Licence to Drill premieres Jan. 5 on Discovery

From a media release:

Are You Tough Enough for 100 Days of Hell? On a Quest for Natural Gas in the Far North, Discovery Channel Presents LICENCE TO DRILL, Jan. 5

  • Canadian series digs in with two major drilling operations to reveal real life on the rig
  • Extensive bonus web and mobile content to launch on

When the mercury dips below -70 C and the sun won’t rise again until January, it’s hell. Bitterly cold, brutally hard and a gamble that costs some operations $250,000 per day, drilling for natural gas in the Canadian North is big business. It’s an industry that makes headlines but whose real inner workings are virtually unknown… until now. Premiering Tuesday, January 5 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on Discovery Channel, the original six-part Canadian series LICENCE TO DRILL heads north with professional drilling crews in search of natural gas. For 100 brutal days (dubbed “100 days of hell”), these crews battle a hostile environment and a punishing schedule, racing against the clock – and tundra thaw – to get maximum yield. A fully immersive experience, the broadcast will be supported by an array of complimentary digital assets, including a dedicated website with streaming video and a simulation game as well as iPod and iPhone apps – all designed to offer viewers a chance to test their mettle and virtually experience life on the rig.

With unprecedented access to the drilling operations of two major players, LICENCE TO DRILL follows two crews: one north of the Arctic Circle in the Northwest Territories, the other in Northeast British Columbia. Here, these hardened men risk their lives to drill wells three-kilometres deep in search of gas, plagued by equipment failure, unpredictable weather and unforgiving terrain. For four months, thousands of kilometres away from home and working 12-hour days, these men – and a few women – and their machines are pushed to the limit.

With exploration rights to more than one million hectares of land in the Arctic, MGM Energy Corp. is a Calgary-based energy company with a huge stake in Canada’s Far North. Energy companies have long suspected that the Canadian Arctic is rich in gas reserves, but few have taken the gamble. To date, MGM has risked $140 million searching for natural gas in one of the most extreme environments in the world. This season it will drill three gas wells north of the Arctic Circle in an icy desert where temperatures plunge to -70 C and winter storms can be deadly. And in a business where four out of five wells drilled are a bust, the prospects are too risky for all but the most daring companies.

Nabors Drilling is the largest land drilling contractor in the world; a multinational corporation with a growing interest in the production end of the oil and gas business. This year, Nabors has a multi-million-dollar stake in a natural gas field in northern British Columbia. It’s a new endeavour to try to squeeze gas out of shale. But it’s buried thousands of metres below vast tracts of marshy swampland called muskeg. Historically, oil and gas companies wait for the muskeg to freeze over before trucking in their drilling rigs. But Nabors is trying something radically different. With a specially designed drilling rig and the world’s biggest helicopter still in production, they plan to airlift their whole operation into the well site. This technology could revolutionize oil and gas exploration, making even the most remote locations accessible. Three years in the works, the heli-rig is now ready for take-off. Will this high-flying approach give the company an edge on the competition?

Highlights from the first episodes of LICENCE TO DRILL include:

LICENCE TO DRILL: “The Big Freeze”

Tuesday, January 5 at 10 p.m. ET/PT

The two crews – Nabors, in Northeastern B.C.; and MGM, 300km above the Arctic Circle –prepare the drilling camps for the season ahead.

MGM superintendent John Williams and his drilling crew fight for survival as they get slammed with a monster Arctic snowstorm that brings 150km winds and temperatures below -70 C. Digging out leads to costly delays.

Meanwhile, the Nabors’ team is testing out a bold idea that may reinvent the process of gas exploration in remote areas. With their drill site inaccessible by road, they’ve opted to fly in their huge Rig 99 – piece by piece – using the world’s biggest chopper, the Russian-built MI26, capable of lifting 20-tonne loads.

LICENCE TO DRILL: “Christmas Rocks”

Tuesday, January 12 at 10 p.m. ET/PT

There’s trouble on Nabors Rig 99 in northern British Columbia. They’ve hit a snag deep underground and the drill bit is going nowhere. As the crew struggles to get back on track, dissension spreads around camp.

And 1,200km north, MGM just started drilling their first well when another vicious Arctic storm forces them to shut down operations. The pressure is on – every delay costs the company a quarter of a million dollars a day.


Tuesday, January 19 at 10 p.m. ET/PT

High up in the Northwest Territories, a freak heat wave – right in the middle of the Arctic winter – hits the MGM camp, opening deadly cracks in the ice roads just as superintendent John Williams and his crew are about to move their rig to the second well. The heavily-loaded trucks roll out with the bare minimum of ice under their wheels.

Farther south, the crew of Nabors Rig 99 is finally drilling steadily, to the relief of boss Denis Milan. The men have guided three kilometres of pipe into the ground when they suddenly hit a pocket of chert – a rock older than the dinosaurs and tougher than steel – and the ultimate driller’s nightmare.

LICENCE TO DRILL’s unprecedented access continues on Discovery Channel’s web and mobile platforms. Launching in early December, will feature over 20 extra videos with never-seen-before footage plus behind-the-scenes photographs of teams and well sites. Missed an episode? Full episodes will be available on-demand one week after broadcast.

So you think you can manage your own drilling operation? Prove it! Build, drill and connect, brave the elements, handle equipment and lead a team playing “LICENCE TO DRILL the Simulation Game.” The game launches in January at in tandem with the series’ broadcast premiere.

Got an iPhone? Take matters into your own hands, anywhere! Play the incredibly addictive LICENCE TO DRILL iPhone game, available as a FREE download to iPhone or iPod Touch devices in early January.

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Diane Wild

Diane is the founder of TV, eh? She loves books, movies, TV, science, space, traveling, theatre, art, cats, and drinking multiple beverages at the same time.
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4 thoughts on “Licence to Drill premieres Jan. 5 on Discovery”

  1. this show makes me want to puke i started working up in Tuk in 1979 for esso arctic operations we did all and more then this show and there morons could ever do. We were the path finders we drove and drilled on land and on the ocean,All we got was a paycheck, these idiots think they made the wheel and should be made little gods.Crap if it was not for people like me and the other Esso guys, plus Shell boys there would not be anything doing up north.Get your people right because these guys are not them.

  2. I must agree sounds like someone is jealous…. if there was nohate you would have just stated the fact you were there first and did more work cause maybe technology was shitter back then.. meh

  3. I find the show entertaining. I moved to Norman Wells in 1979, and stayed for 11 years. So for those of us that “been there-done that” I’m interested in where the lease locations are at? Somewhere between Bear Lake and the Beaufort is not very much fun. These boys are running over familiar ground, like old times.

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