 60s and 70s, but this is the age of technological advances, and in many cases, the old way of doing things just isn’t practical any more, especially in today’s market where consistently reducing CAPEX and OPEX budgets is critical,” said Chris Spafford, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Ward Leonard. “Ever since we entered this end of the market, our customers have been asking us to apply our extensive technological expertise to take drilling motors to the next level, enabling them to do more with less. These high power density motors do that and more.”

But it’s not just the increased horsepower and higher torque that has industry heads turning.  These HPD motors are a boon for horizontal drillers as well, since they enable drilling through even the toughest of geologic formations.  In horizontal drilling, the pipe must not only rotate, but it must bend at the same time.  In the past this has led to bound-up pipe, burned-out motors, lost production, and many a field hand pulling his hair out.  The high power density motors from Ward Leonard allow the user to make longer horizontal runs as well as drilling deeper in a much quicker amount of time.

And it doesn’t stop there.  The new, efficient motors let the user increase pump pressure, thereby applying more pressure on the drill string.  In addition, the lighter weight, smaller footprint means an easy retrofit to the customer’s existing rig without any major modifications.  The lighter weight also means a significant reduction in transportation costs, since it can be moved from site to site.  All of this combines for a lower lifecycle cost for the motors, and that translates to a healthier bottom line for the customer.

“This is a historic change for the industry,” said Spafford. “By providing a comprehensive line of motors that not only deliver more horsepower and torque, but are lighter and smaller than higher power equivalent frame sizes, our customers are now able to confidently develop the innovative rig and application designs they envision to drive the industry into the future.”

motor, Ward Leonard

WL12BB060 Top Drive Motor

Currently, Ward Leonard offers five different motors for top drive applications.  As an example of the size and weight difference (and the increased power/torque), one model (WL12BB060) delivers up to fifty percent more horsepower and torque than a standard 400 horsepower frame motor, and weighs 1200 pounds less than a standard 600 horsepower frame motor.

Ward Leonard isn’t stopping there, though.  As wells go deeper and deeper, motors will need to keep up with the demand for more power and less space.  “In the oil field not only is time money, but space is money too,” said Spafford.  “Power requirements for drilling motors will continue to increase because there are formations out there that we currently can’t drill into with today’s technology, or we won’t simply because of the economics.  HPD motors take us to the next level. Not only do they optimize the capabilities of each application, but they achieve higher productivity through technological efficiency.  That’s what our customers expect from us, and that’s what we intend to keep delivering.”

If you would like to learn more about Ward Leonard’s products and services, visit www.wardleonard.com/oil/or call them at +1-860-283-5801.

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