In the oil industry’s early days, rigs were cable comprised constructions booming with loud rhythms of pulleys, belts and levers. Canada-based Automation Controls and Electric inc. (ACE) has taken the industry into the new century with advanced automation control systems, helping to replace the mechanical cacophony with a quiet, electronic hum that resonates with increased efficiency and production, reports Dan Harvey.
Automation Controls and Electric Inc. (ACE) exudes a low-level vibration that pulses with a highly potent spark of innovation. A purveyor of advanced electronic solutions, the company literally throbs with energy – so much so that the clients it touches are forever transformed – sort like when someone inadvertently touches a downed (but still live) high wire and undergoes an out-of-body experience, only to return with an altered consciousness that forever changes how they look at the world.
That’s the best way to describe the impact the ACE has on its customers.
Headquartered in Nisku, Alberta, Canada, ACE specializes in automating customers’ equipment and systems through cutting-edge electronic methods that include advanced robotics, precision hydraulics and vision systems. This is, indeed, cutting-edge, paradigm-shifting stuff.
Servicing customers in the oilfield and manufacturing arenas, ACE provides the necessary hardware and software that enable clients to fully integrate their systems and, in turn, establish production facilities characterized by comprehensive automation.
The company offers a complete range of services and products related to electrical control and automation – boasting a full complement of electricians, registered apprentices and electrical engineering technologists that can assist clients in completing any project, no matter how large, small or complex.
Throughout its history, ACE has developed control systems for a broad array of machines and, as the company indicates, its applications are uniquely designed toward specific tasks. In this way, ACE helps customers increase their production capacities.
A truly 21st-century enterprise, ACE emerged in the new millennium’s first decade. “The company opened its doors seven years ago, and was established by Richard Ariss, Kevin Ross and myself,” indicates Jake Driedger, who assumed the ACE vice presidential role in this founding triumvirate. “Essentially, we went after any and all automation-focused organizations, but we primarily focused on the oil-and-gas sector.”
One thing led to another, as Driedger indicates, and ACE moved itself forward when it became involved with Bear Drilling. “At the time, Adrian LaChance was co-owner of the company, and he hired us to retrofit one of his company’s drilling rigs,” recalls Driedger. “Basically, he wanted us to remove all of the existing automation and replace it with our own equipment.”
Since then, Bear Drilling was sold to Trinidad Drilling of Calgary, Canada. Following that 2003 acquisition, LaChance remained on board, and he turned to ACE to handle Trinidad’s automation needs on all of its new-built rigs. The relationship resulted in Trinidad purchasing ACE, relates Driedger.
It was an opportune set of circumstances: Trinidad, which was established in 1996, evolved into one of the leading players in the oil drilling industry. “Now, ACE takes care of all of the electronic and automation installations on all of the new Trinidad builds,” informs Driedger. “Basically, that takes us into the U.S drilling industry in Texas and Louisiana, as Trinidad has a strong presence in that region. It owns the manufacturer that builds its new drilling rigs, and the company recently placed more than 60 drilling rigs in the United States. Plus, it builds all of its new rigs here in Nisku.”
ACE has placed its fingerprints all over those structures. “Our product range and services encompass all of the automation, electrical installations and service that go into those rigs – and that illustrates our primary purpose in the industry,” informs Driedger.
The relationship also keeps ACE fairly busy and, in turn, profitable. “Trinidad builds about one new rig a month,” Driedger reports.
Underscoring ACE contribution to customers, Driedger explains that his company provides products that harness the benefits of programmable logic controller-based (PLC) control systems. “As this relates to drilling rigs – and what benefits the Trinidad drilling rigs – we provide the PLC systems on drilling rigs that work in conjunction with variable frequency drives,” he says.
Specifically, it allows for complete, finite control of high horsepower equipment – for draw works and mud pumps, for example, explains Driedger. “It enables us to provide 100-percent torque at zero speed,” he says. “For instance, on the draw works, this allows for more precise drilling at very high speeds, which leads to a very efficient drilling rate.”
In the larger picture, major components of ACE’s product line include a complete integrated drilling rig control system. Designed in-house, the system combines all of the main rig functions. Through an 18-inch industrial touch screen monitor, the operator can control or monitor mud pump speed, as well as draw works speed and all of a rig’s auxiliary motors, top-speed drive and torque draw works alarms and shutdowns, including the amount of braking that’s applied.
Specific components include driller console, choke/manifold control system, top drive control system, accumulator/bop control system, closed-circuit digital camera system, wireless pipe handling/catwalk control, A/C and D/C drilling rig drive systems, and remote satellite access systems.
Also, ACE developed a distinctive valve control system that includes a data monitoring and storage software system. The system is comprised of touch screens mounted on one or more portable skid units, according to the company. This arrangement provides operators the capability to control and monitor all critical pressures, levels and valve positions. Further, the system collects data and transmits the information through the wireless Ethernet to a central computer positioned in a local office.
From that local office, a supervisor can monitor all critical pressures and levels and valve positions. In addition, the supervisor can open or close any valve with a mere click of the computer mouse. Moreover, ACE developed a data acquisition software package that stores complete data and produces necessary detailed reports.
A versatile company, ACE hasn’t found a machine that it can’t couple to its design capabilities. Offering the latest robotic electronics and high-precision hydraulic controls, ACE is confident that it can increase production capacity for any number of facilities. As such, companies focused on moving forward and remaining competitive can consider the Canadian enterprise the Ace up its sleeve.