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Introducing the Blackhawk SkyHook™ A Revolution in Safety and Efficiency

Blackhawk Specialty Tools has developed a revolutionary solution for remotely connecting high pressure pumping lines: The SkyHook.

It's a breakthrough for an industry where deaths from falls have been increasing over the long term; there was 1189 such deaths in the US from 2003 to 2013, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.Studies have shown that other major categories have reduced their fatality rate by as much as 61%, while the fatality rate for falls has increased by 28%. Procedures and training can mitigate the risk of falls but, through industry leading engineering, it is possible to eliminate the cause, entirely.

Background to the issue

A continuing concern during rig operations is the connection of high pressure lines to suspended equipment in the derrick. For the purpose of this article, we can examine the case of liner or casing cementing operations; although the technology can apply to any side entry device. Plug and dart launching cementing heads have advanced greatly in the last ten years, with most offshore operators now opting for wirelessly controlled, internally powered systems. These systems have greatly reduced the need to lift personnel above the rig floor. Modern heads operate the plug and dart launching functions, Kelly-valve operations, ball dropping, indicators, and cement line valves all from a wireless controller. These state-of-the-art heads utilize closed-loop encoded communication systems which completely eliminate inadvertent operation of any of the other functions. The best of these new heads are compact, rotatable, able to be racked back in the derrick, and constructed in a manner where the darts are not deformed while resting inside the launcher. Despite these advances in technology, safety, and efficiency, personnel must still be lifted up in a safety harness, typically with a set of tools, including a hammer, up to the cement head to attach the high pressure cement line.

Man lifting operations are recognized as a high risk activities and, as such, many rigs require special permitting. In this instance, not only are personnel lifted into hazardous positions but they are usually equipped with potential dropped objects. Some of these objects, if dropped, reach an impact force that could seriously injure and/or, in worst cases, result in being fatal. In cementing operations, personnel are also hoisted along with a heavy Chiksan line in very close proximity, introducing dangers such as tangling, pinch points, and blunt force trauma. These risks are heavily increased when working in adverse conditions, such as high winds or rough seas. To avoid this risk, some operators have gone as far as to perform cementing processes through the top drive in order to prevent falls. This procedure is inherently inefficient as cement can either pool in the mud line loop, form a sheath, damage the top drive, or in rare instances prematurely harden. There has not been a viable alternative to these procedures; until now.

Introducing: The SkyHookTM

Blackhawk Specialty Tools has invented and developed a revolutionary solution for remotely connecting high pressure pumping lines. The SkyHook™ module is an integrated component for all Blackhawk dart and plug launching systems.

Developing a new system in the laboratory is interesting and exciting but the true test is real world application. In late September a full scale test was successfully conducted on the complete system including swiveling, pumping, wireless operation and pressure testing. The system was then stripped, rebuilt, and made ready for the field. The first field run of the SkyHookTM occurred on the 13th and 14th of September, 2016 on Anadarko’s #1 Warrior well in the Gulf of Mexico. Being a recognized leader in safety, Anadarko was willing to support Blackhawk in providing a real-world platform for testing. As normally occurs with cementing, the equipment was employed at night, in the rain, and with rig heave, where conventional Chiksan make up operations would have been in unfavorable conditions. With these extreme conditions, the operations can be delayed until the situation improves. Through the use of the Blackhawk Specialty Tools SkyHookTM, operations were able to continue without risk or time delay. The rig crew, operator, and equipment all operated without incident saving rig time and eliminating the risk of falls.

Benefits of the SkyHookTM

The SkyHook™ does not require modification to either the rig or the standard procedures for cementing. The dart launcher can either picked up through the V door or brought to the active rotary and be made up to the drill pipe. Once the pump in sub or cement head equipped with a SkyHook is made up, the Blackhawk technician lowers a high pressure stinger from the unit to the rig floor. The descent velocity is controlled by the technician with a closed-loop encoded remote control and is limited hydraulically. Chiksan loops, or flexible hose, is then connected on the rig floor to the stinger. In normal operation the high pressure line is lifted to the dart launcher using an air hoist or tugger line. This remains unchanged except now, the SkyHook will lift the cement line between the tugger connection and the stinger. In the instance where a swivel is utilized an anti-rotation tether can be installed at the rig floor. The technician monitors ascent and, again, controls velocity to match the hoist operator as the high pressure line is raised. The system is not designed to lift the weight of the entire high pressure line but rather relies on the proven rig procedure of lifting with the air hoist. In this manner no additional dropped object risk is brought into the operation. Once the stinger approaches the SkyHook system, the stinger is guided into a bell then locked into the tool. The system has the capability of operating to heights of 150 feet (46 meters).

The locking mechanism is equipped with proximity sensors and the Blackhawk wireless system provides a communication feedback to the technician on the rig floor. There are clear indications on the rig floor of lock actuation and of final lock position through visual indication and system pressure. The stinger mechanism has been tested to 15,000 psi and features a horseshoe, cam, and collet lock, ensuring that, when the stinger is locked it place, it stays in place. No portion of the lifting mechanism is exposed to the flow path or pressure, eliminating the possibility of fluid or pressure interference with the locking mechanisms or fluid erosion impacting system integrity.

Once the stinger is in position and locked, all normal rig activities, including rotation and reciprocation, can take place. The technician has full control of all cementing head functionality throughout the cementing operation. Though the goal of this technology is to eliminate personnel being lifted above the rig floor during pumping operations, backup systems have been engineered to allow for manual intervention. This allows a bypass of all components in the rare case of a system failure. Limiting non-productive time is a key advantage of the system.

Once the pumping job is completed the technician remotely unlocks the stinger and guides the mechanism to the rig floor coordinating with the hoist operator. The stinger is equipped with a mud saver feature so when disconnecting or lowering the chiksan line, fluid spills to the floor are prevented.



The industry has entered a phase where the cost constitutes a more important factor in decision making. From a strictly economic sense, the SkyHook efficiency gains more than the offset cost of the equipment. In a normal operation, lifting personnel to attach lines, detach, open and close valves, and rig up tethers for swivels will consume 30 minutes to an hour of rig time. The SkyHook reduces the operational flow line make up time to a few minutes.

In conclusion, the SkyHook not only brings massive risk mitigation of falls and dropped objects, it also provides cost savings in difficult market conditions. A tremendous example of innovative engineering and an industry first technology applied to create a safer and more efficient workplace.

More information

For any further information on Skyhook or any other Blackhawk Specialty Tools please contact Chris Mcloughlin on the following;

M: +61 451 305 798
T: +61 8 9486 9350