In conversations with drilling contractors, particularly since returning to the field full time after Covid-19 restrictions, the lack of available skilled labor keeps coming up. It has become such a prevalent issue, I hear of contractors refusing to bid on jobs due to lack of available personnel.
The absence of knowledgeable drilling fluids technicians can prove especially difficult for drilling contractors due to the important role drilling fluids play in the success of a drilling operation. Utilizing drilling fluids requires an understanding of how to identify soil conditions/types, and match drilling fluids to those conditions to maintain borehole stability, convey drill cuttings out of the hole and control reactive clays. This understanding of drilling fluids must include practical application of polymers, additives, drill foams and other products that can facilitate the drilling process. Be it vertical rotary drilling, horizontal directional drilling (HDD) or foundation drilled shafts, the degree of success relates directly to the proper usage of drilling fluids, slurry and/or drill foam.
Fortunate for drilling contractors, many drilling fluid manufacturers and suppliers conduct frequent drilling fluids or slurry training seminars as a free service to various drilling markets. Contractors can take advantage of these seminars to train new labor, while allowing experienced personnel to get up to speed on new products, services and techniques available to improve success, productivity and profits. Often, drilling fluids manufacturer reps will go out to a contractors’ facility and conduct training seminars that can focus on specific issues the contractor faces. Lean heavily on your local reps, especially on your manufacturers’ technical sales managers. You should consider training a value-added portion of the product and services.
HDD utility contractors drilling small-diameter short bores to install fiber or electrical services can take advantage of some of the new bentonite-free liquid polymer products designed specifically for that application. Most major drilling fluids manufacturers have a line of pre-packaged, color-coded polymers to deal with various ground conditions (such as clay, sand, gravel, etc.). These easy-to-use products come in pre-determined sized containers with one jug or container usually good for a 500-gallon tank.
Many drilling fluids manufacturers also have calculators available online. Contractors can enter in information such as diameter, depth or length of bore, and soil conditions, and end up with a site-specific drilling fluids or slurry program.
Most manufacturers provide mix charts to help guide drillers in selecting products based on soil conditions. This helps contractors working on larger drilling projects, in either vertical or horizontal directional drilling, utilizing bentonite-based drilling fluid systems. Often, these mixing guides come printed on stickers so you can affix the chart directly to the mix tanks for easy reference. Many drilling fluids manufacturers also have calculators available online. Contractors can enter in information such as diameter, depth or length of bore, and soil conditions, and end up with a site-specific drilling fluids or slurry program.
Drilling contractors face difficult times with high fuel prices, supply chain shortages and labor issues. The absence of knowledgeable drilling fluids or slurry technicians can hamper a drilling contractor’s success, but help is just a phone call away. Drilling contractors should not hesitate to pick up the phone and reach out to the manufacturer or supplier of their drilling fluid products. Technical support is available, and manufacturers of drilling fluids or slurry products want nothing more than for contractors to succeed using their products.