Story last updated at 3:27 p.m. Thursday, September 12, 2002

Inventors design drill rig mat
A Fairbanks duo has designed composite mats to stabilize drill rigs and protect fragile North Slope tundra from the weight of the 2.5 million-pound machines.

The mats are based on the idea of drink coasters, said inventors Craig Simon and Dennis Swarthout. In fact, the idea was spawned on cocktail napkins at a Fairbanks bar.

The final product is highly engineered, stronger, lighter and safer than the massive wood-and-steel mats traditionally used on North Slope sites.

"This is the best, meanest drill rig mat known to man," Simon said.

The Cost for each mat is about $26,000, or about 10 times more than a standard mat, said Simon.

The fiberglass mats also can be used as loading ramps, boat launches, shop floors or temporary bridges, he said.

BP Exploration Inc. has leased 50 of the mats, and a company spokesman said they are highly recommended.

The mats are 28 feet long, 8 feet wide and weigh 4,200 pounds.

--The Fairbanks Daily News Miner

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