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What is a Rig Mat?

B. Turner
B. Turner

A rig mat is a portable structural support or platform used for oil rigs and other large-scale equipment, such as construction equipment. It typically consists of wood, steel or rubber and is used both to protect the Earth and to allow workers to perform in a variety of conditions. For example, a rig mat used at an on-land oil rig might allow users to draw oil throughout wet or rainy seasons when the ground would otherwise be too unstable to support the necessary equipment and personnel.

Though rig mats are commonly associated with oil drilling, they also can be used in other industrial applications. They can be used to provide safe, stable work surfaces on ice or wetlands for those in the mining industry. Rig mats also might be used by contractors or other work crews as solid bases for equipment or materials that must be stored. These mats can be used as temporary roads for vehicles traversing dangerous terrain or might even serve as helicopter landing pads in remote locations.

Types of Materials Used to Make Rig Mats

Man with a drill
Man with a drill

The most basic rig mats feature a steel frame with wooden crossbeams used to create the work platform. Although steel and wood mats can serve as effective options for basic projects, they tend to be very heavy and can be expensive. Their weight might make them difficult to transport and often necessitates special equipment to lay them into place.

A simple wooden rig mat serves as an affordable and lightweight alternative to a steel-framed unit. Wooden models might not be capable of supporting larger loads, however, and might be subject to frequent damage and repairs. Some users in light-industrial applications choose softwood rig mats because they generally are biodegradable and can be left in place when a project is complete.

Modern companies often rely on composite rig mat designs that combine high strength with light weights. For example, a molded rubber mat can be used as both a work surface and a temporary road, and it can weigh less than a steel-framed mat. Composite or rubber mats often feature an interlocking edge design, allowing them to fit together for added versatility.

Reasons for Using Rig Mats

Companies use rig mats for a variety of reasons. These mats help extend the drilling season by allowing workers to drill when ground conditions are poor. They also create stable, even work surfaces in areas where the terrain might be harsh or where working on the terrain is difficult. A company might also choose a rig mat simply for the protection it offers to the environment. A rig mat distributes the weight of equipment and vehicles to protect the ground below, and it might help contain contaminants so that they can be cleaned up before they seep into the earth below.

Discussion Comments


This has been pretty insightful! A friend of mine told me about rig mats, but I hadn't ever heard of them, so thanks! It's helped!


Thanks for the article! You've got a lot of info here. It seems like more people should be using rig mats. My brother in law's construction company would benefit from using these deeper into the fall and winter.

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      Man with a drill