Progressive drillers are looking beyond what they’ve been doing for years and seeking out new horizons.

Seeking out specialty jobs can be profitable. Drilling a borehole for a geothermal system. Photo courtesy of Hamilton College.

In my attendance at conventions and in conversations with drillers this year, I’ve seen some significant changes in our industry – and some things that always will remain the same. We still all work out in the weather, and it seems like there are fewer and fewer perfect days as I get older. It’s either too hot, too cold, raining or the like that just seems to ruin an otherwise good day at the rig.

The biggest change I see is the proliferation of long-line systems reaching from town farther and farther out into the country. This not only hurts the business of the average house well driller, it also makes the customer more dependant on government. America was founded on the principles of independence and the freedom to chart one’s own course in life, whether it be the choice of location, profession or source of our drinking water. As we become more and more dependant on the government to provide for our every need, we relinquish the basic freedoms that made us who we are. I, for one, do not relish the idea of being forced to purchase treated ditch water that has been lovingly fondled by some government employee “for my own good.” I have a perfectly good well of my own that I own and control, thank you very much. Ronald Reagan once said, “The most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.’”

The drillers’ response to this situation seems to fall into two main categories. On one side are the drillers who drill just like daddy taught them, and are bound and determined to charge $50 less than the driller down the road, regardless of their costs or overhead. I usually don’t see these drillers at the conventions and trade shows unless they just have to be there to get their points for mandatory continuing education. They look at all the so-called new-fangled equipment and complain about how high the prices are. I suspect it’s because they haven’t bought a new piece of equipment since 1967. You’d think that they’d realize that prices have risen a mite when they fuel up their rig!

The other main group of drillers I run into generally are much more interesting characters. They voluntarily go to conventions and seminars, study their trade, keep up with the latest methods and equipment, and, best of all, understand their overhead and margins, and price accordingly. They are not afraid to charge a fair price for their services, and are able to make enough to run new rigs and keep them up. Not only that, when newer and better technology comes along, they are ready for it – in order to keep a well-earned competitive edge.

A drill rig neither knows nor cares what type of borehole it’s used to drill.

One of the hallmarks of this second group of drillers is that they look beyond the simple house well that has earned us all a living for years.

Times change. When you think about it, the rig doesn’t know or care whether we are drilling a house well, a cathodic protection hole, a heat pump hole, doing mineral exploration or anything else within the capabilities of the rig.

We get paid to make hole for the customer’s intended purpose. The progressive drillers are looking beyond what they’ve been doing for years and seeking out new horizons. Often, the profit margins are much better for these specialty jobs than they are on the jobs that ol’ Bubba will do for $50 cheaper. For instance, in my area, they are running a new gas pipeline across several counties. None of the local drillers who have the equipment – and know the area – want to bid the cathodic protection drill-ing simply because they have never done it before. There will be hundreds of good, profitable holes that probably will go to a driller from out of the area.

If I had the time, I’d probably bid.

What I’m driving at here is this: If we don’t keep up with the world, we’ll go the way of the buggy-whip manufacturers and wonder what happened.
See ya at the conventions!