Hughes Tool Company
Hughes Tool Company was founded by Howard Hughes, Sr. in the early in the 20th century. His two-cone, rolling-cutter rock bit launched operations of the Houston-based Sharp-Hughes Tool Company. Howard Hughes, Sr. first became interested in developing a rock bit to replace the largely ineffective fishtail-type bit around 1906. The bit design enabled drillers to drill through hard rock. Previous drag-type, or fishtail bits, limited rotary drilling to soft geological formations because the bits could only scrape rather than drill vertically.
In 1909, the Sharp-Hughes Tool Company of Houston began manufacturing the new bit. With the death of Sharp in 1912, Hughes purchased his half of the business. He changed the name to Hughes Tool Company in 1915. Howard Hughes, Sr. died in 1924, leaving his then-thriving business to his only child, Howard R. Hughes, Jr. Nine years later, the Hughes Tool Co. commercialized the Tricone or three-cone bit. In 1976, the company introduced bits with synthetic diamond cutters called polycrystalline diamond compact (PDC) bits.
Christensen Diamond Products
Former professional football player Frank Christensen is recognized as the driving force behind the introduction of diamond drill bits into the petroleum exploration industry. Originally, the company manufactured diamond drill bits for the western mining industry, but the founders quickly envisioned a strong market in petroleum. By 1946, Christensen diamond bits were introduced into the Rangley field of Colorado. The bits were so successful the company decided to make petroleum drilling its primary market.
By the 1960s, the company was expanding into international markets. Christensen also developed an erosion-resistant matrix for diamond bits and introduced the 250P-core barrel system that quickly became the industry standard. In the 1970s, downhole tools and motors formed the basis for a broader drilling package that included the Navi-Drill downhole motor. Later in the decade, Christensen Diamond Products introduced the synthetic polycrystalline diamond compact (PDC) bit.
In 1978, Christensen Diamond Products was acquired by Norton Co. of Worcester, Mass. The company’s name was changed to Norton Christensen in 1983. Norton Christensen merged with Eastman Whipstock, the world’s largest directional drilling company, in 1986 to form Eastman Christensen. Baker International acquired Hughes Tool Company in 1987, merging to become Baker Hughes Incorporated. Baker Hughes then went onto acquire Eastman Christensen three years later in. In 1992, Baker Hughes merged the two divisions—Eastman Christensen and Hughes Tool Company—to form Hughes Christensen.
PDC Technology Improvements
After the merger, Hughes Christensen introduced the AR Series, the newest antiwhirl technology capable of penetrating a much wider variety of tough formations without the catastrophic cutter fracture experienced by conventional PDC bits. AR Series bits were designed to resist bit whirl by directing load forces through low-friction gauge pads.
By 1995, Hughes Christensen's Gold Series PDC line increased drilling efficiency by reducing the frictional forces that can accumulate in front of the cutting edge, reducing the energy required to remove the rock. A year later patented ChipMaster PDCs, known for their efficiency and durability, were built on the success of the Eggbeater product line.
Hughes Christensen next introduced the Genesis HCM bits for steerable motors with patented EZSteer depth-of-cut control technology. This same technology was adapted to Genesis HCR bits for rotary steerable systems, such as the Baker Hughes AutoTrak rotary closed loop system. Genesis ZX PDCs followed with new Zenith cutters.
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