Going “Green,” carbon footprint, carbon calculators and reduced emissions are all terms that have become a regular part of our vocabulary. They are also reasons we are examining our businesses and asking how we can address them in our day-to-day activities.
Horizontal directional drilling (HDD) is being highlighted in the underground construction industry as a method that positively affects the way we impact our environment. Going forward and looking at how we might improve on this further, without question mud recycling systems will be a part of making HDD systems more efficient. The fact that you can reduce transportation time and cost for disposing of drilling fluids, reduce the overall amount of drilling fluid products needed, improve environmental impacts of worksites and more closely manage your drilling fluid program all are reasons why we will see greater usage of these systems in the future. Like all new technology additions, however, there are always learning curves when first implementing them into your business. Mud recycling systems are not new in maxi HDD systems but rather are an essential part of the system due to the large volumes of fluid consumed in these projects. In smaller systems, they are used less frequently and are often implemented with less commitment and understanding as the maxi rig systems. This can lead to higher cost, higher frustration and overall less effectiveness than the larger systems. This does not have to be the case.
The following is a list of things to consider as you evaluate your step into the world of recycled drilling fluid on smaller HDD systems:
First: Make a commitment to the technology. On smaller systems we are accustomed to starting and completing a bore in short periods of time, sometimes multiple per day. A recycling system is one more item you have to set up and manage that can slow production. If you are truly going to implement this technology into your business, it will take some time and effort to develop the disciplines of making them efficient. Your crew members will have to buy into the program to make this work.
Second: Purchase the right size unit for your system. Very often a mud recycling system is purchased with the price of the system in mind rather than what the system will be tasked with doing. This is a long-term decision and since it is a major financial commitment, factor in growth for your systems capabilities for future expansion. Undersize capacities cause tremendous inefficiencies and in the end could add cost.
Third: Designate a crew member to being an expert on the system. (Just as no two bores are alike for a driller and locator, so too is the case for a mud person.) Soil formations change on each bore and the need to change the setup on the recycling system is crucial. Having that expertise is a vital part of being successful with the technology. Changing screen sizes, keeping screens clean, adjusting the desilter/desander system, maintaining proper mud weights, sand content, makeup water quality and troubleshooting the system are all very basic components of being successful. We have seen many instances where even letting one of these factors slip can have detrimental effects on the HDD system. These situations can be averted by simply managing the system properly.
Fourth: Know how a recycling system affects the rest of your HDD system. Many mud recycling manufacturers claim they can clean sand from fresh bentonite mixtures. These claims may be true when the system is setup properly. Do not incorrectly assume that just because you have a mud cleaning system, you have clean mud. When not set up correctly, it is typical for mud weights and sand content in the drilling fluids to increase over time. Mud weight increases are an indication of solids in your fluid and also often a presence of highly abrasive sand. Both of these cause premature wear in the fluid stream including pumps, hoses, fluid swivels, drill pipe tool joints, bit orifices and hole openers ports. These items can all be controlled by ensuring the system is properly managed.
Mud recycling systems have added great value to the HDD industry. In many cases it is very difficult to be successful on a project without one. Future environmental regulations will drive the need for implementation of them in smaller HDD system. As you look to implement a cleaning system in your program, do your homework and set realistic expectations that will help ensure your success.
Richard Levings is a senior product manager at Ditch Witch and a member of the Drillmaster Advisory Board. Tom Tibor is a senior account representative at Baroid Industrial Drilling Products. All Drillmaster Reports are reviewed by the Drillmaster Advisory Board: Levings; Frank Canon, Baroid Industrial Drilling Products; Ronald Lowe, Myers Aplex, a Pentair Industrial company; Ed Savage, Vermeer Corp.; and Trevor Young, Tulsa Rig Iron.