Drilling Rig Companies – The Top 5 US Contractors

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Robin Abrams
Robin Abramshttp://www.energyfin.com
Robin is an energy analyst and researcher for the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust.

Who are the main land drilling rig contractors in the US?

The practice of “land drilling” (or “onshore drilling”) refers to the drilling of oil and gas (O&G) wells on land (as opposed to offshore drilling).

The land drilling market worldwide is structured primarily as a rental market, not a sales market, where land drilling companies lease their rigs to E&P companies for an agreed period of time – weeks, months, or years – at a day-rate. The rigs are then used to drill wells and execute the E&P’s drilling programs.

Drilling opportunities are analysed and explored in order, leaving a series of dry holes, until a discovery is made. It is rare for an E&P company to actually own the rigs which they operate, but there are some exceptions such as Chesapeake, who will purchase their own fleet of rigs.

Under these rental contracts, a turnkey cost is paid by an E&P business to a middleman. This includes an insurance premium, which is returned if nothing goes wrong, but may be lost if there are difficulties. Higher specification equipment commands a larger premium.

Investors require a minimum level of return for their investment dollars in drilling operations, and typically equate cost with risk. These turnkey drilling contracts may limit risk by guaranteeing a minimum number of wells that can be drilled with the rig. The contract will also outline how the rig can be used – including the pieces of equipment, when to change pieces, temperature and pressure tolerances and the weight of mud.

The International Association of Drilling Contractors (IADC) lists 547 members in the category of Land Drilling Contractors. According to Statista, the key US land drilling contractors are: Nabors Industries Ltd, Helmerich & Payne Inc, Patterson-UTI Energy Inc, Precision Drilling Corporation and Pioneer Energy Services Corp.

The Top 5 Drilling Rig Companies:

Nabors Industries Ltd.

Nabors operates the world’s largest land drilling rig fleet, with around 500 rigs operating in over 25 countries – in almost every significant O&G basin on the planet. It also has the largest number of high-specification rigs (including new AC rigs and refurbished SCR rigs) and custom rigs, built to withstand challenging conditions such as extreme cold, desert and many complex shale plays.

Helmerich & Payne Inc.

Headquartered in Tulsa, Oklahoma, H&P is a global business with land operations across the US, as well as offshore operations in the Gulf of Mexico. It is engaged primarily in the drilling of O&G wells for E&P companies, and recognised for its innovative FlexRig technology.

Patterson-UTI Energy Inc.

Patterson-UTI operates land based drilling rigs, primarily in O&G producing regions of the continental US, and western Canada. The company also provides pressure pumping services to US E&P companies and specialist technology, notably pipe handling components, to drilling contractors globally.

Precision Drilling Corporation

Precision is an oilfield services company and Canada’s largest drilling rig contractor, with over 240 rigs in operation worldwide. The Company has two segments. The Contract Drilling Services segment operates its rigs in Canada, the United States and internationally. The Completion and Production Services segment provides completion and workover services and ancillary services to O&G E&P companies in Canada and the US.

Pioneer Energy Services Corp.

Pioneer operates a modern fleet of more than 24 top performing drilling rigs throughout onshore O&G producing regions of the US and Colombia. The company also offers production services include well servicing, wireline, and coiled tubing services – supported by 100 well-servicing rigs, and more than 100 cased-hole, open-hole and offshore wireline units.

Together these five companies dominate the US rental market. Other smaller but prominent contractors include: Parker Drilling, Unit Corp, Independence Contract Drilling, Seventy Seven Energy, Schramm and Ensign Drilling. Beyond these players, the market is highly fractured, with many “mom & pop” style drillers.

In Texas, generally considered to be the centre of US land drilling, RigData reports that there are currently 678 active rigs – split between Helmerich & Payne (160), Patterson-UTI (85), Nabors (64), Precision Drilling (39) and 77 other drillers (330).

The Market For Land Drilling Rigs & The Companies Manufacturing Them

As far as purchasing the rigs, there are two distinct markets – newbuilds and secondary transactions.

Most new onshore rigs, both drilling and work over rigs, are built by OEMs in China. In the US, the larger vertically integrated land drillers have in-house manufacturing operations, so they will outsource some equipment construction, but assemble the new rigs at their own facilities. The leading provider of US newbuild rigs is National Oilwell Varco.

The secondary market, where existing rigs are sold, is largely auction dominated with mostly older rigs changing hands. As a rule, the big land drillers do not sell their newbuild rigs, as each has their own flagship designs.



  1. I didn’t know that drilling companies lease their rigs to companies. I’m doing a short report on offshore drilling, and I knew nothing about it when I started. I appreciate the information!

  2. This is the business of Drilling contracts, the rigs are leased through a contract for an extended period of time for an extended daily rate!

    • Hi Douglas, Rowan Drilling was a great company that merged with Ensco to form EnscoRowan, and now they’ve changed their name to Valaris. They’re the largest in the world, but now based in the UK so won’t be added to the list of US firms.

  3. Came accross your views on the industry. How do you think companies like Precious Drilling Company will fare in the next year. Will they be able to continue to drilling in the current state of events? Thanks R

  4. @matar
    The top 10 largest Land drilling rig companies in China:

    BOMCO Oil Drilling Rig & Mud pumps.
    Lanzhou LS-National Oilwell Petroleum (NOV) oil rig.
    HH (Honghua) Land Oil Drilling rig.
    RG Petro-Machinery Oil drilling rig.
    Jianhan Siji (SJ Petroleum) Oil Drilling Rig.
    Kerui Oil drilling rig.
    Shanghai 3H oil drilling rig.
    Shengli Highland Oil drilling rig.

    • @Peter@Matar
      This is a very old list, updated list for the most favorite Chinese rig OEMs as below:
      CNPC Baoji Oil Machinery Co.,Ltd
      CASIC Honghua Group (fomer as Sichuan Honghua )
      SINOPEC Jianhan Siji (SJ Petroleum)
      RG Petro-Machinery
      Lanzhou LS Group
      CNPC Bohai Equipment
      Kerui Group
      Tianjin Dong Fang Xian Ke Petroleum Machinery
      ZPEC (former as 3H)
      SANY Group
      Jereh Group
      INTLEF Oil and Gas Group
      For your reference only, it is from our experience in dealing with them.

  5. It’s good to know that older rigs are sold in the secondary market. I don’t mind getting an older one for now. Because any drilling rig would help out right now to get my project done and over with.

  6. Hi, Peter. Most of these companies are in closure. I am from China, and know these OEMs well very. Meanwhile, LS is no long associated with NOV.

  7. I am am old school roughneck from the late ’70,s through the ’80,s I broke out near Rawlins Wyoming in ’78 for $6.50 per hour. Sheesh! The rigs then wer’nt only work houses, but also, widow makers.(more later), my wife is hitting the hay.

  8. Hi, Can we also get the list of Cenosphere material importers in USA. Cenosphere is used during Oil drilling. I have a Cenosphere production plant in India. I can export good quality Cenosphere in bulk. Thanks

  9. I need help I’m new to this oil business and I really have projects for mideast like I need companies for drilling and pipeline water injection as well as tanks for crude oil anyone interested or willing to help all appreciation

      BW (RED) SMITH

  10. Netergy Inc. adopts the EMC (Energy Management Contract) services model and shares the energy cost savings with clients. Netergy Inc. provides a complete set of equipment and solutions to replace traditional diesel power with grid electricity for drilling rigs and other types of equipment.
    visit our website: http://www.netergy.us


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