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Process Improvement Keeping Energy Production in High Gear


Worldwide demand for energy is growing. Fortunately, so too is the technology for producing energy. Tis is where the gear—that humble mechanical cogwheel that quietly goes about its job of rotating and delivering torque to various pieces of machinery—has an important role to play. Tat’s because a large portion of the world’s energy depends in one way or an-


other upon gears: gears that can help drills bore through the earth’s crust and reach for oil or natural gas; gears that make mining for coal more effective; and gears that help wind turbines convert a breeze in the sky into electricity. Indiana Technology and Manufacturing Companies (ITAMCO; Plymouth,


IN) is one of the most extraordinary gear shops in the world, delivering precision- machined components to OEMs that serve the energy industry. In the process, ITAMCO helps a rapidly growing and industrializing world meet its energy needs. Te energy industry is still largely dominated by fossil fuels, and gears play a critical role in extracting three of its major players: oil, natural gas, and coal.


Drilling for Oil ITAMCO’s gears are used in some of the nation’s leading top-drive drilling sys-


tems, which are primarily—though not exclusively—used on land-based oil wells. A top drive is a mechanical device on a drilling rig that provides clockwise torque to the drill to facilitate the process of drilling a borehole. Te better the gear, the more reliable the torque that can be delivered by the top-drive system. An advantage of a top drive is that it allows the drilling rig to drill longer sections


of a stand of drill pipe. A rotary table type rig can only drill 30' (9-m) sections of drill pipe, while a top drive can drill 60–90' (18.3–27.4-m) stands, depending on the drilling rig type. Having longer sections of drill pipe allows the drilling rigs to drill deeper sections of the wellbore, thus making fewer connections of drill pipe—which reduces the amount of time it takes to reach the actual liquid gold underground. Meanwhile, in sea-based quests for oil, we oſten see the jack-up rig: a self-ele-


vating type of mobile platform that is capable of raising its hull over the surface of the sea. Jack-up rigs are used to search for oil and gas deposits down to a maximum water depth of 130 m. Te buoyant hull of the jack-up rig enables the unit and all attached machinery


to be transported out to sea, to the desired location, by towboats. Here’s where the gears come into play. Te platform, which can oſten weigh as much as 6000 tons (5444 t), stands on three legs that rest on the seabed and can be jacked up vertically. Much the way a car jack raises up a car one ratchet at a time, the rig is raised and lowered by up to 54 helical planetary gear units connected by racks and pinions. Without this ability to “climb” up and down, sea-based oil exploration—which seldom takes place on smooth, placid waters—would be much more difficult.


Fracturing for Gas In recent years, there’s been a lot of attention around hydraulic fracturing or fracking—the act of injecting highly pressurized liquid into rock to help release


70 Energy Manufacturing 2014


Joel Neidig Technology Manager ITAMCO Plymouth, IN


Toothy round things drive the equipment that drives the energy industry, which helps make the world go around.


A mining transmission carrier is just one of the components that ITAMCO manufactures for the energy industry.


Images courtesy of ITAMCO


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