The Montrose, Colo., headquarters of TEI Rock Drills Inc. served as the summer school campus of the “University of Geother-mal Drilling,” July 14-16. Classroom work and field demonstrations provided a wide range of valuable lessons for both neophytes and old hands of this recently revitalized industry segment. “We tried to hold attendance to 20 people,” says TEI’s Joe Patterson, “but we ended up with 24, plus the 15 or so instructors. So, if someone had a specific interest in one aspect or another, there were plenty of people to turn to. The chance to meet with all these people is a real benefit of what we do at these schools.”

The first morning began with a tour of TEI’s factory and offices and a can-never-be-stressed-enough safety lecture. Then it was out to the field to observe the drilling process, which was a very hands-on affair, as people took turns operating the equipment while the cadre of knowledgeable and affable instructors offered insights, answered questions and shared enlightening anecdotes.

The afternoon was spent in the air-conditioned classroom – for most, at least. Some students were primarily concerned with the equipment operational aspects of the school, so they stayed in the field to further hone their skills. The day-one classroom topics included geothermal drills and drilling methods; a geothermal overview; loop design, flushing and freeze protection; and socket fusion.

The day-two schedule was similar. The morning was spent in the field drilling, installing loops and grouting. Afternoon classroom sessions addressed grouting, down-hole hammers, bid calculation and equipment financing.

A rousing success, all of it. “We figure any time we can educate our customers, we’re helping them become more successful,” Patterson stresses. “We don’t want someone to buy a rig and then go out of business. We want our customers to succeed. It’s a tough industry, so if we can help a driller become more successful, that driller will buy more rigs. I don’t want to sell someone a rig and then buy it back at an auction.”

And it should be duly noted that the work performed at the school as a demonstration was not an end in itself. “In the future,” Patterson explains, “probably within three to five years if geothermal goes like we think it will, we’ll put a building there dedicated to manufacturing geothermal rigs. We figured that, while we’re holding these schools, we might as well go ahead and install the loops there.”

Other future happenings: TEI is hosting an open house Oct. 6-8 in Montrose, and the dates for next year’s geothermal school are July 13-15, 2010. For complete details, visit, or telephone 800-777-3745.