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Quinn Holtby

Location: Edmonton, AB

Award: Innovation Award

Category: Industry

Year: 2000


Developed a comprehensive oil well bore fluid containment system for drilling and service rigs known as the Kelly Kan/Katch Kan. Since awarded, Katch Kan Ltd. has added further components to create a complete zero spill system, adopted in over 52 countries. Read the News Release and Media Backgrounder for additional information.

News Release

Oil Well Invention Enhances Safety, Protects Environment;

Former driller develops award-winning fluid containment system

Calgary, AB - The Kelly/Katch Kan, a comprehensive oil well fluid containment system, enhances worker safety and protects the environment on more than 400 drilling and service rigs around the world. Now its inventor, former driller Quinn Holtby of Edmonton, has received a prestigious Manning Innovation Award.

Holtby, working from his garage, spent four years developing and perfecting the lightweight, portable Kelly/Katch Kan. He sold real estate for seven years to learn how to market his invention.

"My goal is to make sure this technology is on every rig in the world," says Holtby, 40.

The Kelly/Katch Kan is a standard for the petroleum industry's biggest drilling companies, including Akita Drilling, Nabors Canada Drilling Ltd. and Precision Drilling Corporation.

Holtby has won the Westaim Corporation $5,000 Manning Innovation Award. The Manning Awards program has recognized leading Canadian innovators since 1982, presenting them with $135,000 in prize money each year.

The Kelly/Katch Kan replaces the heavy steel inefficient mud cans that made a rig worker's job uncomfortable and hazardous. Holtby, who worked eight years on the rigs, knows the dangers of being blasted by high-pressure drilling mud or slipping around the drill floor on frozen drilling fluids.

"The Kelly/Katch Kan effectively eliminated slip hazards on the drill floor," says William George, drilling safety supervisor with Akita. "It is an excellent example of the improvement possible on a work site when modern technologies are applied."

Holby's two-part system includes a sealed can (the Kelly Kan) enclosing the drill pipe. The Kelly Kan directs discharged fluid through the rotary table into a collection tray (the Katch Kan) for recycling or reuse. The technology keeps workers dry and safe, saves money on drilling fluids and prevents environmental damage at the wellsite. The system, marketed by Holtby's company, Katch Kan Limited, can be used on drilling and service rigs for all applications.

The Manning Innovation Awards Foundation will announce all of this year's recipients, including the $100,000 Manning Principal Award, throughout this month prior to the annual awards dinner on November 6 in Montreal.

* For more information about the award-winning Kelly/Katch Kan, please contact Quinn Holtby at (780) 414-6083.

* For more information about the Manning Innovation Awards Foundation, please contact Donald Park, Executive Director, at (403)-266-8288 or visit the Foundation's website at www.manningawards.ca

Media Backgrounder

$5,000 Westaim Corporation Manning Innovation Award: Kelly/Katch Kan

His first day as a roughneck, Quinn Holtby nearly got knocked off the rig drill floor by a blast of high-pressure drilling fluid that left him soaked. During the next eight years, as he worked his way up to the driller's job, the memory of "getting hosed" stayed with him.

Uncontrolled discharge at the well bore, from drilling "mud" used in circulating the well, has been a constant safety and environmental problem for the petroleum industry.

Since the late 1930s, the technology used to contain the fluid consisted of a 117-kilogram (260-pound) steel can hung on cables above the drill floor. It took two workers to wrestle the can onto the drill pipe.

Whenever the driller happened to raise the drill pipe out of the hole too fast, or someone accidentally left the rig pumps running, or the steel can's pressure seals burst, every worker on the drill floor would dive for cover.

"A lot of injuries were just related to smashing into things when you're trying to escape," Holtby recalls. "If you didn't escape, then you're covered from head to toe in drilling fluid and it's forty below . . .."

Some workers were injured in trying to keep their footing on a drill floor covered by frozen fluid. Others were mangled or knocked off the drill floor by the heavy steel containment cans.

Holtby turned down a promotion to rig manager and left the oil patch with a vision to invent a better fluid-containment system. He worked for seven years as a real estate agent in the Edmonton area, learning how to market both his invention and himself.

During his last two years in real estate, Holtby spent countless hours in his garage designing, developing and testing his new containment-and-catch system. He experimented with several materials, but finally had to design his own extremely durable plastic.

He knew he had the right stuff when, in a test of a prototype, his plastic can remained intact after being run over repeatedly by a 50-tonne crane.

Holtby's patented Kelly Kan weighs only 12 kilograms (27 pounds), one-tenth of the weight of the old steel drilling mud can. It takes only one worker to wrap the hinged Kelly Kan around the drill pipe and snap it into place with heavy-duty clasps.

The universal unit, equipped with pressure seals effective to minus 65 degrees Celsius, installs on both drilling and service rigs to handle every stage of the drilling operation.

Akita Drilling played a key role in helping Holtby test his system. The first Kelly/Katch Kan was installed on Akita drilling rig No. 38 in July, 1995.

"The Kelly/Katch Kan MDS (minimum discharge system) effectively eliminated slip hazards on the drill floor," says William George, Akita's drilling safety supervisor. "It is an excellent example of the improvement possible on a work site when modern technologies are applied."

The Kelly Kan contains and hydraulically directs the fluid discharge down through the rig's rotary table to the Katch Kan or collection tray, made of same durable plastic.

The two-part Katch Kan, like the Kelly Kan, is easily installed and removed in minutes without tools. The Katch Kan captures the fluid for reuse or recycling, eliminating the waste and on-site treatment and disposal of mud that was common with the old steel mud can technology.

The systems now in use on rigs have produced daily savings of between $150 to $1,000 on each operation, Holtby says.

"The Kelly/Katch Kan system is extremely important," says Dale Leitner, field superintendent for Ensign Drilling. "When tripping, we can save more than 90 per cent of our drilling fluids when using this equipment."

The technology also helps lower worker accident insurance claims and reduce a company's environmental liability in the field.

"Kelly/Katch Kan systems are very effective in controlling drilling fluids - less labour-intensive" than the old methods, says Harvey Sofonoff, purchasing manager for Phelps Drilling International.

Companies using Holtby's Kelly/Katch Kan on more than 400 rigs around the world include: Akita Drilling, Bear Drilling, Beaver Drilling, Champion Drilling, Command Drilling, Caza Drilling, Driller Technology Corp., Ensign Drilling, Helmerich & Payne, H&R/Tetonka Drilling, Jomax Drilling, Kinnell Drilling, Nabors Drilling Canada, Nabors Drilling USA, Nabors Drilling International, Parker Drilling, Phelps Drilling International, Precision Drilling, Pride International, Santa Fe International, and Tri-City Drilling.

Holtby, through his company, Katch Kan Limited in Edmonton, markets the Kelly/Katch Kan along with several other patented inventions designed to provide cradle-to-grave solutions for the well site.