Now a senior account executive at the company, Peterson has been to the National Ground Water Association’s (NGWA) annual expo at least 20 times.
Last year in Nashville and this year in Las Vegas are especially notable because his industry contributions were honored with the prestigious Ross L. Oliver Award in 2013 and this year he’s lecturing in the William A. McEllhiney Distinguished Lecture Series in Water Well Technology.
Peterson’s course, Drilling Fluids: A Common Sense Approach, will cover the evolution of the water well industry, focusing on the progress made with drilling fluids and grouts over the years.
Peterson recently spoke with National Driller about how it feels to be recognized, what’s changed about the industry since his debut, and how to best handle fluids and grouts.
Q. You’ve served the groundwater industry for years and it, in turn, has given you quite a bit of recognition recently. Can you talk about what it means for you to deliver the McEllhiney lecture and, last year, getting the Ross L. Oliver Award?
A. Being the McEllhiney lecturer for 2015 is an honor and I am grateful to the committee for allowing me the opportunity and to Baroid IDP/Halliburton for allowing me to take advantage of the opportunity. Hopefully it will be a positive experience for me and for the people I present to.
The Ross L. Oliver Award was an unexpected honor. It was amazing to have the industry and my peers honor me at that level.
Q. The description of your lecture discusses the evolution of the water well industry. How has the industry changed during your time working in it?
A. During the time I have worked in the industry we’ve improved existing methods and developed better methods of drilling. Some of the advances include dual tube [reverse circulation] and hammer drilling. Flooded reverse has advanced and is receiving more and more attention. We’ve improved air drilling methods. Most things have not changed dramatically, but they have been improved over the years. We’ve recognized some of the mistakes we’ve made in the past and corrected those going forward, so that we are more skilled at preserving and maintaining the quality of the groundwater.
Q. Let’s talk drilling fluids, which is the foundation of your lecture. Tell me about some rookie mistakes drillers make in the area of drilling fluids.
A. Not having enough information about the area where they’re drilling, not being aware of the actual potential of the aquifers in the area, not being prepared when drilling into trouble zones, allowing those trouble zones to cause them more grief than they should. We need to make sure that the drilling fluid is designed and equipped to take care of any identified and potential drilling problems that may be encountered, and that the aquifers are properly protected.
Q. What factors go into proper planning when it comes to fluids?
A. In water well drilling it all works together — the drilling equipment, the personnel on the job, the well design and the drilling fluid itself. So in preparing and planning the drilling fluid, it requires the same effort as the rest of the well’s design and planning. We need to make sure that we have as much information as we can get. Over the years, we may not have been as good at keeping records as we are now, but we’re becoming better in preserving our records. This ensures that the information we need is available to plan and design our fluid to take care of anticipated hole problems and protect the quality and productivity of the well, ensuring the optimum production over the life of the well.
Q. Think about the advancements made in drilling fluids and grouting during your time in the industry. Is there one innovation or technology that you look at and think, “Gosh, I wish we’d had that when I was first starting out”?
A. Some of the drilling fluid additives that we use today are more effective and improved over the ones we had when I first started out. The readily dispersible polymers make life better. The advancements in equipment and the ability of the equipment to do things are also better than they were. The knowledge of the people involved is constantly improving. It’s amazing how much more effective we are when we have the proper knowledge to apply to the tasks that we’re trying to accomplish.
Q. When it comes to the drilling fluids available today and the applications that call for them, what innovations would you like to see moving forward?
A. I would like to see continual improvement of existing drilling fluid products as well as the equipment that we have to work with. I would also like to see continuing improvement of grouting systems to improve our ability to protect the aquifers.
Q. You had a hand in developing water well standards for states like Utah, Idaho and Nevada. What are the qualities of a well-thought-out well standard?
A. The potential for water and the areas that it will be encountered, protection of the water, using the proper drilling fluid to control the hole and yet still maintain the production of the well, and making sure that when we grout we use the best grout possible.
When making standards we need to make sure that we consider the capabilities of the industry at that point so that the standards are such that they can actually be implemented. If we know that there are changes in the regulations being developed we need to get involved to ensure that we will be able to comply with them. We need to work to improve our abilities and our technology so that we can even better utilize and protect the aquifers in the future.
Q. As people are filing out of the lecture hall, what one idea do you hope they take with them?
A. I hope I stimulate their thinking so that they look at the overall picture in more depth so they plan better, pay attention to the details and improve their operations.
Q. What are your hopes for the future of the groundwater industry?
A. The groundwater industry will always be with us. Air and water are two things we can’t live without. We will always have the groundwater industry and we need to continually work to protect and preserve our groundwater. In my opinion, we borrow the groundwater from our descendants and we need to leave it in as good or better condition than we found it, making sure that we don’t knowingly do anything that may cause any problems.
Q. Out of your 37 plus years of drilling industry experience, what would you say you’ve enjoyed most?
A. The people. There is a great group of people involved in the groundwater industry, most of whom are committed, dedicated and hardworking with positive goals. I enjoy working with the people in the groundwater industry.
Q. How many times have you been to the NGWA expo and what are you looking most forward to this year?
A. I’ve probably been to the expo about 20 or 25 times. I hope that: 1. I am able to pick up on any new technology. 2. I am able to deliver a message of value to the groundwater industry.
Q. How often do you lecture and what do you enjoy most about it?
A. I’m not a natural speaker. I have to prepare and focus myself to present. I always have butterflies when I get up to present. I enjoy feeling that I have been well received and the presentation provided value to the audience. I try to learn from attendees as well as present the information I have. I present multiple times a year. Once I get past the butterflies, it’s enjoyable to present and discuss things with the industry in general and try to help everyone, including myself, learn more as we go forward.
Valerie King is associate editor of National Driller.