May 2015

Innovative thinkers

Alexander Palynchuk: A lifetime of innovation
Steven McGinn / World Oil
Palynchuk’s COROD Rig 3: transport reel, U.S. Patent 3,504,866; well servicing for coiled rod, U.S. Patent 3,559,905; rod manufacturing, U.S. Patent 3,689,326.
Palynchuk’s COROD Rig 3: transport reel, U.S. Patent 3,504,866; well servicing for coiled rod, U.S. Patent 3,559,905; rod manufacturing, U.S. Patent 3,689,326.

Insufficient reservoir pressure is the genesis of artificial lift technology, and without such mechanisms to bring hydrocarbons to the surface, the oil remains underground. One of those key tools in artificial lift is the sucker rod system: an assembly that reaches the source rock, and pumps the flow of oil to
the surface. 

Prior to 1970, most oil wells used rods that were strung together, with a coupling system fastening the rods together, piece by piece. These joints are prone to damage from friction and improper makeup of the connections, which leave operators with costly downtime.

During a discussion at an Imperial Oil office in 1963, the thought of coiling the rod, and making it one long, continuous string was posed. While others shook off that idea, engineer Alexander Palynchuk ran with it: inventing, developing and patenting the process by which the coiled, continuous sucker rod is made, hauled and installed.

“Developing the coiled sucker rod system involved inventing, and developing, the product and its manufacturing process, the method of transport and, of course, the service rig equipment,” Palynchuk said. “It was all of the auxiliary things that required a tremendous amount of ingenuity and effort. There is no way that anybody could have anticipated everything that was involved.”

The Canadian Petroleum Hall of Fame has stated that all aspects of Palynchuk’s rod manufacturing and heat treating system were revolutionary, and his 2014 induction into the Hall is a genuine reflection of how impactful the system, and its components, truly are. Palynchuk developed the service rigs, transport system, and operating procedures and techniques for the system, for which he has been granted 10 patents. 

According to Weatherford, which manufactures the COROD brand of continuous rod technology, over 100 million ft have been installed by Weatherford, in over 30,000 wells in 11 countries. The longest string, to date, is 14,028 ft.

“The Alberta Engineering Centennial recognized it as one of the 10 significant engineering milestones and contributions to the social, physical and economic well-being of Albertans,” said Betty Campbell, Weatherford’s Global Applications Specialist for COROD continuous rod. 

From early on in his life, Palynchuk was destined to become a groundbreaking engineer. As an 11-year-old boy, he built a 4-ft biplane—without instructions—from a single log, using only a knife and handsaw. At 13, he worked at his father’s business by hauling oil to farmers, and then later expanded it by servicing and assembling farm machinery.

He graduated from the University of Saskatchewan with a BS degree in mechanical engineering, and early on in his career, he was granted two patents while working at Canadian Phoenix Tube & Pipe. These innovations were then incorporated into German operations, and are used worldwide today. 

Palynchuk has had extensive training and experience with industrial engineering, which included time, planning, and scheduling maintenance and construction work. “I used experience and actual time studies on conventional service rig running rods to help me get a better grasp of what was involved with the system.”

In 1965, he founded Western Instruments, and to this day, the company is known widely as a leading expert in the ultrasonic testing of welded tube and pipe. Palynchuk has played a significant role in improving technical library facilities, organizing heavy oil symposiums, and contributing to science fairs in the schools of Alberta.  

Palynchuk continues to invent today, and has conceived and developed the Tri-Coil System, suited for directional wells, which he says will be “the most comprehensive oil well pumping and stimulation system.” wo-box_blue.gif 

About the Authors
Steven McGinn
World Oil
Steven McGinn
Related Articles
Connect with World Oil
Connect with World Oil, the upstream industry's most trusted source of forecast data, industry trends, and insights into operational and technological advances.