The Pace-R801 automated land drilling rig in the Permian Basin

The Pace-R801 concept rig has safety and efficiency at the core of its design, purpose-built to showcase Nabors technology and to push the boundaries of industry performance and possibilities

Nabors Industries, a leading provider of advanced technology for the global energy industry, has announced that its Pace-R801 – the world’s first fully automated land drilling rig – has reached total depth on its first well, a horizontal well for ExxonMobil in the Permian Basin.

XTO Energy, a subsidiary of ExxonMobil, had contracted Pace-R801 to drill three horizontal wells on a test pad in Midland County, Texas, as part of its own R&D efforts and commitment to safe, efficient and responsible operations.

This first well was drilled to a total measured depth of 19,917 ft.

Combining Nabors proprietary Smart Suite of automated drilling software with Canrig robotics on the Pace-R801 creates an unmanned rig floor that removes crews from red zone areas and delivers consistent, predictable drilling performance.

Similar to concept vehicles in the automobile industry, this particular configuration of Pace-R801 is built to showcase Nabors technology and push the boundaries of industry performance and possibilities.

The featured automation, robotics and digitalisation technologies are available and operational across the Nabors fleet, and those of third parties globally.

The Pace-R801 creates an unmanned rig floor that removes crews from
red zone areas

Insights gained from Pace-R801 have been and will continue to be used to innovate and advance the next generation of Nabors technologies which focus on safety, efficiency and the environment.

For example, recently deployed technology for Nabors SmartDRILL and SmartSLIDE drilling automation software was developed through the Pace-R801 initiative.

Utilisation of the full suite of Nabors drilling automation software – which includes SmartDRILL and SmartSLIDE – reduced drilling days for operators by four in the Permian and Williston Basins and has shown promise to reduce drilling emissions.


Crew size on the Pace-R801 is similar to other Nabors rigs but the duties change. One driller is required to supervise the operations of the rig while others continue to perform essential tasks, such as service, maintenance, inspections and rig moves. Importantly, no longer are crews in red zone areas.

The advanced rig and technologies provide reskilling opportunities for Nabors employees and the broader industry workforce.

According to Jason Gahr, Operations Manager for Unconventional Drilling at ExxonMobil: 'ExxonMobil’s collaboration with Nabors in deploying this automated rig in Midland demonstrates the ability to optimise drilling using the combined power of robotics, automation, computing, and data. This is a great example of enhancing the safety, efficiency and environmental performance of our operations through innovative technologies'.

Anthony Petrello, Chairman, President and CEO of Nabors, said: 'There’s nothing else in the world like the Pace-R801 concept rig. Its combination of advanced automation, digitalisation and robotics represents a trifecta solution for an industry pursuing the highest levels of safety, efficiency and environmental performance in order to attain ESG goals. Thank you to all our employees, partners and stakeholders that helped make this a reality.

He added: 'Successfully drilling with the world’s first fully automated land drilling rig marks the culmination of a five-year engineering journey for Nabors. The experience and insights gained from this concept rig will be used to forge the next generation of Nabors technology and to continuously improve the digital, automation and robotics solutions we already have in the field.'

On his part, Travis Purvis, Senior Vice President, Global Drilling, said: 'Nabors is known as a technology leader and the PACE-R801 is an outcome of our commitment to innovating the future of energy. We couldn’t have asked for a better partner than ExxonMobil for this history making milestone. We share the same vision for safety, efficiency, sustainability, technology and innovation and want to thank ExxonMobil for their continued partnership.'