The Kelly Katch Kan
On his first day working on an oilrig, Albertan Quinn Holtby got
blasted, and nearly knocked off the rig by a blast of uncontrolled,
high-pressure drilling fluid.
This was a common scene on oilrigs prior to 1995. Drilling fluid
containment systems consisted of a 117 kilogram steel can hung on cables
above the drill floor. Uncontrolled discharge at the well bore shot out
if the driller raised the drill pipe out of the hole too fast, when
someone accidentally left the rig pumps running, or when the steel cans
pressure seals burst.
The bursting fluid sent workers diving for cover, causing injuries and
sometimes leaving them soaked with drilling fluid in 40 C weather.
Companies were losing money due to the lost fluid, as well as to injury
compensation. There was also environmental damage caused by the fluid
draining into the ground around the rig. Spills were simply covered up
by gravel, with contaminated material building up around the rig.
Quinn Holtby decided
that this was unacceptable. He turned down a
promotion in the oilpatch and instead entered into real estate. In his spare time,
he started working on a new containment-and-catch
system to solve the drilling-fluid problem. Working in his garage, he experimented with
various materials, settling on a type of plastic so durable that it
would withstand being run over by a 50-tonne crane. By 1995, the basic
design was ready.
The Kelly/Katch Kan system consists of two basic partsthe Kelly Kan and
the Katch Kan. The Kelly Kan replaces the old steel can, installed above
the drill floor. It weighs just 12 kilograms, and can be installed by a
single worker, without halting operations and is designed to snap
together, eliminating the need for tools. The Kelly Kan directs drill
fluid down to the Katch Kan, which has a variety of parts with different
functions and can also be installed without tools. The Katch Kan
captures the fluid, which can then be reused or recycled.
The Katch Kan has so far saved companies hundreds of thousands of dollars. In a
five-month study of a well in Latin America, the Katch Kan Zero Spill
System saved the company at least $576,000 US. It has also reduced the
environmental impact made by the rigs, and cut down on worker injuries.
The Katch Kan has so far been used in over 400 rigs around the
over 20 drilling companies, again illustrating the global relevance of many Alberta inventions. The entire system is made up of a number of
patented components, a fact common to many inventions. For his efforts,
Holtby won the
2000 Manning Award for Innovation for the Invention.
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