Proper solids control plays an important role in job-site efficiency.

I recently had the good fortune to catch up with Jan Wadsworth, who’s the director of marketing for Mud Technology International Inc. in Athens, Texas, and I happily took advantage of the opportunity to pick her brain about mud systems. Right out of the gate, I asked, “What are the essential considerations to address when choosing solids-control equipment?”

“It’s important to compare apples to apples,” Wadsworth begins. “Some people, when they start shopping, aren’t really sure what they need. So we came up with an outline of some questions they need to be addressing when deciding on a system. Basically, it’s kind of like shopping for a car. To decide on a make and model, you need to figure out what you want, what exactly you’re looking for, because there are so many options available. The first thing people need to decide – since there are so many choices – is what size recycler is going to benefit them the most. Most units range anywhere from 80 gpm to 2,000 gpm. You can whip out your calculator and get all mathematical if you like, but the easiest way to determine what size you need is to base it on one-and-a-half-to-two-times of the amount you’re pumping. So, if you’re pumping 200 gallons per minute, you’ll want a recycler that’s going to be able to pump at least 300 gallons to 400 gallons per minute.”

A Wide Spectrum

There are other considerations. “You have to decide whether you want a trailer-mounted or skid-mounted unit,” she continues. “Some suppliers offer basic, bare-bones models, and other suppliers can custom-make a system to meet very individualized specifications.” That’s a wide range – with everything in between available.

Relative to the screen surface on the shakers, Wadsworth notes, “Bigger is better; the larger your screen surface, the more volume you can clean.”

And it wasn’t long at all before she brought up a concept that is all too well known in the drilling industry: “You want to be able to know that whichever company you’re purchasing a recycler from can get you your parts and your screens in a timely fashion, or else you have to find somewhere else to get them.” She points out that many times, drillers wait until they’re down or on the verge of being down before dealing with such issues. “And then, you’re looking at the added cost of overnight shipping to get them to you.”

Do Your Homework

Wadsworth knows that it’s easier to please an educated customer – give them what they want, right? She says, “My best advice when contractors make inquiries – I tell them, ‘Do some research; talk to other drillers.’” Kind of like the auto-purchase scenario. “Ask people, ‘Hey, do you like this model? How long have you had it? Have you had any problems with it? What do you like about it?’ That’s the main thing to me – do your research, talk to people, and know what you’re getting into. What are the available options? Can you change any of the features so your specific requirements are best met? You’re looking for a system that’s going to fit your needs and do what you want it to do.”

Touching on post-purchase concerns, Wadsworth comments, “Is a warranty offered? If there’s an issue, will the supplier be there to stand behind its product and help you out? It’s a big purchase, and you want to make certain that your investment is protected.”

Some water well drilling contractors just recently are starting to realize they need better solids control on their jobs. A lot of municipal and government projects now are requiring these systems as part of their going-green initiatives. “And bentonite is fairly expensive,” she points out. “You don’t want to keep running through it.” So proper solids control can offer significant savings there with the recycling of bentonite.

Also, the job site is much cleaner – a definite boost to a contractor’s professional image and its public relations standing. And you’re not hauling in water or trying to figure out what to do with the bentonite. Once you’re done, the mud can safely go back into the environment. Wadsworth succinctly explains: “Clean it up; put it back.”

The Rental Option

And if you’re still not sure, if you’ve never used a recycling system before and you’re really not totally confident what you’re getting into, look into renting one. That will give you the first-hand experience needed to help you decide on an appropriate system for what you do. “We have drillers come to us, and they have a job coming up and they need a system for a month or two, but never need it again,” Wadsworth relates. “Or they know they need one, but they’re not real sure about it all yet. They’ll take it for a month, try it out, and then they’re hooked once they see how much easier the project goes.”

Mud Technologies offers an option when it rents a system that allows drillers to apply some of the rental cost toward the purchase of one. You can find out what you like and what you’d like customized. “If I was buying a new car, and I could have it for a month to see if it’s a car I really like instead of just driving it around the block, I’d feel a whole lot better about it. It makes the decision-making much easier. It’s a big investment; you want one that will suit your needs – HDD, water well, geothermal – it’s all a little bit different. You need to make sure you’re getting a recycler that’s going to do for you what you need it to do.”