This month's "The World According to Wayne" discusses the advantages of a self-contained mud system.

Geothermal loop installation is a type of close-pattern drilling job. Installing a geothermal loop field.
We recently discovered a huge advantage to using a self-contained mud system. The job involved drilling some 20-foot-by-30-foot-by-20-foot piling holes on the beach. The formation was all very soft weathered sand. In the past, these jobs had been drilled with earth pits. Every time we moved the rig, we had to either trench over to the pit, or dig a new one. The jobs are all on very small lots, and digging and filling pits to move the rig took up considerable time and effort. Another problem encountered was that in order to properly stabilize the hole, the viscosity of the mud needed to be fairly high - 50-plus funnel viscosity. With this viscosity, the sand wouldn't settle out of the mud before it reached the pump suction. This lead to increased circulating density (mud weight) and reduced viscosity. At a certain point, fluid loss became excessive and threatened to lose circulation entirely. The answer was bigger pits and more gel to increase the viscosity. This made more work and used more mud, not to mention the increased wear and tear on the pump. Production was adequate only because everybody worked his butt off.

On a recent job, we rigged up one of our new self-contained mud systems. We rigged up in a central location just off the edge of the close-pattern drilling area, and ran the hoses to the rig. After initially mixing mud to the desired viscosity, we started drilling. After a couple adjustments, the system was on autopilot. The holes stayed stable because the solids were all out on the ground, and the viscosity was stable because the system was removing the sand mechanically rather than just by settling. The volume in the system went down as we drilled, but when we ran the pile in the hole, it displaced the mud right back to the system. Make-up water was reduced by about 60 percent, and bentonite addition was cut in half. As we moved farther from the system, we had to add some hoses to reach, but we didn't have to dig new ditches or pits every time. Daily production improved by about 40 percent. We ended up with a huge pile of sand that the owner used for site leveling. The mud left over soaked into the location by the time we had rigged down.

I know that not everybody out there does piling jobs, but there are a lot of close-pattern jobs. Geothermal loop installation is one. This essentially is the same thing. The size and depth are different, but the way to make a good payday is footage. The more time per day you spend with the bit on bottom, the more money you make. A self-contained mud system takes half the work out of a job; once rigged up and running, it runs pretty much unattended. All you have to do is make hole. Sounds like a pretty good way to make a living to me. This does not even begin to consider locations where pit digging is impossible.

We recently deepened a well in a McDonalds' parking lot. The well was located just behind the drive-through. It was in a vault, under a manhole cover about 3 feet below grade. The well produced enough water but it was very high in iron. Since the irrigator adjusted the heads to irrigate everything in sight, staining was a problem. The deeper aquifer contained less iron and the customer decided to deepen the well. He called every driller within 100 miles and they all told him that they needed to dig a pit in his parking lot or else they couldn't do the job. He finally got around to me. I looked at the job and told him, “I don't need no stinking pit!” Guess what! I got the job and didn't have to bid against any other drillers. We deepened the well from 120 feet to 700 feet, ran a liner and new screens, and were able to clean up with a garden hose, thanks to the mud system, which kept everything neat and clean and kept the mud properties where we needed them. We rented a small dump trailer and positioned it under the shaker. Every afternoon, we hauled off the cuttings and filled in a few holes in the yard.

The bottom line: Mud systems are the way to go in a lot of situations. Efficiency increases. Hole conditions are better. Pump wear is less. Customer satisfaction is better. And, last but not least, profits are better. Isn't that what we're all in business for?