Union Drilling Inc. said it is continuing a focus on unconventional gas drilling by exercising an option with National Oilwell Varco LP to acquire three new drilling rigs, which will be deployed in the northern Texas Barnett Shale formation under multi-year contracts. Delivery is scheduled for the fourth quarter.

The three 1,500 horsepower SCR IDEAL rigs cost $25.2 million, including the $1 million that Union paid for its option. With drill pipe, handling tools and other items, the cost per rig is expected to be about $10 million. Ft. Worth-based Union bought three similar rigs in December, and these are scheduled for delivery in the second and third quarters for Barnett Shale deployment. The contract drilling services and equipment company currently operates 70 rigs and specializes in unconventional drilling techniques.

“When compared to 1,500 horsepower rig designs from the last period of significant rig construction in the late 1970s and early 1980s, these rigs can be moved in about half the number of trailer loads and can work smaller locations,” said Union CEO Chris Strong. “They have advanced solids control systems for long-radius horizontal drilling and come equipped with numerous features that will provide an enhanced work environment for our crews… The acquisition of these rigs is a continuation of our strategy to focus on unconventional natural gas drilling.”

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