CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION
This application claims priority under 35 U.S.C. § 119 and applicable foreign and international law and incorporates in its entirety U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/491,940, filed Aug. 1, 2003.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
The present invention relates generally to a method and apparatus for handling pipe and other elongate objects. In particular, the present invention is directed to a method and apparatus for handling pipe by transferring or sending it from a first station, such as on the ground or on a pipe rack, to an elevated station, such as the drill floor of a drilling rig. Pipe to be transferred from the first station may include pipe to be delivered from a pipe rack, where the pipe is positioned horizontally, and transferred upwardly to the floor of a drilling rig, and such pipe can include drilling pipe, casing and other objects.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
FIG. 1 is a side elevational view of the apparatus of the present invention, showing a subframe, ramp and the carriage assembly shown in its horizontal position, to the right, and a raised position along a ramp shown to the left;
FIG. 1A is a view of the ramp pivoted into a position on the carriage assembly for transport;
FIG. 1B is a side elevational view, similar to that of FIG. 1, showing the carriage assembly positioned in its orientation for having pipe off-loaded onto the drilling floor via a draw works;
FIG. 2 is a top plan view of the apparatus of the present invention, showing pipe and casing mounted on a pipe rack prior to being loaded onto the carriage assembly;
FIG. 3 is a side elevational view similar to FIG. 1 showing the carriage assembly in the raised position;
FIG. 4 is a side elevation view of the subframe of the apparatus;
FIG. 5 is a side elevation view of the wheeled, outer frame separated from the subframe;
FIG. 6 is a side elevational view of the inner frame, positioned away from the outer frame to show details;
FIG. 6A is a side elevational view of the inner frame, taken from the right side showing components of the apparatus;
FIG. 7 is a cross-sectional view taken along lines 7-7 of FIG. 2, and shows components of the apparatus;
FIG. 7A is a view similar to FIG. 7, showing the tilting of the inner frame for receiving pipe from a pipe rack prior to the pipe being sent to the drill floor;
FIG. 8 is a side elevational view of a portion of the apparatus, taken adjacent the forward end of the subframe and the carriage assembly;
FIG. 9 is a view similar to FIG. 7, showing “kicking off” of pipe from the carriage assembly onto a pipe rack;
FIG. 10 is a view similar to FIG. 8, showing raising of the inner frame, in an off-loading sequence, relative to the outer frame of the carriage assembly;
FIG. 11 is an enlarged view of the adjusting apparatus for positioning the inner frame relative to the outer frame of the carriage assembly;
FIG. 12 is a side elevation view, showing the carriage assembly as it moves into its home position; and
FIG. 13 is a view showing the bulkhead and the actuating mechanism for moving the bulkhead away from the end of a pipe so that the pipe may be displaced onto a pipe rack, or received onto a pipe rack.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT
The pipe handling apparatus of the present invention finds particular utility in transferring or sending pipe, casing and other materials to the drill floor of a drilling rig, and for returning pipe, casing, etc. from the drill floor and “kicking” it off onto a pipe rack. The apparatus is simple in construction and operation; there are no powered, hydraulic cylinders or motor-driven actuators which are required to either on-load or off-load pipe or casing, from a pipe rack, or to off-load or on-load pipe or casing from the drill floor prior to return to a pipe rack.
The pipe handling apparatus of the present invention is generally designated at 10 in FIG. 1, and includes an upwardly extending ramp 12, having spaced-apart, elongate tracks extending along the upper surface. The ramp includes a first section 12 a inclined upwardly, a curved transition portion 12 b and a final horizontal portion 12 c for mounting adjacent a drilling rig. The ramp is pivotally connected at 14 to a subframe 16, so that it can be folded up in the configuration shown in FIG. 1A for transport. A wheeled carriage assembly, generally indicated at 18, is reciprocally shiftable along subframe 16 and the ramp, and includes an inner frame for carrying pipe, mounted on an outer frame. The outer frame is shiftable from a home position, where pipe is received or,discharged, to an elevated position for delivering or receiving pipe from a drill floor 20 of a drilling rig generally indicated at 22 in FIG. 1.
As shown in FIG. 2, which is a top plan view, ramp 12 is provided with opposed, spaced-apart, elongate tracks 24 and 26 which align with spaced-apart, elongate tracks 28 and 30, respectively on subframe 16. These tracks enable reciprocal displacement there along of carriage assembly 18. As shown in FIG. 1, carriage assembly 18 is operable for reciprocal translation along tracks 28 and 30 from a “home” position to the right shown in FIG. 1 to the elevated position shown in FIG. 3, where pipe can be off-loaded onto the drill floor or taken away as the case may be. The principal components of carriage assembly 18 can be appreciated from a viewing of FIGS. 5, 6 and 6A. The carriage assembly includes a wheeled outer frame, generally indicated at 32, operable for reciprocal shifting along subframe 16 and for carrying an inner frame, generally indicated at 34. The inner frame may be thought of as a “pan,” for holding pipe or casing to be delivered, as will be hereinafter described.
The Subframe and Carriage Assembly
The completed assembly of subframe 16, outer frame 32 and inner frame 34 can be appreciated from viewing the cross-sectional view taken along line 7-7 of FIG. 2, reproduced at FIG. 7. As shown in FIG. 7, subframe 16 is provided with a pair of ground-mounted, spaced-apart I-beams 36 and 38, provided with tracks 28 and 30, respectively. Subframe 16 also includes supporting structure indicated at 40 which includes a plurality of tubes, such as indicated at 42, for tying the structure together and for mounting dual-inclined cams, a front pair generally indicated at 44 and 44 a in FIGS. 4, 7 and 8. There are two pairs of these cams, two adjacent the front end of subframe 16 and two adjacent the rear-end as shown in FIG. 4. A rear pair, one of which is shown at 45 in FIGS. 1 and 2. The cam opposite cam 45 on the subframe is hidden from view, but all are substantially identical in construction. The basic cam construction is shown in FIG. 8, with cam 44 as an example. It has a pair of inclined planar surfaces, a first “fast rise” surface indicated at 46 and a second “slow rise” surface indicated at 48. The inclination of surface 46 is at an angle α of approximately 100, relative to the horizontal as shown, whereas surface 48 is inclined relative to the horizontal at an angle β of approximately 2°, as also shown in FIG. 8. The two cams mounted on beams 36 and 38 at the front of subframe 16 are substantially identical to the rear pair of cams, one shown at 45 to the right in FIG. 4.
As also shown in FIG. 4, subframe 16 is provided with a drive motor 50 suitably connected by a gear reduction box to a drive sprocket 52 which is operable for transmitting power to a drive chain 54, trained around a rear sprocket 53. The ends of the chain are connected to a lug mounted at the rear of outer frame 32, for selectively translating the outer frame from a first or “home” position on subframe 16 to the elevated position shown in FIG. 3. As can be seen in FIG. 5, outer frame 32 (see also FIG. 7) includes a pair of elongate, tubular beams 56 and 58 to which are mounted front and rear pairs of spaced-apart wheel sets, the front pair shown at 60 and 62 in FIG. 7 and the rear pair at 64 and 66 (see FIG. 2). Outer frame 32 also includes cross members 66 which support inner frame 34 when the inner frame is mounted to seat within outer frame 32, as shown in the schematic view of FIG. 7. It can be seen that inner frame 34 includes an upper surface 35 and a central section, generally a U-shaped configuration, which is indicated at 37 and is engageable for normally seating against the upper surfaces of cross members 66 (see FIG. 5). Upper surface 35 may be referred to as a “pan” for carrying pipe, etc., and includes sides such as 37. As shown in FIGS. 6 and 7, inner frame 34 includes opposed pairs of interconnected levers with cam-engaging rollers adjacent the front and rear ends of the frame, respectively. Each of the levers is pivotally connected to the inner frame and includes a roller, for example, as shown in FIGS. 7 and 8, front lever 68 is pivotally connected at 70 to the inner frame and is connected by an elongate rod 82, and includes a roller, such as roller 72, and roller 74 on lever 69 is provided on the other side (see FIGS. 6A and 7). At the rear of the inner frame, as shown in FIG. 6, a rear lever is shown at 76, pivotally connected at 78 to inner frame 34 and includes a roller 80. An arm 77 a extends upwardly from lever 76 and is part of an actuating mechanism 77, to be described later. Elongate rod 82, which interconnects levers 68 and 76, as can be seen in FIG. 6 and FIG. 12, so that the levers move or pivot in unison in the same orientation. It should be understood that lever 68 (see FIG. 7) is also interconnected by a rod to a lever directly opposite to that of lever 76. Thus, there are front pairs of levers and rear pairs of levers, the levers on a common side being interconnected by a rod, such as rod 82, actuated by an actuating mechanism 77 to preselect orientation of levers 68, 76 about pivot axes 70, 78, respectively. Arm 77 a may be thought of as an actuator for preselecting positioning of levers 68 and 76, and on the opposite side of the inner frame, actuating mechanism 79 includes an arm 79 a provided with a handle 77 b to preselect position of lever 69 and its associated roller 74, as well as the position of the rear lever opposite to that of lever 76.
As shown in FIG. 11, each actuating mechanism 77 and 79 is provided with a corresponding handle 77 b, 79 b, respectively, for positioning by an operator. The idea is that the levers will be prepositioned to facilitate loading of pipe, whether drill pipe or larger diameter, longer casing, for facilitating sending the pipe, casing or other materials to the drill floor, or when returning pipe, etc. for “kicking” the pipe back onto the pipe racks. The operation of the pipe handling apparatus will now be described, with initial focus being directed to loading pipe from a rack and sending it to the drill floor, followed by a description of returning pipe from the drill floor to a selected pipe rack. That will be followed by a description of how pipe or casing may be transferred directly from one pipe rack to a pipe rack on the opposite side of the carriage assembly, i.e., from the pipe rack indicated at 84 in FIG. 2 to the pipe rack indicated at 86.
Operational Sequences Mode 1 Sending Pipe to the Drill Floor
The pipe handling apparatus of the present invention finds particular utility in providing a method and machine which can be quickly adjusted to receive and then send pipe or casing to the drill floor. No hydraulic or motor-operated positioners are required. Initially, it will be assumed that drill pipe, in the range of 31-feet, for example, has been previously arranged in rows on elevated pipe racks, such as those indicated at 84. (Drill pipe of course, could be initially loaded on the opposite pipe racks 86). Drill pipe 88 is to be loaded or rolled onto inner frame 34 and transport carriage assembly 18 so that the pipe is in position to be sent to the drill floor, such as shown in FIG. 3. At the drill floor the pipe may be removed by a suitable draw works such as shown at 23, or the like, operated by a crew on the drill floor. There are two ways that the inner frame or “pan” may be arranged for receiving drill pipe 88. The first is to position actuating mechanisms 77 and 79 so that the levers and their associated rollers are all fully retracted. This is the position shown in FIGS. 7 and 8. An operator (see FIG. 11) removes locking positioning bolts or pins 92 from apertures 94 in arcuate guides 96 and 98. The operator then grips handle 77 b and pushes it forwardly, to thereby pivot arm 77 a about pivot 78 which in turn pushes rod 82 in a forward direction to thereby pivot lever 68 about pivot 70 to thereby retract or pivot upwardly roller 72, in the position shown in dashed lines in FIGS. 8 and 12. In that position, rollers 72 and 80 will be fully retracted or elevated so that they will not engage cams 44 and 45, respectively. A similar operation is used to retract and elevate the rollers on the opposite side, i.e., by moving arm 79 a to a forward position, such as shown in FIG. 11, which actuates rod 92 (similar to rod 82) so that roller 74 on lever 69 and roller 75 mounted on lever 71 are both retracted and will not engage the cam opposite to cam 45.
The operator then operates motor 50 to shift the carriage assembly into the position generally shown in FIG. 1, i.e., retracted to a “home” position, where inner frame 34 will have its surface 35, as shown in FIG. 7, positioned beneath the upper edges of elongate beams 56 and 58 of outer frame 32. As shown in FIG. 7, pipe 88 can now be rolled from pipe rack 84 over the top surface of beam 58 and displaced onto surface 35 of inner frame 34. The operator now engages motor 50 to rotate drive sprocket 52 in the counterclockwise direction (viewing FIGS. 1, 2 and 4), so that carriage assembly 18, with pipe 88 loaded onto the upper surface of inner frame 34, is transported along subframe 16 and then diagonally upwardly along ramp 12 to the position shown in FIG. 3, where wheels 60 and 62 travel over curved transition 12 b and along portion 12 c to the final position wherein the pipe can be off-loaded by draw works 23. It will be noted that the pipe is held in position on the upper surface of inner frame 34 by means of a bulkhead 100. After the pipe has been off-loaded at the drill floor, the operator reverses the drive sprocket to rotate in the clockwise direction, to return carriage assembly 18 to its home position, and loading of pipe, or casing can continue, and the process continuously repeated, as needed, until the required pipe and casing have been sent to the drill floor.
If it is desired to have a smoother transition of drill pipe onto the upper surface of inner frame 34, orientation of the inner frame to the position shown in FIG. 7A may be accomplished. Assuming that the carriage assembly has been returned to its home position, and that inner frame 34 is positioned below the tops of beams 56 and 58, such as shown in FIG. 7, an operator may remove locking pins 92, grip handle 79 b and pull rearwardly, along the direction of arrow A, to a position whereby the front and rear rollers connected to the levers in turn connected to rod 92 and arm 79 a are extended approximately half-way down. As shown in FIG. 7A, that tilts the side of upper surface 35 downwardly toward the opposite pipe rack, as shown, so that a smoother rolling transition of pipe 88 onto upper surface 35 is assured. After a predetermined amount of pipe has been loaded on upper surface 35, the operator actuates the drive system so that the carriage assembly is transported toward the ramp, and as the rollers of the extended levers roll off their associated cams, the upper surface levels out and the pipe is then advanced or sent to the drill floor until it is in the position shown in FIG. 3 where it is then off-loaded. Of course, pipe can be loaded from either of the pipe racks, or casing from either of the pipe racks onto the upper surface of the “pan” or inner frame 34.
Mode 2 Returning Pipe from Drill Floor to the Pipe Rack
Assuming that a drilling operation has been completed, or if for some other reason, it is desired to return pipe or casing to the pipe rack, the following sequence of operations is contemplated. Initially, it will be understood that it is desired to off-load pipe onto the carriage assembly fully driven up onto ramp 12 as shown in FIG. 3, and then transported downwardly along the ramp and to the home position whereby the pipe is automatically “kicked” off the upper surface of inner frame 34 onto a preselected pipe rack. To do this, it is first determined which pipe rack is to receive the pipe, such as pipe rack 84. While FIG. 9 shows pipe being rolled off, it will be assumed initially that there is no pipe, and carriage assembly 18 is in its home position. It is necessary to extend the associated cams, so that inner frame 34 and in particular its upper surface 35 are inclined toward the pipe rack that is to receive the pipe. In this instance, shown in FIG. 9, the pipe rack is indicated at 84 and therefore actuating mechanisms 77 and 79 are suitably positioned along their associated arcuate guides, so that the levers and their associated followers are positioned so that the upper surface is tilted, as shown in FIG. 9, when inner frame 34 is in its “home” position.
With respect to lever 68, and its roller 72, as shown in FIG. 10, actuating mechanism 77 has been positioned so that the left side (as seen in FIG. 9) of upper surface 34 is positioned higher than the right side. As can be seen, however, both of the actuating mechanisms have been suitably positioned so that pan surface 35 is raised, albeit tilted to one side, relative to its normal position when the levers are fully retracted. In the position shown in FIG. 9, as the operator sends an empty carriage assembly toward the ramp, as the followers roll off the front edges of their associated cams, the upper surface is lowered to the substantially horizontal position and is held in that orientation by the cross members 66 on outer frame 32. The carriage assembly is then moved to the top position shown in FIG. 3, and workers on the drill floor load pipe onto the inner frame, so that the pipe has one end bearing against bulkhead 100. When the inner frame has been sufficiently loaded with pipe (or casing as the case may be) the operator then actuates drive sprocket 52 in the clockwise direction to return carriage assembly 18 to the right of FIGS. 1, 2 and 3. As the carriage assembly proceeds toward the rear of sub beam 16, the rear rollers, such as those connected to the rear levers, engage the rear cam surfaces at the same time that the front followers, such as indicated at 72 and 74, engage the forward cams. At this time, the upper surface of inner frame 34 begins to tilt to the right, as shown in FIG. 9, until the home position is reached whereby the maximum tilt is obtained and pipe 88 is “kicked” off and onto pipe rack 84 as shown. After the pipe is off-loaded in this manner, the operator reverses the drive so that sprocket 52 is driven in the counterclockwise direction and the carriage assembly is moved back up to the ramp for further off-loading of pipe, or casing, etc. It will be apparent that actuating mechanisms 77 and 79 may be preselected to different positions, so that instead of the inner frame being tilted to the right, such as shown in FIG. 9, it will tilted to the left, if it was desired to off-load pipe onto pipe rack 86.
An important feature of the present invention resides in the operation of bulkhead 100 as pipe is being off-loaded onto a rack, or loaded onto the carriage assembly. When pipe is to be off-loaded, as shown in FIG. 12, the carriage assembly is moved toward the rear of subframe 16, as shown in FIG. 13, and as the rear rollers, one of which is indicated at 80, lift the inner frame upwardly, that causes arm 104 to pivot downwardly, as shown in FIG. 13, and pull link 106 toward the right, as it pivots about pivot point 108, thereby pulling bulkhead 100 away from the end of pipe 88, creating a gap shown at 110 so that the pipe may freely roll off onto the pipe rack, when the pan is elevated into the “kicking off position. Conversely, pipe can be rolled on, free of the bulkhead, and when the carriage assembly is moved toward the left, as shown in FIG. 13, the bulkhead moves into the position shown in FIG. 12, and provides an abutment against which-the pipe can be bear when the carriage assembly is moved to the position for travel up the ramp and eventual off bearing of the pipe onto the drill floor.