Mud Maintenance Tips What You Need to Know

In today’s economy, keeping your equipment in tiptop condition is even more critical as budgets continue to shrink. Keeping due with what you have for as long as you can is the mantra.

But regardless of the state of the economy, maintaining expensive machinery is just good sense. Proper care not only adds to its longevity but more importantly, it does not add to your credit card statement by way of repairs or replacements. After all, purchasing any equipment, such as a mud system, is an investment in your success so you need to get the most out of it.

“Routine maintenance goes a long way to promote that the mud system has the potential for a longer working life and allows for the machine to be able to achieve an appropriate performance output,” said Keith Crossen, technical service manager with American Augers, West Salem, Ohio.

The maintenance of your mud system is just as important as that of your drilling rig. Routine maintenance checks can prevent premature equipment failures and uncover stressed or damaged components. Mud system experts say there are several simple things contractors can do as part of routine maintenance. Topping the list is to read the operator’s manual. The manual’s pages are filled with everything you need to know about your equipment and how to properly care for it. Contractors just need to read it and keep it handy for reference. If you have questions, contact the manufacturer directly.

“It’s difficult to argue with the manual. If the mud system is not operating correctly, then the drill rig cannot be fed good clean mud,” said Chuck Skillman, business development manager at Kem-Tron Technologies, Houston. “Good maintenance is often catching wear items before they become a detriment to performance.”
There’s no rule for the life expectancy of a mud system, as too many variables affect the lifespan, including soils (i.e. heavy sand vs. shale), number of hours in use per day (12 vs. 18), number of days in use per week, etc. There are mud systems in service today that are well over 10 years old, experts say, due no doubt to diligent maintenance upkeep by their owners.

Things to keep in mind include washing the machine after the job is finished to remove all mud and debris and flushing clean water through the system to clean out the suction and discharge lines, preventing mud from drying in the suction line, cones, hopper, etc. But there are other areas to think about.

“Always check the oil and water on the power unit at least once a day,” said John Miller, CEO of Mud Technology International, Athens, Texas. “Change the oil and filters as recommended, more often in dirty conditions. Make sure there is adequate pressure in the cones while drilling to ensure optimum cleaning and always make sure the screens are sized correctly and in good condition.”

Skillman noted that operators should regularly check the hydrocyclones. Though they don’t require much maintenance, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on them. “If the hydrocyclones are working properly, you should see a wear pattern in the cone body at least once a year,” he explained. “If your cones do not ever wear, then they are not working properly. Cones are often described as a ‘tornado in a bottle.’ This high-velocity fluid loaded with solids begins to wear on the narrowest portion of the cone near the discharge point. If the cone never wears, you can rest assured that you do not have a tornado in the bottle.”

The inside of a new cone will have a smooth tapered wall. The other most common reason for low cone manifold pressure is a worn out impeller in the cone feed centrifugal pump. If the impeller is worn out, it will not be able to move enough fluid to build the required pressure and will have to be replaced or repaired.
Miller notes that visual inspections of the frame and electrical and/or hydraulic components are also imperative. “The dirty fluid flowing through the mud system is effectively sand blasting away the interior of the pipes, steel, etc.,” he said. “Wear items such as hydrocyclones, centrifugal impellers, wear plants and volutes are designed to process the undesirable fluid and will over time have to be replaced. As these items wear, the efficiency of the unit will diminish. That means the maximum cleaning capacity will diminish.”

“The best advice is to get to know the machine like a family member so that identifying any issues that may be happening can be caught sooner in the process rather than when the downhole operation could be comprised through unnecessary downtime or having to submit to costly repairs and project failures,” said Crossen.

And as all three men emphasized: Read the operator’s manual.

Sharon M. Bueno is managing editor of Trenchless Technology.

Product Spotlight: American Augers MCR-10000

American Augers continues to focus on the development of drilling fluid (mud) cleaning systems, and introduced on Feb. 6 the MCR-10000 to its family of products.

The MCR-10000 is a high-volume drilling fluid cleaning system that complements maxi-rig style horizontal directional drills, as the unit both mixes and cleans drilling fluid, and also reduces the volume of solids by controlling the overall moisture content, which leads to easier fluid disposal.

The cleaning system of the MCR-10000 is engineered with three first cut linear motion shakers that permit 900 gpm of maximum cleaning capacity and two desilting particle separation shakers with four 10-in. hydrocones that allow 1,500 gpm of total cleaning.

The standard unit is mounted on a rock over design Tri-Axle suspension and is equipped with an onboard 60-Hz electrical generator set. Also included is a 3,200-gal screen tank and a 6,400-gal clean fluid/mixing tank, as well as a 110-gal wash down system and a polyethylene constructed dry bentonite mix hopper.

American Augers is a leading manufacturer of underground and utility construction equipment, including horizontal directional drills, auger boring machines, mud pump and cleaning systems, oil and gas drilling rigs, product tooling and accessories.

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