The idiom, what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, is relevant to mud pumps and the industries they serve. Lubrication, bentonite, mud, slurry, drilling fluid — no matter what you call it — when adequately paired and mixed with a quality mud distribution system, is a recipe for success on any borehole.
A quality mud lubrication system is suitable for guided boring, guided auger boring, pipe jacking, microtunneling, horizontal directional drilling (HDD), auger boring and many vertical drilling applications. With the newest generation of pumps on the market, the range of applications is endless.
Akkerman teamed with Phil Polak, a seasoned mud man associated with X-Plore Industrial Drilling Fluids, to discuss mud delivery systems and what features make its product perform at its finest.
“Regardless of the discipline of drilling, if the contractor chooses to use a drilling fluid, the blending of that fluid with water plays an important role in the final quality of the product,” states Polak.
Essential features to look for in a mud delivery system are fast and controllable mixing, pump pressures and volumes appropriate for the task at hand.
Polak explains, “Agitation, stirring or air injection is necessary to hydrate the product fully. If it is not well mixed, the contractor is not going to get the maximum performance out of the selected product.”
Initial shear and time for complete hydration are necessary to get a good mixture. “Too often a contractor cuts open a bag or opens a liquid jug and pours it into the tank. Few drilling fluid components will disperse and hydrate that way,” Polak clarified.
Akkerman’s mud pumps feature a hydraulic, in-tank agitator to reduce mixing cycles to achieve the correct viscosity quickly, and therefore, save production time.
Polak continued, “The fact is, if a well-designed fluid mix is prepared, it will not separate or degrade. All things considered, proper pH and total hardness, along with adequate mixing times, almost guarantee a stable fluid.”
A high-pressure pump distributes and delivers drilling fluid mixtures, even those with high viscosity at extended lengths. Akkerman’s designs include independent and efficient piston pump flow of 6, 10, or 16 GPM with 2,500 psi of pressure. The units’ relief valves adjust the pump’s maximum pressure to match the tooling requirements for user flexibility.
On pipe jacking applications, pressure is necessary to provide a consistent fluid volume along the length of the pipe string. On long distance drives, pressure is necessary to deliver mud to the annular space between the ground and pipe to reduce jacking forces. On some applications, introducing mud at the cutter face assists with reducing cutter torque and tooling wear. On auger boring projects, it may be necessary to distribute the mud to the augers for spoil conveyance. In HDD applications, the mud coats the borehole to generate a physical barrier to prevent fluid loss. The commonality between these applications is the need for mud delivery at high pressures.
Contractors must also choose a pump with an adequate storage volume to meet the demands of the application. There are a variety of tank reservoir capacities. Single tank reservoirs typically provide enough supply for an entire shift. Dual, large-capacity tanks allow for independent pump operation, supply from one or both tanks, or supply from one and mixing with the other.
Other Mud Pump Fundamentals
Contractors want to mobilize their equipment and get on with drilling, so portability is crucial when considering a mud pump purchase. A compact footprint, lift eyes and forklift pockets are all practical features that make the unit convenient for site transport.
Temperature can affect the quality of the mud mixture. Some mud pump units are sized for housing in a storage container for year-round operation in a variety of climates.
Another thing to think about is a choice in the mud pump’s power source and run time. Gasoline, diesel engines and electric motors all have their place based on project site power or emission regulations.
Uncomplicated features enhance the user experience for your crew. An in-shaft control pendant makes it simple to vary flow and pressure at an extended distance from the pump. A tank-side mud mixing platform and stepped frame makes pouring heavy bags or containers of mud into the tank an effortless process. A large tank opening ensures that the product gets into the tank without waste. Other conveniences to look for are intuitive controls, indicators, and quick connections.
Easily serviceable components are more likely to be maintained. When the job’s over, essential maintenance is much more likely to be done if it is convenient.
Pumping on the Project
Polak recently spent some time on a pilot tube guided boring project in Houston, advising on X-Plore’s products. The contractor used a dual-tank Akkerman bentonite and lubrication pump for mud distribution.
Impressed with his experience, Polak reported, “This is not your Daddy’s mixing system. This mixing device will produce a homogeneous, fully-hydrated volume of fluid, whether it be a bentonite or polymer base, or a combination of the two in record time.”
The crew installed 42-in. pipe on multiple drives up to 500-lf in varying sticky clay ground conditions. Using this mud delivery system, they reduced climbing jacking forces and rotational torque, unplugged clay from the cutter head face, and increased production.
The Proof is in the Production
When the contractor makes the investment in a quality mud pump and ground conducive mud mixture, the results are undisputable.
Polak argues, “There is a cost attached to using drilling fluids and a quality mud pump. Performance will be compromised without proper mixing, and can lead to negative results. It’s been my experience that some contractors are not familiar with the benefits and are reluctant to absorb the costs. But what if the production is increased by as much as 30 percent — does that not offset the use of fluids?”
“The result will be performance. The contractor will see that performance translates to production, a more stable vertical hole, more pipe in the ground, or more drilled solids transported out of a horizontal bore path,” concluded Polak.
No matter what the discipline of drilling, improved performance is the desirable outcome for all.