History of the drilling rig

Until internal combustion engines were developed in the late 19th century, the main method for drilling rock was muscle power of man or animal. Rods were turned by hand, using clamps attached to the rod. The rope and drop method invented in Zigong, China used a steel rod or piston raised and dropped vertically via a rope. Mechanised versions of this persisted until about 1970, using a cam to rapidly raise and drop what, by then, was a steel cable.

Swanson Drilling Texas East at night

In the 1970s, outside of the oil and gas industry, roller bits using mud circulation were replaced by the first pneumatic reciprocating piston Reverse Circulation (RC) drills, and became essentially obsolete for most shallow drilling, and are now only used in certain situations where rocks preclude other methods. RC drilling proved much faster and more efficient, and continues to improve with better metallurgy, deriving harder, more durable bits, and compressors delivering higher air pressures at higher volumes, enabling deeper and faster penetration. Diamond drilling has remained essentially unchanged since its inception.

Antique drilling rig now on display at Western History Museum in Lingle, Wyoming. It was used to drill many water wells in that area—many of those wells are still in use.

Antique drilling Rigs in Zigong, China

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