Read the latest industry happenings straight from the desk ofND's editor.

Drilling in the Antarctic

After 16 years of planning, the countdown is on for one of the most ambitious scientific missions to Antarctica. A 12-man team of British scientists, engineers and support staff will make the 10,000-mile journey deep into the heart of the frozen continent to collect samples of water and sediments from an ancient lake buried beneath two miles of ice. Their quest is to reveal vital secrets about the Earth’s past climate and discover subglacial life forms.

For the past three years, a team of engineers from the British Antarctic Survey and the National Oceanography Centre have pushed the boundaries of polar technology to design and build a state-of-the-art titanium water-sampling probe, and a sediment corer capable of being lowered down a two-mile borehole in the ice made by a custom-built hot-water drill. To add to the challenge, every piece of technology has to be sterilized to space-industry standards to ensure this unexplored lake remains pristine.

After setting up the science camp and preparing all the equipment to start the mission, the team will have just 24 hours to sample the lake before the borehole re-freezes and re-seals the lake. Typical working conditions will be in temperatures a chilly minus 77 degrees F, and wind speeds averaging 30 miles per hour.

By December, the team will have prepared the field camp, and will begin the 100 hours of non-stop, hot-water drilling required to create the borehole. They will have 24 hours to deploy the water and sediment-sampling equipment. During this process, the team will use a boiler to melt ice to provide nearly 25,000 gallons of water for the hot-water drill. The drill will pressurize the water to 2,000 psi, and then pump this water at 55 gallons per minute to create a 14.5-inch-wide borehole.

Master Driller Program

Atlas Copco’s Master Driller Program, created to speed up training of drill rig operators during an industry-wide shortage of skilled drillers, now is available in the United States after demonstrating success in other countries. The program is based on progressive instruction in a classroom that includes simulated drilling in an actual drill rig cab. The program is designed not only to help train new drillers, it also can be used to train experienced operators on new rigs during fleet upgrades, as well as enhance current driller skills to increase a company’s overall efficiency.

Training initially is offered through the Atlas Copco division hub in Garland, Texas. During the course, which covers theoretical and manual training on simulators, students study drill startup and stop, safety procedures, towering-up, propelling, advanced propelling, drilling and advanced drilling. After a few days of this training, crews are able to drill the very first day in an actual drill rig.

Those interested in the training should contact Wesley Stivers at 972-496-7400.

GHP Firm Is PUC-registered

PanTerra Energy, an accredited alternative energy solutions provider specializing in geothermal heat pump systems, is the first company of its kind in the country to have received a Public Utilities Commission (PUC) registration. This PUC designation is the first step in allowing PanTerra to apply for a permit to act as a sole utility, leasing and selling direct access to a geothermal loop field without additional third-party involvement. PanTerra designs, builds and installs what many believe to be the next wave in eco-friendly and cost-effective improvements for homes, businesses and municipalities.

“From the outset, we sought to differentiate ourselves from other geothermal heating and cooling suppliers,” says co-founder Mike Ryan. “Acquiring the PUC license is the initial proof-point, as we’re able to make geothermal technology available to a wider audience at a lower cost.”

“More than any single factor, the added costs of the loop field are suppressing the widespread adoption of geothermal heat pump systems (GHPs),” says Ben Northcutt, executive director of the Colorado Geo Energy & Heat Pump Association. “If you view the loop field as an infrastructure component of a heating and cooling system, it makes a lot of sense to treat it as a thermal utility, which is the concept that PanTerra is pioneering. If you can provide users with a straightforward monthly cost for their heating and cooling, without the added financial burden of buying the loop field infrastructure, then GHPs can quickly become a mainstream technology.”

PanTerra’s founders have also met with local legislators who are equally excited about their prospects and the creation of additional green jobs.

Water Treatment Research

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced almost $1.5 million in funding to three universities to develop sustainable drinking water treatment methods. The research grants are funded through EPA’s Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program. These grants, which supplement last year’s grants to eight other universities, are intended to provide innovative treatment methods to protect people’s health by keeping harmful contaminants out of drinking water.

In 2010, EPA announced a new drinking water strategy to strengthen protections against contaminants in drinking water and promote cost-effective new technologies to meet the needs of communities across the country struggling with water challenges. The research sponsored by these grants will help satisfy the key goals of this strategy.

The schools receiving grants:
  • University of Nevada, Reno – quantifying the range of drinking water contaminants and contaminant classes that can be removed by membrane distillation, and developing and testing a small-scale pilot system that operates using waste heat.

  • University of Florida, Gainesville, and University of South Florida, Tampa – identifying, testing and evaluating the sustainability of ion-exchange processes that can treat entire groups of chemical contaminants.

  • Clarkson University, Potsdam, N.Y. – engineering, developing and demonstrating an integrated process comprised of membrane technology and electrical discharge plasma generated via a novel reticulated vitreous carbon (RVC) electrode material.

Business Champion Hailed

The U. S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Northern Ohio District Office has honored Thomas Uhler, president and CEO of Toledo, Ohio-based geotechnical drilling company TTL Associates Inc., as its 2012 Veteran Small Business Champion of the Year. This award honors an individual who has fulfilled a commitment to the advancement of small-business opportunities for veterans of the U.S. armed forces. Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur joined SBA in presenting this award to Uhler.

“The SBA is proud to honor Thomas Uhler as a true champion of veteran small business ownership,” says Gil Goldberg, district director of SBA’s Northern Ohio District Office. “Not only is Tom a service-disabled business owner in his own right, but he is dedicated to providing the counseling, advocacy, advice and support to other veterans looking to pursue small-business ownership.”

Goldberg notes that nominees for this award are judged on several criteria, including showing demonstrated success in obtaining support within the community for the establishment of veteran-owned small businesses. Uhler has worked with returning veterans from both Afghanistan and Iraq interested in starting their own businesses to obtain assistance in building their business plan. In addition, Uhler serves as the Ohio Outreach Coordinator for the Employers Support for the Guard and Reserve, where he educates many returning veterans on opportunities for starting their own businesses.