Drill rigs operate under very rugged conditions.
The Panamanian government
supports the water needs of its people with two development entities – the
Institute of Water & Infrastructure (IDAAN) and the Ministry of Development
Environmental factors weigh heavily in the selection of rigs that would work
best for Panama, which is a very rugged country. The rigs need to drill to
1,000-foot depths, and handle down-the-hole hammers up to the
Nancy Gaitan is the supervising manager for rig maintenance in Panama,
overseeing both IDAAN and MDA fleets, which consist of Atlas Copco rigs – three
T3Ws, four TH60s and three TH10s. Although some of the fleet is aging,
including a 26-year-old TH60, IDAAN recently took delivery of the three new
Today, drilling equipment in Panama is supported through the efforts of a newly
opened customer center, managed by business development manager Hugo Arce, who
also oversees all market growth throughout Central America and the Caribbean.
He is focused on training the skilled technicians who will support the ongoing
development of Panama,
saying, “The current expansion of the Panama Canal has brought growth to the
region, and we are committed to the prosperity of Panama.”
A lot of the drilling is done for community projects. The well under
development in the photograph was designed to support 100 residences, with a
growth capacity to 500. The plan is to provide clean water to all communities
Ivan Cedeno, chief of drilling, says the minimum water flow they want to see on
a well is 30 gpm. Normal procedure involves flow testing the well after
drilling – and again at 72 hours – to ensure consistent performance. The well
also will undergo tests to analyze the chemical composition of the water.
Drilling the well is just part of the process. Developers at this site ran
water lines to each home. A 500-gallon gravity tank maintains a constant supply
to the village.
Cedeno says the geology throughout Panama requires both mud- and
air-drilling methods. This site, five miles from the Pacific coast, presents a
common formation for the region. The surface is a heavy loam to clay, then
consolidated sandstone, and finally igneous rock.
The well photographed here was clay to 60 feet, then another 60 feet of
consolidated sandstone and rock. The full 120 feet was drilled at 10 inches in
diameter, and cased with 8-inch PVC. It’s common here to start drilling with
mud and a tricone, and then switch to air. IDAAN purchased tricone bits in
97⁄8-inch and 12-inch diameters, and DTH button bits in 77⁄8-, 97⁄8- and
IDAAN wants one source for service and support. Atlas Copco also is supplying a
complete training program and service plans to ensure the drillers get the most
from the new drills, and that they are working at optimum performance
Nancy Gaitan, who has been with Panama’s
water development program for 20 years, appreciates the support she receives.
“I’m very happy with the performance of the new drills,” she says. “Like
anything new, there were small issues at first, but now, all is perfect.”