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The Different Types of Oil Drilling Rigs

Drilling rigs are essential to the oil and gas industries because of their ability to extract petroleum from the earth’s surface. There are many types of drilling rigs, used in both offshore and land-based drilling. The type of oil rig selected for a particular job depends on the specific requirements of the site.

Both offshore and land-based rigs bring in large amounts of oil, though offshore rigs tend to come to mind when you think of an oil rig.

Let’s take a closer look at the different types of drilling rigs, how they are designed, and their uses.

The Different Types of Drilling Rigs

An oil drilling rig extracts petroleum from the earth. But there are different types of drilling rigs. Here’s your guide to know which rig your company needs.

Jackup Rigs

Jackups are the type of drilling structure most often used for offshore operations. The main deck is supported by a series of open-truss legs that extend up to 350 feet to the ocean floor.

Some jackup rigs are known as a keyway or slot-type rigs, which have an opening in the drilling deck, with a derrick positioned over the opening. The second type of jackup is known as a cantilevered jackup, with the drilling derrick mounted to an arm that extends out from the deck.


This type of offshore oil drilling rig is semi-submersible units that float on giant pontoons or hollow columns that can submerge the rig to the needed depth when filled with water. Floaters are typically used for drilling new wells because of their ability to withstand rough ocean conditions.

Fixed Platforms

These types of oil platforms are permanent, immobile cement structures, used to house drilling rigs that open new wells. Fixed platforms are connected to the ocean floor, and are large enough to house crew and equipment.

These are mostly found in great depths, up to 1,700 feet, such as on continental shelves, and can use a drilling technique called directional drilling, allowing them to be attached to numerous wells within a five-mile radius.

Complaint Towers

Similar to fixed platforms, complaint towers consist of a narrow tower supported by a piled foundation, and a conventional drilling deck. Because of its narrow and flexible design, a complaint tower can withstand tremendous forces sustaining great lateral deflections in depths from 1,500 to 3,000.


Typically built on tanker hulls, these merchant’s vessels are designed for use at great depths for scientific drilling purposes. These vessels look similar to tankers or cargo vessels, but drillships are equipped with a drilling derrick and a helipad for receiving supplies and transporting staff.

Drillships are mobile, able to propel themselves from location to location.

The Importance of Oil Rigs

Each of these types of drilling rigs is vital to the production of oil and gas. Crews work around the clock, every day of the year, pumping petroleum from the earth for countless purposes, for both industrial and consumer uses.

It’s a complex, fascinating industry that impacts your life in more ways than you could imagine.

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