Alpha Shaker proves you really can do more with less

The Alpha Shaker maximizes capacity while reducing waste haul off.

Brandt Alpha Shaker with Alpha promo on the side, on grassy field with trees in the background
Apr 06, 2023

NOV's latest shaker system, the industry’s first truly novel shale shaker in nearly 30 years, resolves decades-long challenges in solids control to deliver drier cuttings and retain more drilling fluid. The result—more efficient drilling operations with higher fluid processing throughput, less fluid lost with cuttings, and a lower overall carbon footprint.

Drillers are constantly charged to do more with less. Specifically, they're expected to maximize drilling efficiency, improve crew safety, and retain more drilling fluid while minimizing time, costs, waste, and carbon emissions.

Service companies have spent much time and money developing new drilling equipment to help drillers meet their "more for less goals. But one type of equipment, the shale shaker, has not changed much in the past 30 years.

At NOV, we've led the field in solids control systems for decades, with proven technologies like our King Cobra™ line of shakers. But there haven't been any major innovations in single-deck shakers for 20+ years, and we saw an opportunity to develop a new system that maximized handling capacity while boosting drilling efficiencies.

Brad Wood

Senior Vice President of Technology, NOV

To truly shake up the shaker market, NOV began by canvassing the industry. “Before we put pen to paper on a new design, we asked our customers what they liked, and didn’t like, about the current state-of-the-art in shaker systems,” Wood said. “Where were shakers falling short in terms of performance, safety, efficiency, and maintenance?"

Many customers shared similar stories. Current shakers had low handling capacities that slowed the overall drilling process. They also didn’t get cuttings dry enough, which raised disposal costs, required larger volumes of replacement fluid, and increased the drilling operation’s carbon footprint.

With this information as a guide, NOV went to work to engineer all the current shortcomings out of the shaker. The result: the Alpha Shaker, the highest capacity single-deck shaker on the market. Fully designed and built in-house from the ground up, the Alpha Shaker incorporates several innovative features that meet the need for maximum capacity, reduced waste haul off, and safer, more sustainable drilling operations.

Drier cuttings and a lower carbon footprint

The Alpha Shaker produces considerably drier cuttings compared to legacy shaker systems. Drier cuttings translate to lower waste volumes and fewer waste haul trips. And because the system retains more drilling fluid, less replacement fluid is required for the drilling operation.  Less waste and replacement fluid means fewer trips to and from the drill site and fewer trucks on the road, which lowers carbon emissions and improves the drilling operation’s ESG profile.

Each unit runs reliably and efficiently on a small horsepower motor, providing greater processing capacity with lower fuel demand. And while most land rigs have a footprint for three shakers, the Alpha Shaker’s increased capacity means that some drilling applications can run effectively on just two units, with a third on standby. This lowers both power consumption and carbon emissions while providing flexibility during unplanned shutdowns or maintenance activities. If one unit goes offline, the standby unit can be brought online to maintain fluid processing capacity and keep the drilling operation running at peak efficiency.

Boosting throughput and improving downstream operations

Each Alpha Shaker unit processes cuttings at 20 to 30% higher capacity than any other single-deck, high-performance shaker on the market today. The performance gains in the shaker extend to downstream processes. Fewer cuttings in the return fluid improves the efficiency of the mud system. And by pumping a cleaner mud back downhole, the risk of solids-induced erosion and wear of drill pipe, drill bits, and other downhole tools is greatly reduced.

Ensuring safety and ease of use

The Alpha Shaker’s streamlined design allows for safer operation and maintenance at the rig site. The shaker runs much quieter than other units to protect the rig crew and maintain a quiet environment for surrounding communities.

The shaker’s simple screen clamping system ensures easy screen access from one safe location—and without the bending, climbing, or reaching common to other systems. And because there is no hardware like wedges or bolts, screens can be easily removed and installed without hammers or other tools.

The task of changing screens is so intuitive that any crew operator can do it with minimal training. In today’s drilling environment, where relatively inexperienced personnel must quickly perform tasks with no time for formal training, NOV’s customers considered ease of maintenance a critical requirement.

Remote-ready and retrofittable

While the Alpha Shaker meets the drilling demands of today, it is also designed to work seamlessly in automated rig systems of the future. The shaker’s designers collaborated with the real-time drilling instrumentation team of NOV’s M/D Totco™ group to develop seamless, plug-and-play connectivity with the Shaker Hawk™ remote monitoring and automation platform.

For existing NOV customers considering switching out their current shaker system, the Alpha Shaker easily retrofits into most other NOV King Cobra shaker skids in one day—and without the need for hazardous hot work.

Proving its potential

After two-plus years of design and testing to put the Alpha Shaker through its paces, the system was introduced on multiple rigs across several fields in 2022. A driller in the Anadarko Basin in Oklahoma installed an Alpha Shaker to increase fluid processing rates and boost drilling efficiency. The rig’s existing single-deck shakers were pushed to their operational limits and could not increase throughput without generating wetter cuttings and lowering fluid recovery.

Compared to the rig’s shaker system, the Alpha Shaker consistently handled significantly higher fluid volumes. Even when 100% of the flow was diverted over the Alpha Shaker at the rig’s maximum flow rate of 700 gallons per minute, the unit delivered consistently drier cuttings and maximized fluid recovery for the ongoing drilling operation. The new shaker also proved its ease of use, allowing the rig crew to change out screens in less than two minutes without formal training. These field tests convinced the driller that the Alpha Shaker could meet the demands of a faster pace of drilling without sacrificing performance.

“Many of the same customers that we interviewed during our initial research gathering told us that the Alpha Shaker fixes 20- or 30-years’ worth of shaker shortcomings,” said Wood. “With this innovative shaker as part of our solids control portfolio, we’re uniquely positioned to help the industry reach new levels of drilling performance for years to come.”