Top drive change out on drilling rig

Complex rigging operation carried out with meticulous planning, exceptional communication and teamwork

Client: Offshore drilling contractor
Industry: Drilling
Asset: Semi-submersible rig
Location: Australia
Year: 2023


Top drives play a vital role in contemporary drilling machinery by delivering reliable and efficient power needed to rotate the drill string during drilling operations. In response to a damaged gearbox in the old top drive system (TDS), the client requested a replacement.

The process of changing out a top drive is a multifaceted operation that entails the careful removal and replacement of the existing unit, meticulous planning, coordination, and execution in collaboration with the drilling crew, usually in a short timeframe.


After the old top drive was disconnected and removed, the replacement top drive was lifted and positioned against the dolly track. Once new service loops, adaptor links, S pipes and tie rods were installed, the top drive was raised and connected to the arms of the block dolly. A laser alignment check was performed to ensure proper alignment with the well centre.

Removal of dolly arms’ bodura bolts
(Photo: Removal of dolly arms’ bodura bolts)


The top drive replacement operation was completed safely within the stipulated time. To maximise their time onboard and to add value to the client, the multi-skilled team also completed other pressing tasks that the client required.

“The successful top drive replacement was the result of meticulous planning, exceptional communication and teamwork. All safety procedures were followed, including undertaking thorough safe job assessments, and implementing the necessary controls to minimise potential hazards. The work was performed in accordance with the lifting plan and carried out in a step-by-step manner,” Jacob Tham, Technical Manager at Axess Group said.

Checking for alignment of top drive and dolly track
(Photo: Checking for alignment of top drive and dolly track)

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