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Drilling Industry Observations

The drilling industry of today seems to be segmenting itself into three categories:

1) Those who want to stay with traditional technology, usually with a lower investment in tools.

2) Those who want to be on the cutting edge, looking at every product advancement, despite that the     advancement comes at a higher price.

3) Those who seek a balance of performance and investment.

Factors such as drilling conditions, drill rig output, labor costs, deadlines, work backlog and others weigh heavily in determining where a drilling contractor stands today.

The traditional drilling contractors prefer to stay with a product they know inside and out. Generally, they perform all of their own maintenance. Their rigs may have a limited air output, preventing them from moving to the more productive hammers. The traditional driller’s operating procedure may be such that an improvement in penetration rate may be such a small cost reduction that it does not offset the higher cost of new technology.

Today’s cutting-edge driller is requiring a more efficient, productive and reliable hammer system than in the past. Improvements to drilling rigs and compressor packages now make available increasing volumes and pressures of compressed air. To fully utilize the available air, improvements to DTH hammers and bits are necessary. Improved metallurgy and heat treatment – combined with improved manufacturing processes – are some key steps.

The relatively balanced drilling contractors cautiously weigh the investment required versus their capital outlay. They may utilize a traditional hammer, but also seek out newer bit designs as a means to increase productivity with a lower investment.

One key for a driller is to find a supplier that has a broad product range, with the ability to supply products that match each of these segments, rather than trying to force one model into all sectors. That supplier usually is best in touch with the market and has the expertise and longevity to be a steady force in the industry.

Increasing fuel costs put pressure on a driller’s profitability. If a hammer manufacturer can produce a product that can yield more production while consuming a similar amount of air, the net effect would be a reduced amount of time down the hole (faster production), and therefore reduced costs to produce the hole: lower fuel costs, reduced labor hours, reduced maintenance to the drill rig due to fewer engine hours, and other related savings.

Drilling conditions can vary greatly from one part of the country to another. What works well in one area may not necessarily work well in another. A hammer supplier must offer a breadth of products and features to properly serve all markets. The same holds true for bit design.

A key to improved operating efficiencies is finding out what combination of hammer and bit transmits the most energy into the rock. If you have the most advanced DTH hammer, but fail to match the best bit to transfer energy into the hole, then you are not realizing the full potential of the tool. Advances in bit body materials and button inserts allow a driller the widest range of choices he has ever had in the industry. Finding what works best may require a considerable amount of field-testing, but, in the long run, it will result in additional cost savings.

A simple step that many drilling contractors miss that will improve their productivity is re-sharpening their bits. Properly dressing the flats that develop on the carbide inserts helps maintain penetration rates and prolong bit life.
Courtesy ND
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