CALGARY, Alberta – It is a well known fact in the industry that there are tens of trillions of cubic meters of prospective natural gas reserves in a number of deep basins spread throughout China. At some point within the last decade, infrastructure limitations stood in the way of bringing this gas to market, but recent improvements have paved the way to turn these prospective and contingent gas resources into proven resources.

There is one challenge, however, that has plagued developing these massive gas fields from day 1: they are typically located underneath vast regional mountain ranges, which makes drilling wells next to impossible – until now.

Calgary-based SkyDream Resources and its wholly-owned subsidiary, RotorDrill Drilling Services Ltd., together are looking to exploit the 2.6T cubic meters of natural gas in the Junggar Basin in Northeastern China. The companies have designed a drilling program that, at first read, sounds out of this world, because technically, it is.

Richard Glickman, CEO

We know the reserves are there, and even at today’s natural gas prices, we feel that our projected 20 BCF wells can still be wildly economic. The mountains? Yes, we have figured them out. The guys over at RotorDrill Drilling Services are currently building a prototype drilling helicopter, which is basically a hybrid between a chopper and a top-drive drilling rig. The idea is that we are going to drill these wells from the sky, to avoid the rough terrain presented by the mountains. We are confident this will work. – Richard Glickman, SkyDream Resources President & CEO

According to a press release held yesterday in the lobby of the company’s 4th avenue headquarters, the modified floating drilling platform comprises a recommissioned former military Sea King helicopter that is specially equipped with a kelly table and top-drive assembly. The top-drive assembly is parasitically driven from the helicopter’s main rotors and controlled through special gearing.

The Sea King chopper was specifically chosen for its 15-person capacity, which is plenty enough for the toolpushers, derrickhands, a motorman, directional driller, and of course the wellsite geologist, who sits in a special, more comfortable captains chair up front.

And the bright engineering minds at RotorDrill Drilling Services devised a novel approach to adding lengths of drilling pipe to the string. Instead of using a big and heavy traveling block, they figured they can just trip the entire string out of the ground and add a joint to the bottom of the string – in essence, making the entire helicopter a traveling block.

An average well in the Junggar Basin will require specially trained pilots that can effectively hover a rotary aircraft with enough skill to trip 15,000 feet of drill pipe out of the hole on every connection.  Roughnecks on the ground will change the bottom hole assembly with conventional tongs to avoid extra costs.

An aging Sea King on flight trials in China.
An aging Sea King on flight trials in China.

A pilot drilling project has been slated for February of 2014, in proximity to the 3 Sisters mountains in Canmore.  The goal of the pilot project is to discover and correct any technical or operational problems before sending the equipment to China.



We want to test our drilling technique and make sure our invert mud system is going to work on Canadian soil.  The last thing we need is an environmental wreck on foreign soil.  We need to make sure that any kinks in our mechanical systems are worked out before we go. – Glickman when asked about EH&S policies.


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